Friday, 14 August 2009

boiling frogs

When we returned to Blue Jay after our three days in Kruger, we met a mother and son from Zimbabwe who were staying there too. Two things struck me about them... the first was that the son was incredibly well behaved and the second was that the mother was overwhelmingly positive about life in Bulawayo where she lives and works as an accountant.

"There's just so much going on," she said. "There are businesses opening, big developments happening, and we even have a choice of meat in the butcher!"

I was interested by her enthusiasm, in part because it was so different to anything I'd heard about Zimbabwe in a while. Its also a very different impression to the one that my old boss, Wilmot James, got when he was on a fact-finding mission.

The fact that we parted on bad terms doesn't mean that I don't respect his judgement or his insights, so I found the contrast between her impression and his particularly intersting. His views are here

When we were chatting the following morning, Philip (the owner of Blue Jay) commented that people get so used to how bad things are that they see even the smallest changes as significant. That reminded me about how happy she had been about the choice of meat in the butcher ... choice is incredible when seen in the light of years of empty shelves.

Wilmot commented in his article "It is only possible to do this, South Africans should note, if you do not have good governance. ZANU PF fused with and became indistinguishable from government. Parliament exercised little to no oversight over the executive. Mugabe ran the Treasury and the Reserve Bank as if they were his personal bank accounts. It is only possible to have a government that may raid private bank accounts and pension funds if the judiciary is politically pliable, corrupt and obsequious. A truly independent judiciary protects citizens against the abuse of power."

Remember that old story about boiling frogs? If you put them in the pot when the water is cold, they make no attempt to escape as the water gets gradually hotter and hotter until it is too late and they are cooked. Pop them in, (with the outsiders' perception) when the water is already heating up, and they jump straight out.

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