Say Zimbabwe and you say economic chaos. Bram Vermeulen travels by Rolls Royce through the country and sees the country through the eyes of the plunder class and by that of the poor majority. Does Zimbabwe work?
Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Bram Vermeulen was there for the last time six years ago. "I always came here as a sort of thief in the night, nodding my knees, watching if I was not followed by the secret service." Apparently that time is over, or at least he can now openly work as a journalist in the country, with an official press card.
What else has changed in those six years? At the time it was a country in chaos: the economy collapsed, cholera, police and youth gangs were hunting the opposition and foreign journalists. The power of President Robert Mugabe seemed to waver. But the ninety-year-old absolute ruler, who has been at the helm since Zimbabwe became independent in 1980, is still there. He no longer feels threatened since his party won the elections, and allowed more press freedom.
And economically? Zimbabwe is a stable country with enormous potential, says Phillip Chiyangwa, a man who has become stinkingly rich in times of chaos and crisis. It has rich platinum mines, the best sites for diamonds, fertile agricultural areas, and so on. This billionaire itself is primarily in industry, real estate and infrastructure. Like the half-finished luxury hotel where he goes with Bram in one of his many cars. And his enormous house. All thanks to his own entrepreneurial spirit, says this cousin of the president.
The shops are full again, and there is nothing to be noticed about the absurd hyperinflation where you last had to bring billions of Zimbabwean dollars for your groceries. But that does not mean that everyone is right now. No less than 80 percent of Zimbabweans do not have an official job. These people have to have the black market, where they can usually scratch up enough to survive.
What happened to the opposition, who was convinced of a quick victory six years ago? Bram visits Barnabas Mdira, who at the time led the protests with his two brothers. One of those two was murdered by the secret service. This man is of course much less satisfied with the Zimbabwe of today than the billionaire. He still sees oppression, economic decline and widespread corruption.
Many poor opponents of the regime have been driven out of the city. Their houses were destroyed and nowadays they live in the countryside. They have plenty of time to talk to Bram, because they do not have work. The children do not go to school, while Zimbabwe was always the African country that excelled in education.
But nothing illustrates the crisis better than the local cemetery, with a whole row of fresh baby and toddler tombs. The daughter of a man who lives next door with his family, who died last month, is not there. There was no money for a grave, so they had to leave the dead baby in the hospital.
It is hardly possible to take an opposition in Zimbabwe. Yet there are critical voices. Bram visits the makers of a satirical program, with clips like this and these. Here they introduce themselves. According to them, they want to lay a foundation for a new Zimbabwe based on freedom of expression and critical thinking. Has the country changed in the last six years? Yes, it has changed, they say, and not necessarily for the better. An example: 'There is now a lot of things to buy, but people do not have money. Then there was money, but nothing for sale. "
Episode 3. Back in Harare
Zimbabwe is often associated with economic chaos. Bram Vermeulen crosses Zimbabwe by Rolls Royce to see the country through the eyes of both the plundering class and the poor majority. Is Zimbabwe working?
Director: Doke Romeijn and Stefanie de Brouwer
© VPRO September 2014
English, French and Spanish subtitles by Ericsson and co-funded by the European Union.