Life expectancy for a woman in Zimbabwe is 34 years. So, if I were a Zimbabwean woman/statistic, I would have been dead for 16 years by now. I’d be a very faded memory, a big grin in a yellowing photo tucked into the dusty pages of a novel that no one had picked up for a decade. I would have had one child, left him motherless at the age of two. I would have just arrived at the threshold of an academic career after an 11-year journey. I would have published one book and one article, in a pre-digital age.
What do we expect from life, however long it lasts? Years of learning how to read, sew, cook, run, write, argue, grow tomatoes; make friends, watch births, deaths, harvests, graduations, weddings, sports days, funerals? How many of those things constitute a legitimate sum of the expected? How much can be deleted before despair?
Cosatu is warning of food riots as food inflation last month hit 14,4%. In Zimbabwe, food inflation was 100 000% in February. A prediction: there wouldn’t be a window left unbroken in South Africa if the inflation rate were 100 000%.
Sure, President Mbeki, Minister Mufamadi, the Zimbabwean situation is manageable — just ignore the stench of the rotting corpse on the other side of the border. There’s no crisis. After all, someone in the Old Testament predicted Armageddon, so we’ve seen it all before. Election abortion — so what? Women being beaten almost to death for voting — so what? Army deployment — so what? Operation Mirror Mirror on the Wall — so what?
South Africa’s policy: the policy is policy. Employ consultants and calculate budget expectancy. Nothing else, until the glass starts breaking, is real.