- Graffiti on walls criticising Mugabe and asking him to step down; graffiti no one appeared to be making any effort to remove. Apparently the latest solution to Zimbabwe’s woes, tabled by a former Tory Foreign Office Minister, is to give Mugabe a 'safe, comfortable and well looked after home in Britain'. Not sure how happy people in Britain would be with that, how long it would take before protestors lined up outside his gate calling for him to be held to account, or how enthusiastic Mugabe would be to live with his former colonial antagonists!
- A sign on someone’s gate warning burglars that explosives were laid across the garden. This is definitely a new approach to deterrence! When dogs are not enough to scare burglars away, why not resort to land mines?
- A range of newspapers that did include stories critical of Mugabe, the coalition government and Zanu PF. That said, the police have this month arrested a journalist working for The Standard who wrote a story concerning the police force, and two freelance journalists who were charged with ‘criminal nuisance’. The Zimbabwean government have also issued an arrest warrant for the editor of The Zimbabwean, who is been in exile in Britain for years, for a story published online in 2008. There’s speculation this is a crack down in preparation for the 2011 elections...
- Most expatriates I spoke to felt it was relatively secure and that crime was low, and lower than Malawi, which seemed strange. Perhaps the power-sharing agreement and dollarization has improved life. Perhaps everyone is fearful of the State. Perhaps the conditions in the prisons is acting as a deterrent – the prisons have apparently ran out of money to pay for fuel to transport inmates to their court hearings, food to feed inmates, even salaries for executioners to execute the prisoners on death row. Yes, Zimbabwe still executes people, legally, that's something else I didn't expect.
- Economic revitalisation, with new shops, restaurants and businesses opening up everywhere. The dollarization of the economy following the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar appears to have given investors the confidence that even if there is political instability, the economy will not suffer in the way it did during 2008.
- On one of the bypasses through Harare there’s an enormous, American style, Pentecostal church that seats thousands of people. And funded by Zimbabweans, not Americans. Also along the bypasses you frequently see the highly conservative and secretive Apostolic sects, dressed in their white gowns, worshipping and praying in groups. The Apostolic sects believe in polygamy and more often than not the marriages occur between adult men and underage girls. The police reportedly rarely intervene because many sect leaders have powerful contacts in the police and government. The Pentecostal and Apostolic are apparently the fastest growing religious movements in Zimbabwe.
What didn’t surprise me was that the UN’s latest Human Development Index report shows that Zimbabwe (along with Zambia and Congo) has a lower HDI than they had in 1970. The newspapers were reporting that this was attributed to ‘lousy leadership and failed economic policies’...