The last decade-and-half has seen the economy teetering on the brink of collapse, with sanctions becoming the convenient veil used to cover up incompetency in most State enterprises.
The Zimbabwean case is aptly captured in the Greek proverb: “He cannot be healed who hides his ailment.” The witty statement is packed with wisdom.
Perhaps the proverb is the equivalent of our own Oliver Mtukudzi’s Handiro Dambudziko, a song which rebukes one who blinds himself to a significant matter, instead choosing to focus on a marginal issue.
Mtukudzi mockingly sings of one who makes strenuous efforts to heal a tiny wart at the back, while neglecting a bleeding and swollen eye. Evidently, it is only when a man turns in the direction of his problems that he makes headway towards recovery. Sanctions have become the opportune vehicle whisking away non-performing enterprises from accountability. From town councils to corporate bodies, it has become easier to cast blame on sanctions. In fact, the sanctions song has, to a great extent, been used to bestow normalcy on the incompetence seen in most State entities.
It is really tragic that a number of State enterprises that should be ably performing lie in comatose today.
Thousands of employees continue to be sent home to hungry families by entities presided over by mega-earning executives. Many examples of State enterprises bear this painful testimony. The natural tendency has been to hide behind the facade of sanctions.
A weeping example is the Hwange Colliery Company (HCC), a coal mining entity now literally on its knees. One wonders how such a company enjoying monopoly fails where others in similar circumstances are thriving. Makomo Resources, a private entity without even half the machinery at the colliery, has astoundingly risen to become the largest coal miner in the country since its birth six years ago. Both are organisations operating under the same climate, yet one has done well while the supposedly stronger one is finding the going tough.
It is sad that the colliery continues to retain ruinous policies of the ’80s which are no longer compatible with today’s economic models. Why continue investing in expensive heavy machinery when technology has provided cheaper equipment with high returns.
Even more, the colliery continues to give free housing, electricity, water and sewer to employees, but at whose cost?
Another glaring example is Zimbabwe Glass Company. Having no competitors, one would naturally expect it to have excelled under the circumstances, but alas the company has shut down clearly depicting how mismanagement can sink an entity bearing much potential.
How a company like Zimglass shuts down with all the resources at its disposal is mind-blowing. It is akin to an athlete losing a race in the absence competitors. At the time of its closure, the company reportedly owed its workers $2 million in salary arrears. A staggering 1 500 workers were sent home in July last year. As usual, they cited viability problems and the company is said to require $5 million to resuscitate its operations.
Cold Storage Commission (CSC) resembles yet another sad tale of how poor management can run down a huge undertaking. The reason of lack of funding proffered by the Agriculture deputy minister simply does not hold.
In simple comparison, Koala Abattoir is a private business enterprise in the same line of business as CSC, yet it continues to leap forward. Surely, the difference cannot lie with sanctions, but the absence of proper management.
It defies logic how anyone, for instance, can ever justify earning $200 000 coupled with imprudent perks in fuel and holidays in a struggling economy like ours. It is the height of self-centredness in governance. Zimbabwe finds herself surrounded by an all-pervading spirit of corruption, selfishness and shocking individualism.
The spirit has not even spared the religious world where people find nothing wrong with leaders who roll in Bentleys while congregants are widows, orphans and the struggling who fund the Hollywood lifestyles.
Isn’t it ironic that executives in struggling undertakings continue to earn mega salaries while they preside over dying entities?
While the case for sanctions cannot be outrightly dismissed, it is crucial that we “turn our heads in the direction of our problems” as the Greek would say.
The country certainly needs to wake up to the reality of the poor management in State enterprises that has taken root in the country.
It has become more necessary than ever for the country to face its challenges than to continue sweeping everything under the carpet of sanctions.
Let’s be realistic about our real ailment as a country.