AS I watch children going to school yesterday morning, I could not help, but be troubled by how few they were – an indication that a huge number of them will not be going due to unaffordable school fees, uniforms and stationery – thus a whole generation will be denied education. Why is a country that used to pride itself with one of the best education standards and highest literacy rates on the continent now a pale shadow of its once glorious past?
Guest column: Tendai Ruben Mbofana
Zimbabwe is already on an economic downward spiral, especially over the past two months – as shortages of fuel, medication at public hospitals and foreign currency, as well as the tripling of prices of basic commodities, medication at private pharmacies, school fees and uniforms cripple the nation.
It is also reported that a number of companies will not be re-opening this year after the holiday break.
Such is the country we live in ever since Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa took over power, after a military coup in November 2017.
A country that had been relatively economically stable in the latter days of President Robert Mugabe’s disastrous, oppressive and brutal rule.
The question is why has Mnangagwa failed the nation this way – economic problems re-emerging even before his first anniversary of coming to power?
The President seemingly was big on talk and mantras and generally empty on substance.
It is one thing talking lyrically about Zimbabwe is open for business, and Zimbabwe being an upper middle class society by 2030 – and, something completely different actually getting to the practicalities of implementing policies that will result in the fulfilment of these mantras.
For instance, a supermarket may promote itself as being “good for you!”, yet not doing anything to ensure that it is actually good for us; – probably with rude staff, exorbitant prices, and lacking generally required products.
The same goes for Zimbabwe – it can never become what the Mnangagwa regime touts it to be, yet busy sitting on their laurels and doing absolutely nothing to rectify the situation.
A country is not run merely on matras, but on effective policy implementation. This is, however, not even a new weakness within the Zanu PF regime, as none of its economic recovery programmes ever came to fruition since independence in 1980. None, whatsoever!
No wonder, only 10 years after inheriting a relatively economically prosperous country in 1980 – withstanding intensive United Nations (UN) sanctions and a gruesome civil war (Second Chimurenga) – the Zanu PF government was already implementing Bretton Woods’ Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes (Esap).
In a nutshell, Zanu PF chefs started destroying the country’s economy the very first day they entered office!
Today, the same ruinous regime wants the people of Zimbabwe to continue having hope that this time they will get it right and recover the economy! Recovery, my foot!
How can a regime that had made a 38-year career of ruining the economy, suddenly get it right? The facts on the ground prove otherwise.
The accessibility of foreign currency on the streets proves that it is available in the country, yet the Zanu PF regime deliberately fails to rein in this malice.
Who does not know where the foreign currency dealers are based?
Even our police service knows where they can be found – as these dealers operate openly on the streets.
If the regime was serious, they would simply send plain-clothes police officers with some cash, masquerading as potential buyers.
All these street forex dealers could be off the streets within a week – and all that money reintroduced into the formal banking system.
The fact that there is so much forex available on most streets means the country has enough to buy fuel, medication, and even provide all those who would want to import necessary raw materials.
This would result in basic commodities reverting to their original prices.
The fact that government officials could go on television sobbing and mourning that they did not print United States dollars – and could neither pay civil servants in hard currency, or provide adequately to importers – is nothing short of ridiculous.
Just how much forex is the Mnangagwa regime allowing to be traded on the streets, yet the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is dry?
Can we say that the regime is serious when it hires jokers to work for the Finance ministry to “expose” corrupt people in the RBZ – accused of redirecting this much-needed hard currency onto the black market – only to confess to having being paid to “whistleblow”, without any concrete evidence. What manner of shenanigans are these?
Does this regime take us seriously – or they perceive us as fools?
Additionally, how can the country be “open for business”, and become “an upper middle class society”, while businesses that could have established operations within the country know that the only way they would acquire hard currency is on the streets of Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare or any other city – at absurd exchange rates?
No serious investor would ever make such a stupid move – it is one thing to take risks in business and completely another to be downright foolish.
As the nation’s troubles continue to mount, the Mnangagwa regime is not even doing anything to ensure that those businesses currently operating in the country are paying their workers enough – or even paying them at all.
The regime’s own workers have to resort to half-hearted strikes and threats of strikes, just so that they are given a living wage.
Of course, this callous regime will most likely never resolve these workers plight – as we have witnessed numerous times before – unless civil servants engage in more serious constitutional industrial action – something even the rest of Zimbabwe can join in.
All of us in Zimbabwe are suffering under this regime and economic brutality is the worst form of human rights abuse, and we are more than prepared to embark on a protracted constitutional action, until our voices are heard.
What upper middle class society is the regime creating with such anti-people policies?
An upper middle class society is not made up of paupers and beggars – unless, if the Zanu PF regime has another definition.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author and speaker. He is the programmes director with the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice).