Govt must get its priorities right

Mthuli Ncube

REVELATIONS that the government recently awarded a contract worth US$60 million to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son to procure drugs are quite shocking, particularly at a time when the country is openly admitting that its coffers are empty and that the government could collapse under the strain of financial demands to rescue its shattered economy and the effects of COVID-19.

NewsDay Comment

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube made clear the precarious position the country is in in his appeal for funding from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Over the years, the Zanu PF government has demonstrated a penchant for running on misplaced priorities, using whatever finances it could get to fund its continued stay in power rather than national needs whose satisfaction would be beneficial to the entire population.

Government’s failure to implement the necessary economic policies has led us to where we are today, begging for a stimulus package, even after lying that we have been generating budget surplusses.

Ncube’s admission of responsibility for “the recent policy missteps during late 2019” which have led to inflation currently running at an annual rate of over 500% does not ring sincere, especially when one considers that economic analysists warned government over and over again against some of the economic decisions they were making, given their potential to lead us back to the economic crisis with the magnitude of 2008.

The promise that government would implement a “time-bound programme” of economic, political and governance reforms should also be treated with caution, given our recent history. It may just be a desperate call that would be forgotten as soon as help comes – if it will come, that is.

Government has shown time and again that it is only prepared to sacrifice a few insignificant rotten apples in the fight against corruption, when the big sharks, many of whom are directly connected to Mnangagwa, move around scot free.

It is interesting that Ncube argues that failure to receive help will see them printing money and triggering hyperinflation and the crash of the local currency when one of the things they were warned about was not to recall the local currency without the necessary backing. The counsel unfortunately fell on deaf ears.

The current crisis may also be used as a smokescreen to have sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe lifted while the government has not shown any appetite to deal with the issues that attracted the sanctions at the beginning.

It is imperative for the government to deal with murky issues around financing of command agriculture with no accountability whatsoever and corruption that remains unchecked if its appeal is to make sense.

Quite recently, it also emerged that public funds were being channelled to travels by top ranking officials in government under the ruse of COVID-19 response while frontline workers were getting just a pittance. This is unacceptable, and such issues should be dealt with before government can receive any international support.