THIS week, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube was struggling to convince millions of poverty-stricken Zimbabweans that the country has been posting healthy budget surpluses, and that their problems were being solved through this “strong fiscal performance”.
However, addressing a business meeting at the ongoing Zimbabwe International Trade Fair on Wednesday, the Finance minister glossed over serious problems confronting the majority of Zimbabweans.
Over half of the estimated 15 million people are living under the poverty datum line.
Food security remains a challenge for millions living in remote areas, as well as those in low-income urban communities.
Ideally, these people would be catered for by social safety nets created to lift them out of poverty.
But several reliable accounts have demonstrated how life has remained a struggle for many, even as government continues to preach the gospel of surplus.
The spectre of water shortages, a network of decaying roads, dilapidated hospitals and schools demonstrate that the so-called surplus, if any, is either being looted by the well connected through carefully established schemes that appear very formal.
These include expensive globe-trotting escapades by top civil servants, and overpriced tenders that are awarded to firms controlled by the well connected.
But a surplus is no surplus if it does not cascade to the pockets of the poor, and if the poor cannot afford to send their family members to clinics when they fall ill.
A surplus that is only registered on paper is superfluous, it is of no benefit to the people.
It is an insult to millions, who have lost all forms of livelihoods due to economic mismanagement, to tell them that they are doing well when they cannot afford to put a decent meal on the table.
Perhaps the minister could help Zimbabweans understand why in spite of the hyped surpluses, 500 000 of this country’s citizens have continued to risk their lives in dangerous tunnels of decommissioned mines, scouring for gold to sell to the chefs.
Women and children spend hours on end, chiselling out and blasting away ore while exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals and diseases.
This should not have been the case if the economy was surely posting surpluses.
We call upon government to be honest with its people, to tell them the truth even when in crisis.
The good thing about releasing accurate numbers is that people can plan accordingly.