AFTER the shambolic 23 August general elections, there was always a huge risk that Zimbabweans would pay a heavy price but, barely five months down the line, nobody could have ever predicted that the misery would escalate so rapidly.
The year 2024 has gotten off to a calamitous start, thanks to a triple whammy of burdensome taxes, runaway prices and a volatile Zimbabwe dollar.
Desperate to shore-up a shrinking tax base, the Zanu PF government came up with a disastrous idea: introduce a raft of new taxes and unleash the revenue collector on the wretched masses.
As usual, such thoughtless taxes tend to disproportionately harm the lumpen underclass, including the unemployed, the self-employed and the poverty-stricken majority.
The end result is very unsettling. A struggling informal trader who runs a backyard tuckshop in the ghetto is suddenly barred from buying goods from manufacturers and wholesalers. A bottlestore operator whose clientele comes largely from a squalid peri-urban settlement is told that she cannot buy beer directly from the breweries.
An underpaid teacher at a boarding school who stocks up on loose biscuits and other snacks from wholesale outlets for resale to students is told to stop buying from the big shops, thanks to an anti-people directive from the Finance minister.
According to Franklinian logic, nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. Most people agree, of course, that every economically active adult must pay their fair share of taxes.
What every right-thinking citizen finds objectionable, however, is the robbing of the blatant war on the poor spearheaded by ruling elites who loot and squander taxpayer dollars, pay themselves lavishly and manage the economy like mafia property.
In a normal country, state revenue is used to fund crucial infrastructure, and critical services such as healthcare and education.
High taxes do not necessarily strangle citizens as long as the money is used in a manner that contributes to socio-economic prosperity. But Zimbabwe is nothing but normal. Toll fees are hiked astronomically, yet the government is doing precious little about the pothole menace which has plunged the country into a state of disaster.
Governance deficiencies are creating fertile breeding ground for high-level corruption in Zimbabwe.
The cost of living crisis can be attributed to a variety of factors, but the two major issues are corruption-induced poverty and leadership failure.
Economic instability — including the weakening of the virtually worthless Zimdollar — is stoking price increases at an alarming pace. We have reached a stage where families are failing to put a square meal on the table.
In this hostile economy, who can afford a US$1.35 loaf of bread? There is no better evidence of leadership failure than the shocking cost of basic commodities.