EVERYWHERE you go in Zimbabwe today, the consequences of catastrophic economic failure hit you in the face like a tonne of bricks.
Social dislocation — amid a rising tide of anxiety over lost jobs, non-existent safety nets and a deteriorating quality of life — is robbing citizens of a sense of value and purpose.
Evidence of regression is not in short supply. From dilapidated roads to decaying hospitals, the sense of desperation is suffocating. But there is no better place to observe the most devastating realities of a broken nation than in the social fabric.
Citizens’ day-to-day struggle for survival is a soul-crushing experience which has left families shattered, marriages broken and entire communities traumatised.
A whole generation of children is growing up without knowing what a normal society looks like. They were born in the middle of collapse. A dysfunctional existence is their idea of normalcy.
The government is clearly out of its depth, with no meaningful solutions in sight. There are no social safety nets in Zimbabwe.
Recently, the authorities suddenly increased student fees at state universities, without taking into account the dire implications.
Students who were paying ZW$9 000 must now fork out ZW$40 000. You have to remember that the average civil servant is earning less than ZW$20 000. Those who eke out a living in the informal sector are living from hand to mouth. For the most part, they have no savings, no assets, no access to credit, no hope for a better day.
How on earth are people expected to afford such fees? More importantly, what message is our society sending to these young people whose dreams are being sabotaged by a system that shows no compassion?
Desperate students are now being forced into a life of crime and prostitution. Make no mistake, there is no free lunch. Society will ultimately pay the price. Amnesty International released a new report this week detailing the shambolic state of the public health system.
Pregnant women and girls are at risk of life-changing childbirth-related injuries, including obstetric fistula, as many shun public healthcare facilities in favour of home-based deliveries. This is due to inadequate health infrastructure, cultural practices and high hospital costs.
According to the 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 462 women die in every 100 000 live births in Zimbabwe.
The new report by Amnesty International shows how the catastrophic collapse of the public health system is killing women and girls. If a government is not bothering to adequately invest in education and health, where is it channeling taxpayers’ money? The time has come for citizens to ask this question without fear or favour and in the national interest.
Government officials always sound ridiculous when they rail against so-called Western detractors and imperialists.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi is the latest Zanu PF politician to attribute the government’s self-inflicted woes to some imaginary hostile foreign forces. They will not admit that citizens have been rescued from starvation by foreign donors who provide food, life-saving anti-retroviral drugs, essential medicines and funding for income-generating projects.
Just this week, the World Food Programme announced that it has completed feeding 1.5 million desperately hungry Zimbabweans through emergency food assistance. Hunger was so vicious that, for the first time ever, the WFP, a United Nations agency, had to feed people outside the lean season as drought, chronic high inflation and Covid-19 converged to wreak havoc.
Zimbabwe urgently needs a viable social contract. As the ongoing constitutional imbroglio has shown, government officials do not always work in the best interests of the citizens.
What is needed is inclusive democracy, fair opportunities for all, an empowered citizenry and a leadership that respects constitutionalism.
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