PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is threatening to revoke the operating licences of banks and private companies accused of manipulating currency.
Even his minions are cranking up talk of “economic saboteurs”. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
You can almost hear a collective sigh of exasperation as the citizens fail to come to terms with the deflating realisation that Zimbabwe is trapped in a time warp. People used to accuse Robert Mugabe of lacking basic economic common sense — an interesting observation, considering that he had studied economics up to master’s degree.
Those are the same folks who used to say “anyone is better than Mugabe”. Today the joke is on them. Mnangagwa claims to be a trained lawyer. One would expect him to show better appreciation of the law. Instead, what do we have?
An increasingly paranoid political figurehead who is quick to lash out at the private sector for the shortcomings of his own clueless government. For starters, his government is the biggest culprit fuelling the foreign currency parallel market rate.
To gain a better understanding of this reality, you must look at the economic system in its entirety. As we say in journalism, “follow the money” and all shall be revealed. The government is rolling out infrastructure development projects.
At face value, there is really nothing wrong with this. A modern economy needs solid infrastructure to enhance efficient supply chains and the movement of goods. The problem we are facing, though, is that the money paid to contractors for roads, dams and agricultural schemes is flooding the parallel market.
The government is funding these projects through short-term financing and that, on its own, is problematic. It is not very difficult to figure out what is going on in this troubled economy. As the prominent economist Professor Gift Mugano correctly observes, although there is nothing wrong with infrastructure development, there is everything wrong with the short-term financing model used to fund those projects.
The fat cats — also known as oligarchs — are ruling the roost. So instead of rushing to point the finger at imaginary enemies of the state, Mnangagwa should resist the knee-jerk impulse and do what any rational leader would do: Summon his Finance minister and central bank chief and instruct them to stop it pronto. In a normal country, this would be standard fare.
Zimbabwe is far from normal and we all know who is pocketing millions of dollars from those projects. Merchants of chaos are in charge. Since Independence in 1980, Zimbabwe’s greatest weakness has been dismal leadership.
The calibre of leaders is the weakest link. All the other ingredients critical for the transformation of this country from a poverty-stricken authoritarian kleptocracy to a democratic polity that avails its citizens fair opportunities for economic, social and political progress are available in abundance.
What is lacking is leadership. Look at the objective facts. Year-on-year inflation has just shot up from 72% to 96.4%. Citizens are surviving on donated medicines. School dropouts are at an all-time high. Jobless youths are drinking pamper juice.
Half the country’s population lives in extreme poverty. But what are the authorities focusing on? Intimidating the private sector, spooking investors and crushing dissenters.
These discredited tactics have failed for 42 years. Zimbabwe deserves better.