Chinotimba’s economic illiteracy on show

‘WE believe in dialogue with employers,” Joseph Chinotimba told the Herald this week. “Employers should learn from government and give their workers money.”

So that’s what

dialogue is all about? Employers have to give their workers “money” irrespective of their ability to do so! The government recently hiked pay for teachers, nurses, soldiers and others in the state sector. But it will do this by printing money. Private-sector employers cannot follow suit because they don’t own the printing machines.

They will be squeezed by the rising costs of production, spurred by 1 000% inflation, and the demands of workers to keep up. Many will understandably consider conducting business in Zimbabwe today an unrewarding exercise.

And who can blame them with people like Chinotimba around?

He heads an outfit called the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions. It was set up specifically to counter the influence of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and provide a state-friendly union that would mask mismanagement of the economy and transfer the blame for the country’s decline to the private sector and the opposition. This strategy also involved piling political pressure on employers, invasion of company premises, and threats to the judiciary.

Advertising his economic illiteracy, Chinotimba believes that workers will be better off because the state is paying them more. He is unable to grasp the elementary truth that printing money is the chief cause of inflation and that this latest move will further erode the value of wages in his members’ pockets. Inviting the private sector to participate in this suicidal race to keep up with the cost of living will result in further company closures and mass unemployment.

This is called reinventing the wheel. Most societies have learnt that raising wages to match inflation merely fuels more inflation. Only Zimbabwe, it seems, is determined to go down this road again!

Ignoring the role of the state in borrowing, spending and printing money is like ignoring the elephant in the living room. Inflation will continue to rocket, and at an exponential rate, until cabinet understands the need to rein-in expenditure, attract investment and generate forex. It would be the easiest thing in the world to cut back on state spending, particularly by cutting the cost of government itself — getting rid of all that dead wood —  but where you have a populist regime determined to bribe its employees to keep them sweet, you have a recipe for disaster. Watch this space.

The many Yugoslav exiles working in this country say “you ain’t seen nothing yet”. Under Slobodan Milosovic inflation was 20 times what it is here. For them, this is a breeze!

We were interested to see Caesar Zvayi’s proposal to declare April Zimbabwe History Month. This is a noble enterprise to which a number of historians can contribute. But if Zvayi wants to take part he must first brush up on a few details.

He referred to British High Commissioner Lord Alfred Milner, who was responsible for authorising the execution of the architects of the First Chimurenga, as “one A Milner”, thereby suggesting he hadn’t heard of him.

Referring to the Battle of Chinhoyi in 1966, Zvayi claims: “Eyewitness accounts say four jet fighters, several helicopters and scores of Rhodesian soldiers were gunned down…”

Zvayi appears to be claiming more here than war veterans themselves. Perhaps he has his own sources.

It is important to note that the intention of the seven cadres who entered the country from Zambia was to “cut off power coming from Kariba and plunge Rhodesia into darkness”.

They would be proud to know that their mission has been fulfilled 40 years later as Zesa plunges an independent Zimbabwe into darkness on a nightly basis. We will no doubt be commemorating this achievement not just in April but every month.

Meanwhile, Zvayi claims that on February 6 2002 the Zimbabwe Independent carried a 995-word “piece of fiction” by Basildon Peta titled “My ordeal as Mugabe’s prisoner”.

In fact it was carried in the London Independent.

As Zvayi’s error was published in an article where he criticised “outright falsehoods in some sections of the media”, we are sure he will want to apologise for this particular falsehood which is as flagrant as George Charamba’s claim that the Independent is opposed to self-regulation.

Muckraker notes that Noczim has “put in place watertight mechanisms” to ensure that subsidised fuel is utilised for productive instead of speculative purposes.

Are these the same “watertight” mechanisms used when the last allocation of fuel was handed out? And what has happened to those “farmers” who took advantage of the offer to resell it on the black market? Any news there?

Fuel allocations will ensure winter wheat production, Joseph Made has assured us.

“Analysts believe that if the government maintains its present resolve, wheat output for this year’s winter growing season would be significantly higher than last year’s,” the Herald informed us.

This is one of the paper’s famous “if” stories. A recent article headed “Zim’s economy expected to recover despite challenges”, provided no evidence whatsoever of the fabled recovery. It turned out to be an “if” story. If the authorities do this and that then all will be well. And of course you know they won’t.

If ministers were serious about investment and recovery why didn’t they attend the Zimbabwe International Business Conference held at the ZITF in Bulawayo? Only deputy ministers Patrick Zhuwao and Samuel Undenge made it.

Delegates attending spent much of their time debating a suitable brand name for Zimbabwe which would reflect the country’s history and aspirations.

Among the proposed themes were “Truly Zimbabwean”, “Prosper Zimbabwe”, “Genuine Zimbabwe” and “Great Zimbabwe”.

“Truly Zimbabwean” sounds borrowed from Malaysia’s “Truly Asia”.

Unashamedly borrowing from both Malaysia and South Africa, Dr Ruth Labode suggested “Truly Proudly Zimbabwean”.

This was because “most Zimbabweans are very apologetic for being Zimbabwean to the extent that they are afraid of identifying themselves as Zimbabweans,” she said.

And why are they afraid of identifying themselves as Zimbabwean, does she think?

Hifa organisers were last week compelled by the Media and Information Commission to hand over a list of journalists who had been accredited for this year’s event. An Australian who has been covering Hifa for five years was given 24 hours to leave the country as a result.

There is the answer to Dr Labode’s question. A clearly demarcated civic space invaded by a predatory state in front of an international audience. And then they have the cheek to talk about “negative publicity”, as if it is the invention of the independent press!

Muckraker was surprised to see our government could only manage to send a Foreign Affairs ministry official, Godfrey Magwenzi, to South Africa’s Freedom Day reception last Thursday.

The South Africans were told the day before that Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi was “abroad”, his deputy Obert Matshalaga would be in Bulawayo touring the ZITF with the president, while permanent secretary Joey Bimha, who normally stands in on these occasions, would also be in the president’s party.

Not a single minister or senior official was available to attend, it would seem. What does this tell us about the current status of relations with Tshwane? This by the way didn’t stop a large cross-section of Zimbabwean society plus diplomats from having a party and enjoying some good food and music.

We noted Tafataona Mahoso’s prurient piece in defence of sexual promiscuity. His argument was as shallow as they come. So far as he is concerned, there was nothing wrong with former South African deputy President Jacob Zuma not using a condom in his alleged rape case. This is all an imperialist argument being advanced by NGOs to get money from donors, we are told.

The basis of his reasoning was that nobody ever talked about Aids when former US President Bill Clinton was claimed to have had several sexual liaisons. He also said Elizabeth Taylor married nine husbands and this obviously must be sufficient proof that there is no Aids.

“If perceived immorality and sexual promiscuity were the primary causes of the HIV and Aids pandemic then the entire North American and European population would have been extinct from the pandemic by now,” concluded Dr Mahoso pompously.

It would help if someone would tell the good doctor that there are more chances of infection if a person has sex with an infected partner. Or has Mahoso finally found enough evidence to support Thabo Mbeki’s theory that HIV doesn’t cause Aids? What is imperialistic about warning people against multiple partners and saving lives in this age of Aids?

Returning to calls by trade union leaders for the private sector to follow the example set by government in awarding huge salary increases, embedded in the story was one on the Cold Storage Company failing to pay its workers for two months. The company said it was facing viability problems as it was operating at less than 20% of capacity.

The company said its problems started as far back as 2001, which is the time the mayhem on the farms intensified and cattle were being slaughtered at will in the name of “fixing” white commercial farmers. The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has only made a bad situation worse.

But it would be very naïve of trade unions to assume that every company is making “super profits” as claimed by ZFTU president Alfred Makwarimba.

The contrast between government and private sector companies is that the latter have to earn their money under very difficult trading conditions. Government can pay any salary it wants provided it is in its political interests to do so. Which is what happened with the uniformed forces and teachers last week.

Muckraker feels compelled to comment on the catty remarks coming almost weekly from the Financial Gazette’s CZ columnist.

He can’t resist having a go at this newspaper and in particular at its proprietor. And there appears to be a note of bitterness in his voice. How do we explain this?

Well, CZ — who many readers hadn’t noticed was missing due to what the editor called “an extended holiday” — should do the professional thing and declare an interest when he attacks this paper. He should explain to his readers that he had to part company with the Zimbabwe Independent because of a bad case of indolence. Rather like a permanent “extended holiday” at our expense! But no hard feelings here. Just sorry that he hasn’t got over it!

Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono is pulling no punches in his dealings with tobacco farmers. This week he all but told those farmers threatening to withhold their tobacco crop from the auction floors to quit farming.

He has a point. Government provided the farmers with virtually all inputs, from fuel to fertilisers. Now they want more subsidies before they can sell their crop. This is despite the fact that tobacco production has fallen from as much as 236 million kg in 1997 to a mere 50 million kg this year. One is left wondering what is going on. What happened to all the subsidised fuel that the farmers got last year?

But Gono is not deterred. He said those farmers committed to the task should produce enough to ensure food self-sufficiency as a signal to the world that our land reform programme was not in vain.

“It’s high time our farmers learn to be grateful,” Gono said.

It’s high time they were productive too, we might add. Why should they be continuously pampered with subsidies while companies like the CSC are expected to fend for themselves like everybody else? What’s their claim to a special dispensation?

‘Council workers on a go slow,” the Mirror reported last week.

Muckraker’s question: How can we tell?

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