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Eric Bloch Column

Zanu PF government employing bully tactics

By Eric Bloch

THE Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a bully as being a “user of strength or power to coerce others by fear”, and the act of bullying as “persecution and oppressi

on, physically or morally, by threat of superior force”. Based upon such definitions, it must be indisputable that the Zimbabwean government is naught but a bully, and that it is endlessly engaged in bullying.

Never endingly it resorts to raucous, aggressive threats of dire recriminatory actions against those that it either perceives as its opponents or as the causes of economic destruction, or that they choose to perceive as such in order to divert attention form their own culpability.

This is far from a new Zimbabwean phenomenon. As government progressively drives the country, and the people it is supposed to govern, into ever deeper deprivation and ruination, it exponentially intensifies its spurious allegations against all and sundry, ranging from most of the international community to those who would, given an enabling environment, be the fulcrum of restoration of economic wellbeing, as well as very many others.

And wheresoever it is able, it accompanies it’s specious diatribes against the targets of their vitriol with endless threats. It blusteringly contends that all that is wrong is due to the actions of others and, as is the case with all bullies as are obsessed with their authority and power, never-endingly threatens the most dire of actions and retributions.

The grievously debilitated Zimbabwean economy, which has been brought to the verge of total annihilation by government’s continuous foolhardy, ill-conceived, and destructive policies, is collapsing at such a horrendous pace that government is inevitably intensifying its allegations and accusations against others. This it must do, for it cannot conceive that it can in any manner be accountable for the economic Armaggedon.

Even if it did not recognise that its acts of omission and commission are the primary causes of the economic morass, it has not the maturity or the integrity to admit it, let alone to take necessary actions to enable economic recovery to become a reality.

Last week witnessed yet further prime examples of government’s continuing recourse to strategies of blame deflection, and threats against those that, with very rare exception, are wholly innocent of the allegations made against them. On Thursday last week, Finance minister, Senator Samuel Mumbengegwi, vigorously reiterated the oft-repeated threat of the last few months that government will “take-over” any business discontinuing production. Moreover, he stated that in anticipation of having to do so, government had set aside requisite funding. Only one day later, the Industry and International Trade minister, Obert Mpofu again stated government’s intent to take over any non-producing enterprises.

In making these threats, the honourable ministers, and all those in government who have previously done so, ignore five key factors, being:

* Government does not have the resources to fund such takeovers, with especial reference to the ongoing working capital requirements thereof. Although minister Mumbengegwi claimed to have the monies set aside, there is no such provision in his 2008 budget, presented to parliament on November 29. That budget projects a 2008 deficit of $1 760 trillion, and such deficit is before any funding of acquisitions, and funding of working capitals, of business.

* There is no authority in law for government unilaterally to assume ownership and control of businesses. Doing so would be tantamount to theft (although that is probably not an issue of governmental concern, having regard to the precedents it has set by the theft of farms and the contents thereof).

* Government does not have the technological and managerial skills to run the businesses. This lack of such essential resources is incontrovertibly evidenced by the years of failures of most of the Zimbabwean parastatals, such failures, in most instances, increasing in intensity. Admittedly there are a few pronounced exceptions, such as Air Zimbabwe, hindered only by lack of capital and inadequate foreign exchange generation, but in marked contrast are entities such as Zesa, TelOne, Zinwa, CSC, and the like.

* Businesses cannot succeed, and cannot produce, if they are precluded from realistic pricing of their products. In a hyperinflationary environment, triggered by grossly excessive governmental spending, endless printing of money to fund that spending, gargantuan scarcities of imported inputs, with those available being obtainable only at massive premiums in alternative markets, and unavoidably low productivity, constant price increases are inevitabilities. Governmentally managed businesses would suffer the same low productivity levels, due to ongoing energy supply interruptions, inadequate water supplies, insufficient foreign exchange to fund imports, low exports due to non-market competitiveness in the absence of realistic exchange rate devaluation, poor domestic consumer spending power and, therefore, low consumer demand, and much else.

* Threatened control and ownership transferral of private sector enterprises is yet another nail in the coffin of investment. Neither domestic or foreign investors have any interest in investing in an environment wherein government has a total disregard for international and national laws, contemptuously disregards property rights, and resorts continuously to vituperative attacks on businesses, accompanied by sabre-rattling, menacing fulminations.

On the principle of “better late than never”, it is time that the Zimbabwean government divested themselves of their arrogant beliefs of infallibility, of their paranoic beliefs that all economic ills are conspiratorial of third parties to overthrow government, and that they are so powerfully omnipotent that they can increasingly resort to bluster, threat, and all the other characteristics of the hardened bully. Failure by government to do so must result in it finally receiving its “come-uppance”, being ousted from power, for no bully thrives forever as was learnt, at their cost, by the Third Reich, the Leninists and Marxists, the Stalinists, Saddam Hussein and those led by him, and many others. But, just as inevitable is that, in the absence of a change in governmental stance, and pending a resultant change in government, the economic collapse will continue, hardship, poverty and misery will intensify, and the wellbeing of all Zimbabweans will sink ever-lower.

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