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Eric Bloch Column

We’ll have to make a plan

By Eric Bloch

ZIMBABWEANS are renowned for their pronounced resilience to adversity. Years and years of intense hardships, fuelled by the never-ending, appalling mismanagement of the econo

my by government, and exacerbated by the magnitude of governmental disregard for the fundamental principles of democracy, law and order, human rights, and collaborative international relations have bred this resilence.

So determined were Zimbabweans not to succumb to the pressures and hardships to which they were being subjected, that they vigorously and ingeniously sought ways and means to minimise their economic and allied ills and afflictions.

The Zimbabwean coat-of-arms bears the inscription “Unity, Freedom, Work,”, but Zimbabweans found that the only widespread unity was that of mutual misery and suffering, that they craved freedom from poverty and its associated torments, and that they had to work endlessly to assure survival.

But this did not dissuade them from continued determination to overcome their heart-rending burdens, to such an extent that, to all intents and purposes, the national motto that should have been borne by the coat-of-arms became “We’ll make a plan”.

For year after year, with the only major exceptions being those Zimbabweans who sought opportunities in neighbouring states, and further afield, Zimbabweans strove to use initiative and effort to minimise their hardships, to survive, and to await better times.

But as conditions progressively worsened, with government not only doing naught to bring about positive change, and only falsely blaming others, and dogmatically adhering to proven disastrous policies, the resolve of Zimbabweans eventually began to weaken. Despondency has become more and more pronounced, with ever greater numbers becoming resolutely convinced that there is no longer any prospect of a positive upturn. and that life in Zimbabwe can only worsen exponentially. More and more are fleeing the country, whilst those remaining become increasingly certain that there is no future, other than one of boundless misery. The “We’ll make a plan” philosophy is fast disappearing.

It has therefore been interesting to note some recent developments in Zimbabwe’s economically powerful neighbour, South Africa.

Until recently, South Africa not only had the largest economy in the region, but also extreme economic stability, with minimal inflation and a highly effective infrastructure.

Suddenly, some crevasses in that economy have begun to surface, albeit to an insignificant extent as compared to the cataclysmic Zimbabwean economic circumstance.

Inflation has begun to rise, although the extent therefore is unimportant when compared to Zimbabwe, but nevertheless sufficiently to evoke concern amongst the populace.

And the infrastructure is showing intensifying stress and lack of capacity to meet the economy’s needs.

Less than three weeks ago, energy delivery become so inadequate and erratic that gold mines were forced to discontinue operations.

Pronounced daily loadshedding was introduced nationwide, and traffic movements became so chaotic — with the non-operation of thousands of traffic lights, causing thousands of cars to back-up at intersections — that almost all South Africans were severely affected.

In contrast to the Zimbabwean “we’ll make a plan” philosophy of so many years, the initial reaction of South Africans appears to have been of stunned horror and dismay, accompanied by despair.

Such is the despondency that, apparently, a new prayer is now widely in use in South Africa: “Our Father who is in Eskom, powerless be thy name. Thy kingdom badly run, thy power undone, in Jo’burg as it is in Kwazulu-Natal. Give us this day our half-baked bread, and forgive the trespassers who shoot us dead. Lead me not into a dark nation, but deliver me from load shedding. For thine have no kingdom, no power and no electricity. Amen.”

Of course, one could substitute Zesa for Eskom, and Harare and Bulawayo for Jo’burg and Kwazulu-Natal.

However, although the South African populace are distraught to such an extent that they are not yet disposed “to make a plan”, and that country’s government and Eskom appear to be as lethargic about addressing the problems as has been the constant characteristic of the Zimbabwean government and Zesa insofar as Zimbabwe’s prolonged energy problems are concerned, nevertheless it was inspiring to note the immediate, very positive and constructive reaction of the city of Johannesburg.

That could well be an example which Zimbabwean authorities, and the Zimbabwean people, should seek to emulate and, for the sake of the country’s economy and Zimbabwean morale, it merits summation in this column, in order to prompt like local, albeit necessarily different, actions.

In other words, Zimbabweans need to revert to a dynamic philosophy of achieving survival by “making a plan”.

Within 10 days of the commencement of horrendous levels of load shedding in South Africa, the city of Johannesburg developed and announced extensive plans to alleviate electricity blackouts.

These include an immediate installation of 200 000 geyser “ripple controls”, which will enable the switching off of geysers by remote action from a central point, and as rapidly as possible thereafter a further 500 000 are to be installed.

This action, without direct cost to consumers, will save 150MW during load shedding. In due course, similar devices are to be installed on air-conditioning units in business premises.

The city also intends, within six months, to supply 300 000 households with energy-efficient light bulbs, thereby saving 45MW, and to reinstate a decommissioned diesel and gas turbine, which will add 120MW to the grid.

In addition, within a year, the City intends to install solar power for traffic lights and public lighting, saving up to 100MW, and will intensify and accelerate its programme for installation of domestic solar water-heaters.

These are but a few of many measures which are planned by the city of Johannesburg, and there are already indications that other South African cities, and even Eskom, are being motivated to follow suit.

Moreover, many householders appear to be withdrawing from their negative acceptance of energy crises, and are also beginning to make plans to diminish the hardships of recurrent, extended, load shedding.

Zimbabweans used to address the innumerable, mainly governmental-created crises, with similar initiative and innovativeness, but having been economically whipped and
beaten for so long, appear to have lost the drive to do so.

That drive must be restored, if there is ever to be a real economic recovery. This restoration will only happen when government — be it the present or a future one — sets aside its self-interest and misguided ideologies, to further the interests of the people it is supposed to serve.

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