Erich Bloch: Destructive Rule Of Fear

AMONGST the most pronounced causes of Zimbabwe’s catastrophic economic circumstances is that its government, in general, and its economic arms in particular, endlessly seek to manage and control the country as a whole, its people,

 and especially its economy, by an endless recourse to dire threats which provoke (or are intended to provoke) quivering fear amongst all that are components of the economy.

The governmental authorities clearly have a deep-seated conviction of their absolute omnipotence, that conviction matched only by a unequivocal belief that achievement of their objectives is best achieved by never-ending fulmination against those that government is convinced are deliberately undermining them.

Without according any consideration whatsoever as to the actual causes of Zimbabwean ills, and blatantly unwilling even to consider that they themselves, or their policies, are the causes of the ills, they attribute total culpability to others. Having done so, they then seek to motivate changes of actions by the allegedly culpable by unceasing threats to demonic retribution.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a bull as being one “who uses strength or power to coerce others by fear”, resorting to persecution, oppression (physically or morally), by threat or superior force. Today, a more abridged, but markedly more indisputable description, of “bully” would simply be “Zimbabwean government”.

After government set the economy upon its downward, destructive path by its succumbing to the threatening, bullying demands of war veterans in 1997, yielding to their blackmail demands for compensation and pensions far beyond the country’s means, government not only had to divert from itself blame for the consequential cataclysmic economic developments, but having imputed fault to others, then had to strategise to achieve a reversal of the economic decline. This it did by resorting to other grievously ill-considered policies and tactics, each of which not only failed to achieve positive transformation, but massively worsened the state of the economy. As each measure failed, and intensified the economic collapse, government unhesitatingly deluded itself that fault lay wholly with others, and sought to address that by resorting to ever-intensifying, strongly bullying, and recrimination of the falsely perceived guilty culprits for the decimation of the economy. It bared its fangs, snarled, growled, bristled and continuously threatened revenge and reprisals. To a very major extent, it focused its ire and fury upon much of the international community, and especially upon the former colonial power, Britain, upon most of the other countries of the European Union, and upon the USA, and –– of course –– upon the leaders of those countries.

But it did so devoid of any credibility and, therefore, whilst not halting its ongoing diatribes against those imaginary enemies, it also had to find others to blame. Progressively it cast its evil eye upon whites in general, and particularly upon commercial farmers, industrialists, retailers and others of the business community, and upon multinationals.

It threatened, with ever-greater intensity, the nationalisation and expropriation of businesses. It legislated extremely unrealistic, and greatly oppressive, laws seeking to achieve near total regulation and control of all facets of the economy, with myopic oblivion to the disastrous consequences upon the survival and continued operations of the targetted economic enterprises. Each and every one of its measures proved to be wholly counterproductive, but government was incapable, or unwilling, to acknowledge, that the adverse consequences of its excessive regulation were a direct consequence of that regulation.

Instead, it intensified its castigation of the private sector, contending deliberate circumvention of the regulation with the deliberate intent to bring the economy to its knees, to enrich the private sector stakeholders at the expense, and to the prejudice, of the populace, and to satisfy the spuriously alleged international masterminds of the economic Armageddon.

These disastrous actions of government pinnacled when, in June 2007, the Minister of Industry and International Trade, “Tsunami” Obert Mpofu, undoubtedly motivated by the president and cabinet, legislated price controls. This was done with contemptuously blatant indifference to the proven inability of price controls to address the economic problems, and the incontrovertible consequences of intensifying those problems. Within days, the minister created the National Incomes and Pricing Commission (NIPC) to complement the draconianly destructive constraints upon prices, headed by one Godwills Masimirembwa.

Immediately, government, strongly reinforced by NIPC’s Masimirembwa, applied intensively bullying threats against any and all who failed to comply, in the entirety, with the price control laws and NIPC directives, and reinforced those bullying threats by gargantuanally excessive, punitive actions against perceived offenders. Businessmen were peremptorily jailed, and others harshly fined, whilst officials invaded businesses with extreme aggression, such as to provoke great fear within the business community.

But the results were not to curb and contain prices, and to halt the spiralling, endlessly surging inflation. Instead, most basic commodities, essentials, and other goods ceased to be available. And this was not in any manner as an attempt by business to frustrate government, NIPC and the legislation’s stated intents. It was naught but the inevitable consequence that businesses could not afford to sell goods without attaining a fair return on capital employed, for then the businesses could not survive. This is a fundamental precept of economic survival, but government and NIPC could not, or would not, recognise basic fact.

Instead, because of businesses inability to import or produce goods, in the absence of operational viability, scarcities became greater and greater. Inevitably, this fuelled a thriving, vigorous black market, wherein prices were markedly greater than they would have been in a decontrolled formal sector. Inflation soared upwards, and concurrently, as businesses contracted, unemployment intensified, as did the “brain drain” of Zimbabwe’s valued skilled to neighbouring territories.

But with the obduracy and dogmatism that are the characteristics of the Zimbabwean government, zero recognition was given to facts, and instead there has been a continuing intensifying, scathing assault upon the private sector.

In the last few weeks, the president, Minister Mpofu, and NIPC’s Godwills Masimirembwa have all been vocally vitriolic against the business community, and have with increased intensity threatened retribution and intensely punitive actions.

The result has not been to improve the lot of consumers, and of the economy, but to bring about the closure of yet more enterprises, the contraction of many others, increased unemployment, discouragement of critically needed investment, further economic collapse, lesser revenues to an already extremely bankrupt fiscus, and ever-greater hardships and suffering for the populace. Government’s continuous usage of fear as an instrument of misguided policy implementation is accelerating the destruction of Zimbabwe.