Erich Bloch: Government’s Unlimited Duplicity

GOVERNMENT’S unmitigated recourse to endless duplicity is brazen in the extreme, and clearly knows no bounds.

 

Admittedly, this is neither a new phenomenon, nor a characteristic that is exclusive to the Zimbabwean government, for many (if not most) governments are guilty of devious double-dealing, dissembling, and reliance upon the “nod and wink”, hypocritical actions diametrically opposite to that which it does, or claims to do, or expects of others.

Examples are numerous of such duplicity.

Probably the most recent is gazetting of a Statutory Instrument prescribing that all as are possessed of generators are bound by law to register such generators with the Zimbabwe Electricity Regulatory Commission (ZERC), subject those generators to ZERC inspection, and effect payment of prescribed fees to that commission.

The duplicity of this regulation is two-fold. On the one hand, it is the bounden duty of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa), which is a wholly-owned parastatal of government, to provide all Zimbabwe with requisite supplies of electricity. This it has been dismally failing to do, to an ever-increasing extent, with the country’s residents, its commerce and industry, mining and agricultural sectors, being grievously prejudiced by pronounced interruptions in supplies.

Almost all are subjected to being without electricity seven days a week, in many instances for periods of six to 10 hours, and as recently as a fortnight ago Zesa publicly foreshadowed intensification of those periods to a probable twelve hours each day.

Due to Zesa’s gross inability to meet the nation’s essential electricity supply needs, more and more businesses and individuals have been driven to acquiring, at great initial and on-going operational costs, generators to assure them of at least some of the power supplies so critically needed.

Now government places yet another hindrance before them, by promulgating oppressive registration requirements. But the duplicity does not end with the registration requirement, obviously targetted and indirectly preserving government’s absolute and total control over Zimbabwean electricity generation.

It extends further, not only by assuring the regulatory authority of licensing and inspection fees (undoubtedly to compensate for declining revenue flows resulting from the diminishing sale of electricity), but by legislating that the fees be “pegged” to the United States dollar.

Repeatedly the minister of industry and international trade, the minister of finance, the president, the chairman of the national incomes and pricing commission (NIPC) berate those in the private sector as have resorted to pricing their goods and services by pegging the prices to the United States dollar, the South African rand, or other foreign currencies. Such pricing policies are stated to be unlawful, and to be contrary to the national and public interest, as major fuellants of inflation. But that does not deter government from empowering itself to peg the generator fees to the United States dollar! Apparently, government’s policy foundation is “Don’t do as I do, do as I say!” (Probably its next measure will be to impose an energy tax on candles, batteries, and tensile springs!).

Of course, this duplicity incident on the part of government is far from unique, and is certainly not an isolated one, for it has unhesitatingly imposed a fee payable for Zimbabwean passports in US dollars, allows Air Zimbabwe to peg its fares to the US dollar, and to require payment by Zimbabweans of foreign airport taxes and landing fees in that currency (thereby driving many, in desperation, to engage in the alternative parallel and black markets), and prescribes that Zimra charge import duties on alleged “luxury” imports in foreign currency, notwithstanding that such duties are payable by Zimbabweans.

In many, if not most, instances, the recipients of the imported goods are receiving those goods as relief support from distant families and friends who wish to alleviate the extreme distress and hardships of those in Zimbabwe struggling to survive on increasingly worthless pensions, rapidly declining incomes (in real terms), and in an environment of very great scarcities.

But that sympathetic, well-intended, and very necessary relief, is eroded by the state’s avaricious demand for duties in foreign currency. For most, that currency is only available at extraordinary cost from within the unlawful black market. This is even so for the few who were fortunate enough to be possessed of Foreign Currency Accounts (FCAs) funded by monetary gifts from family and friends abroad, for all too often they are unable to access their lawfully owned foreign currency from the Reserve Bank. And “luxury”, according to Zimra, even includes medically prescribed disposable sanitary pants for the frail and aged!

Governmental duplicity is in no manner limited only to foreign currency related issues. Never endingly, the president, his ministers and NIPC berate the business community for alleged profiteering and for exploitation of the captive consumer market.

Government contends that business heartlessly strives to enrich itself excessively, with total disregard for the hardships which afflict the populace. In the alternative, or more probably as complementary to that objective of private enterprises, government recurrently claims that business is engaged in diabolical conspiracy with government’s enemies to destroy the economy, in order to motivate the population to force a regime change. But these contentions in no manner deter government from resorting to almost continuous escalations of charges by its parastatals and other enterprises.

In the last month the newspapers owned by a state-controlled company have increased their prices, to a gargantuan extent, at least twice, concurrently with the number of pages, and the extent of editorial copy, declining extensively.

Air fares on the state-owned airline rise on a weekly basis. (This is not to say that the newspaper prices and air fares should not rise, for hyperinflation impacts upon publishers and the airline to as great an extent as it does upon all other businesses, but if the price escalations were, and are, necessary for them, so too are they for all other enterprises.

Therefore, it is naught but duplicity for government to castigate scathingly the private sector for necessarily doing the same as it and its enterprises must do).

Government’s ability to twist, distort, misconstrue and misrepresent is far from a recently acquired skill, for it has relied upon it ever since it so vigorously destroyed the economy and, in pursuit of self-interest, strove to divert culpability for that destruction to others.

Until the recent imposition of certain, unwarranted and unjustified, sanctions by Germany, including the freezing of Zimbabwean funds and the withholding of delivery of paid for currency paper, Zimbabwe was not the victim of any substantive economic sanctions, save and except for the USA’s Zimbabwe Democracy and  Economic Recovery Act provisions, which included mandatory veto by the US of any IMF support to Zimbabwe, there were no substantive economic sanctions imposed upon Zimbabwe. But that did not impede government from recurrently attributing Zimbabwe’s economic ills to the mythical economic sanctions.

Similarly, although it is inconceivable that government did not know the minimal extent  of land cultivation in the last agricultural season,  the gross insufficiently  available quantities of seed, and the grievous lack of inputs by way of fertilisers, chemicals, pesticides, electricity, and so forth, nevertheless for eight months government constantly trumpeted on radio, television, in the print media,  parliament, and elsewhere, that that season was going to be “The mother of all agricultural  seasons”. Regrettably, government’s duplicitous character is such that it studiously ignored the fact that “the mother was barren!” Once the season had ended, and facts could no longer be denied, even by government, it had no difficulty in ascribing the season’s near total failure to a combination of allegedly negative climatic conditions, and to its perpetual blame diversionary tactic of so-called economic sanctions.

A very old maxim is that “honesty is the best policy”, matched only by ethics and integrity, but with extraordinary rare exception, governments the world over do not subscribe to that maxim, or those commendable principles, and instead resort unceasingly to duplicity, deceitfulness, fabrications and fiction or, at best, economy of truth. Regrettably, not only is the Zimbabwean government no exception thereto, but it  has become one of the foremost practitioners thereof.

The article was submitted before the government suspended  the recently gazetted Statutory Instrument on generators. 

By Erich Bloch

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