ZIMBABWEANS have a remarkable knack of shooting themselves in the foot and, concurrently with injuring themselves, injuring the nation as a whole.
Examples of their doing so are many, and in the last fortnight there have been numerous examples of that destructive drive.
One of the many was the horrendous, inhumane strike by government doctors in hospitals throughout the country.
It cannot be denied that they have been, and continue to be, the victims of untenable hardship, with their gross income being a very niggardly US$ 170 per month.
However, their withholding of their critically needed skills and services not only cannot resolve their poverty stricken circumstances and is not only a contemptuous disregard for the Hippocratic Oath sworn by the medical profession, but is also economically destructive.
The strike is an exercise in the near pointless, for it is incontrovertible that the doctorsâ€™ employer, being the government of Zimbabwe, is bankrupt, as publicly admitted by Prime Minister Tsvangirai.
It is striving to redress its insufficiency of funds to meet its costs (inclusive of those of the health services), but until it succeeds in doing so, it cannot meet the doctorsâ€™ demands â€” as justifiable as they are â€” irrespective of whether or not the doctors withhold their services by resorting to strike action.
Therefore, the strike action is wholly futile, but the consequences are grievous. Zimbabweans in critical need of medical attention are dying, and others are being motivated more and more to join the already immense â€œbrain drainâ€ from Zimbabwe.
More than four million Zimbabweans have sought new pastures, driven by the disastrous economic circumstances of 2000-2008, by the collapsing infrastructure and attendant discomforts and hardships, and developments such as the doctorsâ€™ strike exacerbate and intensify intents to do so.
In consequence, the economy is more and more deprived of essential skills, impeding its recovery, and could well revert into the devastating recession which has been an all-too-long characteristic. Concurrently, the on-going exodus further contracts the Zimbabwean consumer base, diminishing the market demand essential for the economyâ€™s viability and growth.
The doctors, through their ill-considered, even if understandably motivated, actions are to all intents and purposes killing their patients, and possibly doing likewise to the economy. (And this is not exclusive to the doctors, but also to many hospitals â€” including some of those in the private sector espousing Christian standards â€” which are denying patient admissions in the absence of up-front payments of very considerable deposits, even in cases where the admissions are required into intensive care units, the patients being in critical, near-death circumstances).
The recourse to strikes and like actions, with irrational disregard for practicalities and realities, is not exclusive to the medical profession.
Zimbabweâ€™s trade unions are, with very rare exception, becoming more and more demanding, and even more militant and confrontational.
It cannot be denied that most workers are earning wages considerably lower that the Poverty Datum Line (PDL), and battle to meet absolutely basic costs of survival for their families and dependents.
Their incomes do not suffice to meet food costs for themselves and those reliant upon them, to pay rentals and for utilities, education, transport and health care, let alone anything else. It is little wonder, therefore, that the amount of pay packets is foremost in their minds at almost all times.
However, the tragic circumstances, caused by excruciatingly high costs of living created by years of hyperinflation, should neither blind the workers (and the trade unions that represent them) to realities, nor to the very negative consequences of unrealistic wage demands, of recurrent recourse to productively destructive industrial actions, and to endless confrontation with employers.
Demanding wages beyond the means of employers can only result in business closures or, at best, downsizing of business operations, adding more to the vast pool of unemployed already exceeding 90% of the employable population.
That too is the result of wage demands at levels which render production costs in excess of those sustained by competitors in other countries, with resultant loss of product price competitiveness and, therefore, contraction of demand.
Whilst living conditions are extraordinarily harsh for most workers because of income insufficiency, they become even harsher if unemployment becomes their lot. Trade unions and their members need, very belatedly, to learn that having too little income is still better than having none at all.
Yet a third recurrent example of masochistic destruction impairing the greatly needed economic recovery occurred once again last week when Zanu PFâ€™s Politburo once again berated the so-called â€œillegalâ€ international sanctions applied against Zimbabwe, with a spokesman giving a prolonged, television-transmitted diatribe against them, and demanding their cessation forthwith.
Admittedly, those applying economic sanctions (or as the European Union describes them, trade and finance restrictions) should aid Zimbabwean political and economic transformation by terminating those sanctions.
The sanctions have little constraining impacts upon Zimbabweâ€™s political hierarchy, but they do have very negative repercussions upon an economically embattled populace, being the very people that the imposers of the sanctions wish to protect and assist.
However, the tirade against the sanctions did naught to motivate their cessation. On the one hand, any potential goodwill to reverse the sanctions is destroyed by the repeatedly fallacious contentions that the sanctions are â€œillegalâ€.
Any country has a right to determine whom it will finance, whom it will trade with, and those with whom it will not transact. Therefore, contentions of illegality are specious, devoid of foundation and merely confrontational, with a potential result of entrenching more solidly a determination to continue the sanctions.
Harmonious dialogues, and positiveÂ Â actions, are more constructive than confrontation, insults, contempt and misrepresentation.
Moreover, the television-transmitted berating of those applying the sanctions placed primary emphasis upon the travel barriers upon Zanu PFâ€™s hierarchy, alleging injustice as like constraints are not applied against leaders of other political parties.
That was destructive naivety in the extreme, for the sanctioned are the ones who have perpetrated, supported, or condoned blatant abuses of the fundamental principles of justice, law and order, such as engaging in, or making no endeavour to contain and halt, farm invasions.
They are the ones perceived by many of the international community as initiators or supporters of undue violence on the part of the so-called guardians of law and order, of unjustified arrests, prolonged detentions without trial, and of corrupt practices.
Suggestions that the constraints upon travel are illegal, are unjust, and are economically adverse, have no credibility in the eyes of those of the international community applying the constraints. Such contentions only motivate continuance of the constraints, intensifying the divide between Zimbabwe and the world at large.
By the endlessly aggressive castigation of the international community, those engaged in that castigation are only furthering self-destruction, and the destruction of Zimbabwe and its people. Attempts at cordial, harmonious reconciliation, reinforced by dynamic and just policy changes, and implementation thereof, would aid the long awaited Zimbabwean metamorphosis.
By Eric Bloch