I REMEMBER when were young, we would play soccer with makeshift balls, readily made. Playing soccer in the streets was quite a pleasure and, of course, we had yesteryear football greats Peles and Diego Maradonas there, or whatever star’s name one would think of.
But often a bully would come and take the ball and claim it to be his. He would sit on it or put his foot on it and dare everybody. Everybody would cower and just grumble fearfully. Sometimes when the bully feels like, he would give the ball back, but on many occasions he would tear the ball or even take it away with him. He would laugh and boast, asking us what we could do about it. He was big and strong. We could merely look on, angry and frustrated, but all of us combined, would never contemplate taking him on.
In Zimbabwe presently, something resembling that is happening. We have a situation where President Robert Mugabe resembles the bully. He is withholding the control of the government and country from other potential leaders who want to help reboot the economy and improve people’s lives and situations.
Mugabe’s actions are pushing Zimbabweans to the limit, to the breaking point. He cannot deliver yet he wants to continue at the helm. Many are jobless and can’t feed families or pay bills. Though it’s uncertain how events will play out, eventually the unstable economic situation will explode in an undesirable manner with disastrous consequences. It has been customary for Mugabe and his Zanu PF not to have foresight, only hindsight.
There are issues Mugabe can circumnavigate, but economic collapse is a dead end and its approaching fast. If he wants to remain in power he has to arrest the decline of the economy, and not appease laid off workers by strangling businesses to force them to comply with his impractical conditions.
Mugabe has always done this over the years, ruining agriculture through a reckless land reform programme and therefore sabotaged the economy in his bid to please war veterans and party supporters.
If he forces companies to pay severance packages, he is forcing them deep into the red and ultimately closure, hence more workers will be laid off. You can’t put out a fire using petrol. At this point rather, much effort should have been made to keep surviving companies afloat rather push them downhill.
Though the passing of the Labour Amendment Bill, for which the state media sang praises loudly, as is habitual, must have been enacted long back, passing it now will only force companies to retain workers against business logic. Government, for its sheer survival, is putting business in a very complicated position. The amendment Act will destroy the last of the vestiges of what was once a thriving and promising economy. Will Mugabe and his hangers-on ever learn? It seems their objective is to condemn Zimbabweans into utter poverty by design or accident. They appear hellbent on continuing with their ruinous and reactionary policies.
It’s like watching a horror movie because of their pride, Mugabe and Zanu PF will never throw in the towel, no matter how bad the situation becomes in Zimbabwe. It’s like being held hostage to a psycho.
Measures like the Labour Amendment Act will not help deal with abrupt and huge change in the labour market. Such laws are not practical nor will they ever achieve the desired effects.
When Mugabe ordered the land reform programme, the whole economy crumbled. The land reform was done on a violent grand scale and was chaotic. The magnitude of change it would cause was not envisaged and only as enormous as it was disastrous. He still sometimes denies the effects of this move and that he is not helping matters.
Unemployment is already rampant and this Labour Amendment Act will push it to new highs as the few remaining businesses will actually arc to closures. Reaction is needed yes, but it should not be one that suffocates businesses.
However, it is too late or in fact impossible to teach an old dog new tricks. Lots of advice has been provided by many; no matter how sound it was, it has largely been ignored. They say one cannot teach old dogs new tricks, but we would understand if Mugabe himself admtted that “I can no longer handle this, it’s out of my control”. The problem with an old water pipe is, you fix a leak at one point, another point bursts. The whole pipe needs replacement. Let there be acknowledgement of failure from Zanu PF first if it really wants to correct the situation. Failure to do so at this juncture manifests both as foolishness and cruelty. Foolishness in that the regime has failed on several occasions to turn around the economy when it was still easier to do so. Government is trying mirror tactics that have failed to work in similar situations.
Cruelty in that government no longer cares about the suffering majority, with those in civil service being paid paltry wages and their medical insurances not guaranteed at all. If government cared, it would work diligently and skillfully to bring about the turnaround. There are many options, bright ones too. But, now it’s things falling apart in Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s family would at some point be sure to escape and abandon the sinking ship, which they caused to sink.
There are few who, in frustration, are saying perhaps Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa should take over — he might bring some much-needed change. The only way change is going to come, however, is when we have a government fairly and transparently elected by the people; such a government would be accountable to the people and will be sensitive to their needs. I don’t see how Mnangagwa can act thus given his unwavering loyalty to a despotic regime. Most recently, his fingerprints were all over place in Chirumanzu-Zibagwe where he used his leverage as Vice-President to arm-twist the electorate to vote for his wife Auxillia as the constituency representative in the House of Assembly.
Mnangagwa himself was unprocedurally appointed to his current position after heavy tampering with Zanu PF’s constitution and purges during the party’s controversial 2014 congress.
The source of problems that are crippling the economy is unelected officials running the affairs for the people. Unelected, appointed officials fail to connect with the people. Over the decades, Mugabe himself was just being merely endorsed in primaries by provinces, with heavy purging of provincial heads who would offer slight indications that there weren’t willing to do so.
For Zimbabweans, if Mnangagwa takes over from Mugabe, for them it would be like jumping from the pan into an open fire. For Mnangagwa has been the architect, behind the scenes, of prolonging Mugabe’s stay in power, until an opportune time, where he himself would take over and bring tyranny to the extreme, Stalin style. So it is in best interest and duty of Zimbabweans to block appointments of such individuals to the executive.
It is at these critical moments that power should revert to the people. In truly democratic establishments, power rests with the people, owners of the project, and not with the governing entity. If the power of the people fails, even the completely uncultured Jezebel would take over, and total darkness will prevail.
If Zimbabweans don’t want to unite and tackle these surmountable problems, they will all lose. First to be affected were farm workers, then workers in industry related to agriculture, workers in the financial sector, civil servants and now workers in general sectors. It’s now affecting employers in these sectors. Eventually everyone will be affected unless the root of the problem is dealt with.
If Zimbabweans remain disorganised and cowardly, eventually all will stand to lose. Without unity of purpose Zimbabwe is doomed. We are now in the transition stage, where the source of Zimbabwe’s problems may not only be Mugabe, but the generality of Zimbabweans because of their indifference to the problem or cowardice. The mindset has to change because change should be brought about by the people themselves. The country risks becoming a failed state if the current collapse continues.
In the end, it will be Zimbabwean “zombies”, the many that don’t have that will prey on the few who have. Signs of trouble are looming.
Shumba is a local political commentator. — firstname.lastname@example.org