What’s the long face, what’s all the crying for
Didn’t you expect it when you opened your door
To the man with the long coat and the long list of victims
THESE are opening lyrics to the song The show goes on by American singer Bruce Randall Hornsby. I thought of these lyrics when talking to my work colleagues earlier in the week when we were going through the news headlines. No matter which newspaper one was reading, the faces were the same – long and sad.
Even when we tried to talk about it, you could tell there was some king of mourning and crying in every one of us. Then it struck me: didn’t we expect this when we opened the papers? Were we really expecting miracles when nothing has really changed, because the people who were making horrific decisions that have ruined this nation are still the ones in charge.
The same singer Bruce Hornsby was also behind the blockbuster song The Way It Is. The song’s lyrics also aptly capture events in Zimbabwe. When some of the country’s leaders stand up to make policy announcement, every one of us can fittingly sing Hornsby’s lyrics in the song and say “hey, old man, how can you stand to think that way? And did you really think about it before you made the rules?”.
So many announcements and statements were made before and during the weekend, leaving us asking ourselves how our leaders come up with some of the things they say, or the policies they implement.
The first set of news was on Friday, when Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha banned the importation of a host of products in an effort to “support the local industry and to lower the import bill”, which came to about US$2,07 billion in the five months to May.
Now, banning of products goes beyond protecting the local industry; in fact, it does not even fit the definition of protectionism which says “protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between countries through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to allow (according to proponents) fair competition between imports and goods and services produced domestically”.
The methods listed above, though also largely regarded as negative, are much better devils than a complete ban on another country’s products. More so when it comes at a time when the rest of the world is advocating free trade.
One wonders if Zimbabwean leaders are in tune with economic affairs elsewhere in the world. Just recently the United States threatened to limit South Africa’s access to Agoa trade privileges in protest over alleged trade barriers imposed on American poultry imports.
There are better options than banning
What will stop South Africa from doing the same to Zimbabwe when their Cremora is banned from coming into Zimbabwe? Apart from that, are we not risking food shortages? Is it not better to support our industries by reducing the cost of our utilities and government levies which are too high? Can’t we do it better by removing duty on all raw materials imported by local industries? In my view, banning will only encourage inefficiencies and will not help our industries up their game.
Then there was another master class, when Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi was quoted as saying the government has committed to cover exchange losses in tourism in an effort to encourage the use of the rand. One has to question: why that sector in particular? Will government also cover the losses for other sectors that will accept the rand? What about individuals – are they left to the vagaries of exchange losses?
The governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe did the same when he made a priority list for imports, but since added more to the list because other players also want to enjoy the same benefits. It’s going to be the same, as other sectors would also want the same treatment. I am sure you can pardon me if I repeat “hey, old man, how can you stand to think that way? And did you really think about it before you made the rules?”
Another shocker (maybe not so shocking because we already know the economic situation is dire) was government’s announcement that its employees – including teachers, nurses and doctors – will only receive their June salaries in mid-July.
Reports also say the army and airforce personnel in Zimbabwe will only be paid two weeks after their usual payday because the cash-strapped finance ministry can’t meet its wage obligations on time. For the month of June, the military and airforce will be paid on June 27 instead of the 12th of the month, while police and prison staff will be paid on June 30.
“Against the background of severe revenue under-performance and the related cash-flow challenges, government has been honouring its monthly wage obligations, albeit through shifting pay dates,” Willard Manungo, Secretary for Finance and Economic Development, was quoted as saying. The bottom line for all this is that the majority of Zimbabweans voted for the wrong men and women who have no clue of how to manage the economy, let alone lead this nation.
Not to be outdone was President Robert Mugabe, who in a shocking statement was quoted as saying “Our land, which we have died for, [and] suffered for, is greater, much greater than” foreign aid with strings attached. Well, as one observer put it, the president is 100% right. He doesn’t need help because he and his ministers are living the life of luxury while the majority suffer.
But we can’t say the same to other people out there, who live on less than a dollar a day. Or to university graduates who are barely surviving on street vending.
But no matter how much noise we make, that’s the way it is. We, as Zimbabweans, are the ones who opened our doors to “the men with the long coats and the long lists of victims” – victims of their mismanagement, corruption and ill-advised policies.-Fin24