Over the past year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government have totally ignored calls from Zimbabweans to change the corrupt and inefficient way in which government is run. Zimbabweans from all walks of life have, for instance, categorically pointed out how the Finance ministry has for many years frustrated the payment of rightful benefits due to pensioners and insurance policyholders. The ministry has insensitively maintained a weak regulator controlled by insurance companies in the name of Insurance and Pensions Commission.
In another vein, pensioners, insurance policyholders and the public in general have complained of the massive prejudice they are suffering as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) insists on introducing unstable bond notes and RTGS$ currencies as replacement of their US dollar holdings. These currencies are not backed by any production or by any sustainable foreign currency reserves.
Pensioners, policyholders and the public are losing billions of dollars as these currencies have, and continue to lose value. In another socio-economic dimension, the commuting and travelling public continue to be punished by the failure to deliver on essential transport services by corrupt and inefficient parastatals such as Zupco, National Railways of Zimbabwe and Air Zimbabwe, fuel shortages and a poor road infrastructure. As a result of these failures, urban bus termini in Zimbabwe have been taken over by undisciplined youths who foment chaos for commuters. There are also frequent fatal accidents on the roads in the country.
There is a public outcry on why pensioners are getting meagre earnings and the poor being taxed further by a 2% transaction tax. This tax is apparently propping up an unnecessarily huge unproductive and corrupt civil service.
Government has for some time resisted trimming this civil service keeping it as a political asset to the ruling party at the expense of sound economic practices, but at a huge cost to the public. Health delivery is in shambles, with drugs to save life not readily available and out of the reach for the majority as they are being sold in US dollars.
The death toll from failure of health delivery only still has to be ascertained. Everywhere one looks in the military, the justice system, agriculture, among other state entities, there are glaring failures caused by the incompetent and intransigent ministers and ministry officials.
Mnangagwa curiously seems unwilling and/or incapable of putting them in line. The effete opposition has dismally failed to get the president acting in the right direction, as it concentrates on getting into power, most probably to engage in the same failures.
Now the government failures outlined above provide only snippets of the manifestations and adverse effects to pensioners, policyholders and the public in general, and how these adversities unfold or are brought to bear. Such manifestations include destitute pensioners whose savings get stolen right in their face, serious loss of confidence in the pensions and insurance sectors, the banking sector and financial sector overall — in the long-term it will be difficult to rebuild the financial services to a deepened state that it had assumed under colonial administration before 1980.
As a result of the loss of the public confidence in the sector, financial intermediation or harnessing of idle, disposable income from households (as headed by pensioners, policyholders, etc), and hence the much-needed capital formation to sponsor production is impeded. In turn, with capital from sources such as pensions and insurance sectors being channelled for conspicuous consumptive expenditure, production in the economy has seriously been curtailed, leading to high unemployment standing at over 90%, leading to dependence on imports rather than exports.
As a result of very little export activity, the country is not accumulating any foreign currency reserves as the volatile RTGS$ fast loses value against the US dollar with no foreign exchange reserves support, which reserves can only accrete from sustained exports and sustained local productivity.
But even more dire and more immediate manifestations of government failures from poor tax and other pension/insurance policies is the increased expenditure on decreasing food quantum and food quality, especially by the poor pensioners and other low income groups, as reported elsewhere in the media.
Meanwhile, the RBZ wastes significant resources making poor monetary policies, when it is basic economics that a monetary policy does not work in an economy without production, hence a stable currency.
Manifestations of failures in the Transport ministry are a stranded commuter, rampant fatal road accidents as undisciplined youths run amok at the helm of road public transport system, in run-down kombis and obsolete buses, in potholed roads. Manifestations of a huge unproductive and corrupt civil service are failed public service delivery of clean water, health services, among other things. These are just but a few adversities inflicted on citizens by government failures.
All of these administrative failures and adversities have incurred serious consequences on life, whose toll is yet to be quantified and which the sitting government under Mnangagwa appears to have no interest in correcting. Social morale in Zimbabwe has resultantly sunk to rock-bottom, such that almost all social and business conversations now centre of asking how the other is coping with the deteriorating economic situation in the country — the response invariably being that they are not coping at all, life has now reached new lows.
Leading questions in these conversations include how this failure to cope can be resolved in the face of relentless squeeze of pensioners and the public in general by the apparently clueless government. Responses are dialectical, exploratory, covering the possibility of dialogue with government, confrontation, among other methods.
People generally are now hopeless and the methods they suggest to break out of this conundrum are considered unworkable as the government and president are essentially remote and aloof to citizens, and for the most part engulfed in self-enrichment strategies and in illusions of do-gooders as presented by the state-controlled state media.
Resultantly, each such inconclusive conversation stir a sense of frustration, of a state of siege and simmering anger. Mnangagwa must therefore intervene sooner rather than later, if not out of responsibility as mandated by Zimbabweans, then it has to be out of compunction — otherwise he should just resign.
Martin Tarusenga is the general manager of Zimbabwe Pensions & Insurance Rights Trust. — firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not represent those of the organisations that the author represents.