THE year-on-year inflation rate has shot up to 785,55%, the second highest in the world after Venezuela, and the rapid escalation of prices has become so unbearable that the potential for civil unrest on the back of social suffering now appears very high.
Yesterday, government health workers formally notified the Health Services Board that they are embarking on an indefinite strike with immediate effect. They are demanding decent salaries at par with October 2018 United States dollar-denominated remuneration. Their job action came a day after the Ministry of Finance announced a US$75 allowance.
Other civil servants are likely to follow suit, setting the stage for a serious health sector crisis in the middle of a Covid-19 pandemic. The last time health professionals went on strike, the government did not show a sense of urgency in resolving their justified grievances.
Instead, they were blatantly threatened with all manner of retribution by clueless officials who behave as if this country is their personal property.
Workers deserve a living wage. This country is not inherently poor by any stretch of the imagination — there are enough resources here to transform the quality of life. What Zimbabwe lacks is a competent and corruption-free leadership. That is all. That, alone, is preventing this country from moving forward.
Although the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) Act was gazetted last year, we have not seen useful dialogue between the government, business and labour. In terms of the law, the three social partners must convene to thrash out pressing socio-economic issues.
Zimbabwe’s track record in upholding socio-economic dialogue is unenviable. The National Economic Consultative Forum was formed in 1997. The following year, the TNF Bill was promulgated. The TNF Act would only be gazetted two decades later. That timeline speaks volumes of this country’s culture of consultation. If anyone needed evidence that this country does not take seriously the idea that legitimate power is derived from the consent of the governed, this is it.
After failing to uphold socio-economic dialogue — in flagrant violation of the law — it should not surprise anyone that Zimbabweans are now failing to settle their political differences. If people cannot agree on a shared vision of the social order and the direction an economy should take, it would defy all logic for anyone to expect them to suddenly find accord on political issues. Civilised societies do not operate that way.
We are not saying every citizen must think uniformly. That would be impossible. We are saying citizens should find each other and agree on the broader framework of what constitutes a progressive governance ethos that will deliver prosperity and opportunities to all. The national Constitution spells out the founding values and principles of this republic. It also outlines the importance of transparency, accountability, justice and responsiveness, among other crucial precepts.