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Zimbabwe; A Nation Waiting To Implode

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Since the fall of 2013, the Zimbabwean economy has been declining into a recession characterised by decreasing economic growths of 4% in 2013, 1.7% in 2014, -1.5% in 2015 and -3.5% by the end of 2016.

Because of the good cropping season which most parts of the country experienced in 2017, the initial projections were that the economy would grow and its impact would be felt by ordinary people. The IMF has already project an optimistic figure of 2.8% growth in 2017 but this growth is certainly not being felt by ordinary people whose incomes are being ravaged by runaway inflation which the Fund projects to be a 7% by December 2017 and could be even higher if the RBZ continues on its money printing show.

The striking and hard felt impacts of the economic crisis are a biting cash crunch, speculative pricing, looming shortages and a general environment of uncertainty which makes everyday life a living hell for the many poor Zimbabweans.

Aggregate demand has been on the fall on the back of massive job cuts following the large-scale closure of industries. According to Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, over 100 companies folded up in 2016 alone. Former industrial hubs of Bulawayo and Kwekwe are now ghost towns with most factories being converted into warehouses for cheap Chinese imports and churches.

The import bill of the country continues to soar and stands at around US$3.5 billion (25% of GDP). Attempts to curb this massive haemorrhage of cash from the country saw the increasingly desperate Mugabe regime, pick and gazetting from the Rhodesian archives in 2016, Statutory Instrument 64(2016) which banned importation of a wide range of basic products.

While protectionist policies are good for internal industrial development, what the ZANU PF government is attempting to do is to have its cake and eat it. It was by and large responsible for the total collapse of the manufacturing sectors by a combination of poor policies, corruption and archaic infrastructure.

To now turn and seek to punish ordinary citizens who have suffered loss of income and jobs as a result of company closures and deindustrialisation by way of emasculating their sources of income from cross border trading is a double injustice. The people are justified to resist more so when the government has no clear plan of resuscitating local industry and boast production. Evidence after a year of SI64’s embargo show that only minuscule industrial growth has been registered.

On the budgetary front, the government has been registering huge deficits with the 2015 budget posting a massive official US$800 million deficit and the 2016 budget posting close to US$1, 2 billion and it continues to expand rapidly.

As ordinary citizens sleep in bank queues to get pittances that would not cover their expenses, the cabal running national affairs is living large by externalising billions of dollars each year. Zimbabwean money ends up building luxury homes in Seychelles, Singapore and Dubai at the expense of national development.

The Panama papers which were leaked in early 2016 put irrefutable proof on the looting and pillage of our economy. In the papers, 280 top business and government officials were identified as being part of an international racket for tax evasion and externalisation of funds in off shore accounts. As has become norm, nothing was done to these crooks, instead the heat has been turned on the poor through tax hikes.

The social impact of all this economic decay has been an unemployment rate of 91% with 8 out of every 10 Zimbabweans living on less than thirty cents per day and 60% of the rural poverty living in extreme poverty.

In the unfolding drama and chaos citizens attempted to reclaim their voices and momentum in 2016 to push the regime to either shape up or ship out. A number of protests were staged, with the 6 July 2016 national shutdown and the 24 and 26 August 2016 protests standing out.

Citizens in their various spheres, from civil servants, to kombi crews, to vendors and informal traders, to unemployed youths and women, came together and saying one message: ‘Enough is

Enough and Mugabe must go!’  

Even war veterans, long-time allies of the nonagenarian leader, have since joined in the call for Mugabe to step down as he has failed. The throne is certainly now on fire and the Emperor is living on borrowed time.

However, the people’s struggles were stifled out by a combination of state brutality and hijacking by mercenary elements from within. These mercenary elements took advantage of the emerging consciousness and action from below and sort to line their pockets in the name of ‘organising and leading’ the people by duping unsuspecting donors and diasporans.

Such elements soon commodified resistance and started to use solidarity funding as a feeding trough. Cars were purchased and holiday resorts booked in the name of mapping strategies. In the end the people’s struggle lost momentum.

The question which now begs for an answer is whether the people will find their footing once more so that they reclaim and prosecute their struggle for a more equal society that is economically and politically just?

For his part Mugabe is clear that even at 94 he will not go without a fight in spite of the fact that his legacy is a dead economy and a government by violence and corruption. Its most striking characteristics are the twin evil pillars of vicious poverty and unending violence.

This blogger has written elsewhere that Zimbabwe is a nation spoiling for war and this is now more real than ever. What with long queues at banks and a generation of youths that is emerging and is frustrated by lack of jobs and a decent chance at life?

A war is on the horizon and whether the regime chose to sit and pretend all is well, the reality is that the bubble is now bursting. Whatever the outcome of 2018, Zimbabwe is set to enter a phase of having to give answers to its frustrated younger generation. This generation will ask its questions in the streets.

It would after all be a war, staged in the streets of urban areas, the open spaces in towns and the district offices in rural areas demanding accountability and a decent shot at life. A war rooted in the people’s struggles for better life, to live in true peace and prosperity.

It is after all by such a fight, not some flimsy rigged elections, which this regime can be torpedoed out of power and a new society can be born in its ashes.

It is therefore aluta continua to the end!

Pride Mkono is a social justice activist  and currently coordinates FES Alumni Association. He writes here in his own capacity and can be contacted on pridemkono@gmail.com and tweets @pridemkono. 

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