By Wisdom Mumera
As the long expected economic meltdown suddenly exploded this week with the tripling of prices, panic buying of basic goods, heightening of the three-tier price system and an increased scarcity of cash the government has responded in the only way that it knows, using force and intimidation.
Two days after the cataclysmic meltdown began, on Sunday 24 September #ThisFlag frontman Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested and charged with inciting the public to commit public violence after he posted a Facebook video.
“The shortages have begun to happen. Things in Zimbabwe have become very urgent. We’ve begun to experience what we experienced in 2008. The shortages have begun to happen. In a normal nation, people shouldn’t be panicking at all. We are supposed to be at peace in our country”, he says in the video.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has also come out with veiled threats.
According to Ignatius Chombo, “spreading alarm and despondency is not an expression of democracy nor is it media freedom. It is a criminal offence and is therefore punishable.
“In the circumstances, Government is closely monitoring the press and social media reports in question with a view to taking decisive action to deal a telling blow to perpetrators of the crime”, he said.
On Monday some alleged ZANU youths posted a message calling for demonstrations against retailers and wholesalers whom they accused of increasing prices.
“As ZANU youths, we are tired of detractors, those agents of doom who want to hike prices of goods whenever we are towards elections. We have resolved that, if prices do not normalize by Tuesday 26 September we will take action against manufacturers and wholesalers and all those retailers who are hiking prices”, it said.
To them the whole economic issue is fueled by the paranoia often exhibited by their party leadership, seeing the West and political undertones in everything.
The trend is very worrying as more economically aware individuals have previously warned of the implosion that we are now experiencing.
In 2015 The Economist gave a sobering warning to Zimbabwe.
“The collection of value-added tax has slumped by 8%. Corporate tax receipts have fallen sharply, too, as have sales of tobacco, Zimbabwe’s main export crop.
“This crisis is particularly acute largely because the government’s responses to each previous one have narrowed its options. In the 1990s, when faced with a debt crisis, Mr Mugabe simply defaulted. In the 2000s, when he ran out of money, he simply printed more. When that sparked hyperinflation he ditched Zimbabwe’s currency in favour of the dollar.
“Now Zimbabwe has run out of road: it can neither borrow money nor print it. By surrendering its currency it has lost not just control over monetary policy but also an important shock-absorber”, it said.
Industrialist, Kumbirai Katsande, a former president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), warned that the economic situation was “very difficult”.
“(The economy) needs major initiatives on a massive scale to turn it around in the short term; it’s quite a task because the situation on the ground is that we have approximately 300 000 graduates coming out of school each year and we are faced with increasing company closures with many workers losing jobs.
We need solutions around these realities. We need hospitals to function. We need the economy to function. I don’t see this happening this year. It’s likely to be worse this year,” said Katsande.
Today we are realising the warnings and instead of going around giving out threats government should be working to allay public fears and reassuring the market.
It should be seeking for ways to bring back economic sanity to a country whose rot has been coming for a long time.