Many a serious thing is said in jest.
Source: No one has the right to make Zim a standing joke – NewsDay Zimbabwe March 10, 2017
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
Internationally acclaimed South African stand-up comedian Trevor Noah recently unleashed this funny, but tragic, rib-cracker about our fatherland: “In Zimbabwe, they used to drive on the left side of the road. Now they drive on what’s left of the road.”
One does not have to be a purveyor of doom and gloom to accept that observation loaded with both jocularity and seriosity. It’s not a mere joke because it is also in accordance with fact and reality. It describes a situation that has to be addressed immediately with the highest priority.
But this has not been the case in Zimbabwe despite the writing being on the wall that there would no roads, public hospitals, service delivery – the list is long and growing – to talk about as years of what amounts to criminal abuse of office and total neglect and dereliction of duty went by.
Now we have President Robert Mugabe finally declaring roads as in a state of disaster when we all saw it coming, unlike being hit by sudden weather phenomena like cyclones that are beyond the control of earthly governments. Do you have to let things drift and deteriorate to that irretrievable extent in order to then appear as rescuing the situation?
It is only logical that Zimbabwe is now the butt of such jokes globally because this government has uniquely and singularly failed and is, in a perverted sense, determined to prove its critics right, not wrong.
It’s the same with current typhoid outbreak in Harare, which has been years in the making because of the urban decay, which can also be traced back to the doorstep of the government, whose parallel party structures are in effective charge of local authorities after sidelining duly-elected people’s representatives.
It’s the same with the recent doctors’ strike when lives were unnecessarily lost because the doctors’ long-standing legitimate grievances were completely unheeded.
Of course, there will always be those people who will not accept that it the government, as individualised and personified by Mugabe, to blame. If you are the one centre of power, it follows that you also become the one centre of blame. You are to blame by design, not default.
Then there is that category of unwitting, but harmless, jokers (which Joseph Chinotimba once was) who see nothing wrong with what is going on around them and worship the ground their idols walk on. To borrow from British writer Paul Wentworth, such characters are too ridiculous to hate – to hate them is to hate comedy.
We could now be on the verge of a financial meltdown of the proportions of 2007-2008. Like potholes on the roads, the evidence of a cash crisis is there for all to see with long queues outside banks now the order of the day and many of the banks running out of cash, as bond notes lose their value while US dollars disappear from the market – a classic example of good money being driven out by bad money. All because of a neglectful and missing leadership.
As if that was not a frightening enough development, the cash-strapped government is now increasingly using Treasury Bills (TBs) – over and above bond notes – to settle its debts and pay for recurrent expenditure as the domestic debt hovers above $5 billion.
This week, the government made a commitment to pay $180 million as civil servants’ 2016 bonuses and another $181 million in TBs to the National Social Security Authority for arrears in deducted, but unremitted, pension contributions. Things are now building up to a perfect storm because these reckless policies – in fact, non-policies – will increase as we get closer to the 2018 watershed elections with Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa looking defeated as economists forecast that the government debt bubble could burst soon.
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti put this cogently: “They are already printing what we call ‘Zollars’, an amphibious creature which is half Zimdollar and half US dollar that is reflected in Treasury Bills and bond notes which have no cover. This is reflected in unfinanced RTGS (real-time gross settlement) and debit card transactions.
We have created hot air …”
I would rather believe Biti than assurances to the contrary from Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya who, as the one who introduced bond notes, has a vested professional interest in their success. The last thing we need is a bunker mentality – an attitude of extreme defensiveness and self-justification – where true facts are replaced by, so to say, alternative economics as Mangudya’s predecessor Gideon Gono did, in the process ruining the lives of millions of people and getting away with it.
But this time around, anyone playing casino with our livelihoods should be held personally accountable. There is a precedent.
Iceland’s former Prime Minister Geir Haarde was tried and found guilty over the country’s 2008 financial collapse.
He was the first world leader to face prosecution in connection with the global banking crisis. Iceland’s banking sector ballooned to nine times the nation’s gross domestic product in a decade of boom, before collapsing under the weight of debt in October 2008. The country’s three main banks collapsed in a single week.
Haarde was found guilty of failing to take the initiative to ensure “a comprehensive and professional analysis of the financial risk faced by the State because of the risk of financial crisis”.
This is no different from the tearing of economic policies where major decisions are now made on the spot at Zanu PF rallies by non-professional combustible partisan figures with vested interests like women’s league boss First Lady Grace Mugabe and party youth leader Kudzanai Chipanga. It’s pervertly and fundamentally wrong.
In addition, Haarde was convicted for failing to hold emergency Cabinet meetings as the economy went into meltdown.
Well, Mugabe landed in Zimbabwe on Sunday night from Singapore where, according to an official announcement, he had flown for a medical check-up. But, not for the first time, he was off within a few hours to attend Ghana’s 60th independence anniversary celebrations, making this, in every sense or by any reckoning, a brief stopover in Zimbabwe.
Well, impeaching Mugabe for his frequent and unnecessary foreign trips to the neglect of the many and critical emergencies facing the nation is an impossible ask as he is the one centre of power.
All we can do – for now – is expose the situation so that, hopefully, all those blindly enchanted with the regime can see Zimbabwe for the unfunny, standing joke it has been reduced to as its leader lectures on the global stage while back home there is not much left of the country to talk about.
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org