The recent banning and unbanning of Ecocash cash-in and cash-out by the Reserve Bank has renewed the discussion about Econet being a monopoly. What is lost in that debate is that an environment of bad governance and corruption creates oligarchies, monopolies and the lethal distortions that threaten the very survival of our nation.
As I wrote in an earlier post, no change will come to Zimbabwe until we understand that continued Zanu(PF) rule poses an existential threat.
Bad governance and corruption increase the cost of doing business, giving an unfair advantage to people with significant access to capital (regardless of the source of that capital or how it is obtained), and pushing the average and legitimate player out of business.
Take licensing fees for instance.
The reality is that because our government has failed to create a healthy economy from which it can draw reasonable tax revenue, it levies extortionate operating fees on whoever is strong enough to still remain in business.
A few years ago, I did some consultancy work for a business which required a fuel license. Within a year, the fee for a fuel license was doubled. There is a reason why in the last decade, the monsters that have remained in that business are the Sakundas of this world who have access to capital others don’t have. In the case of Sakunda and the Queen Bee connection and the criminal arbitrage with Treasury Bills and Command Agriculture, we know where that capital comes from, and what their unfair advantage has done to anyone else who plays by the rules.
Having Econet as something of a monopoly they can milk, and a dominant Sakunda as an instrument for their corrupt activities suits Zanu (PF) fine.
It’s not possible for job-killing bad governance to produce more jobs or to attract legitimate investment that powers a healthy and sustainable economy. We are paying a high price today for ignoring the fact that from the beginning of our journey as an independent nation, Zanu (PF) created a parasitic, government which could only be stronger at the expense of the health of the economy.
The term “parasite” sounds benign until one understands what a parasite is and how it survives. It is “an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense.”
Parasites have no conscience. They are not concerned about the health of the host. They won’t stop drawing nutrients from the host simply because the host is dying.
Zanu(PF) is, in addition to being a parasite, also a monopoly. From the beginning of his rule, Robert Mugabe made his intention to create a One Party State known to everyone. The swallowing up of ZAPU in 1987 was an important step towards that goal. It was supposed to be followed by the outlawing of all other political parties to create de jure single-party rule.
What Mugabe failed to accomplish by legislation, he still accomplished by other means, including making sure that Zanu (PF) essentially became the State, and that no other party could legally wrest power from it.
What we have in Zimbabwe is a political monopoly, a de facto One Party State which is no different for all practical purposes from a legislated one.
Zanu (PF) reaps inordinate political and economic capital from being a monopoly. It has absolutely no incentive to level the political and economic playing field for everyone. A healthy economy not dominated by the oligarchies and monopolies beholden to them would nourish alternative ideas (or what they like calling “The Third Force”) which would lead to “regime change.” Young people in good jobs would pay membership fees to other political formations that would challenge Zanu (PF)s political dominance.
In other words, real jobs for these young people would pose a threat to Zanu (PF)’s power and rule.
Ironically the other thing besides a thriving economy that would pose a threat to Zanu (PF) is the complete death of the economy, which is why we have a president and his team who will do everything in their power to keep it in intensive care and on life-support. They congratulate themselves daily for “keeping the patient alive” and expect us all to join them in their condemnation of the “evil sanctions” that they claim puts the patient there.
Let me spell it out clearly: Zanu (PF) has no interest in dealing with 95% unemployment because more employed people would support alternative ideas. They would once again swell the ranks of the labour movement which is more difficult to deal with than vendors in the informal economy.
Zanu (PF) has no interest in getting 72% of the population (mainly rural) out of poverty because then the people would not be beholden to Command Agriculture which they use as an effective weapon of political control, and as a means for stealing money from the State.
Zanu (PF) is not interested in restoring critical services to urban communities because in Mnangagwa’s own words, the people in the cities vote for opposition parties.
Zanu (PF) has no interest in stopping the plunder of Chiadzwa by companies associated with the military, or the incredible environmental degradation caused by unregulated informal miners who have become a critical support base for them.
All this has dire consequences for the state of our hospitals, our ability to pay for our medical treatment, our schools and ability to pay our children’s school fees, our energy generation capacity, our roads, our pension system, availability of fuel, our water treatment facilities, the value of our currency and our very survival as a people.
I get the question: “What then shall we do?” from many Zimbabweans. I want to suggest to you that there is nothing significant we can do unless we first agree on what the problem is and who is responsible for creating and sustaining it.
There is a reason Zanu (PF) is as focused as it is on recruiting agents of disinformation even from among the ranks of the opposition. They know that the right knowledge is power and that the right diagnoses is the first critical step towards decisive action.
They recruit people of faith because they hope we are more inclined to accept what they say without question.
They recruit educated people who they hope will confuse us enough with high-sounding economic theories not to see the corruption, the plunder, the incompetence.
They want us to believe that sanctions pose a greater threat to our freedom and well-being than Zanu(PF) does so that we can spend all our energy on futile protests against Trump instead of focusing on those terrorizing us daily with their repressive rule and the poverty they have created.
They want us to blame an imaginary “Third Force” instead of the destroyers that friends, advisors and relatives of the president and Zanu (PF) itself are.
They want us to forget that it’s no one in the opposition who is given freshly-printed bond-notes every morning to use to trade on the black market.
It’s not anyone in the opposition who has received billions of dollars for cashing in Treasury Bills at a rate multiples of times higher than anyone else.
They want us to believe that our primary patriotic and pan-African duty is to defend their right to rule and life of privilege instead of demanding the complete emancipation that is our right, and the well-being every citizen must be guaranteed by those who govern.
Abu Hamed al Ghazali could not have put it any better: “Knowledge without action is vanity, and action without knowledge is insanity.” Act indeed we must, but before we do, we must know what the problem is and who we are dealing with.
Is There Not a Cause?