Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
A cross-section of leaders from business, the church, residents associations and student leadership has condemned the national stayaway proposed for tomorrow by some shadowy organisations, saying such calls could lead to chaos and violence similar to what was witnessed in the country in January 2019, potentially crippling the country’s economy at a time it is on the rebound.
This comes amidst a social media-initiated campaign calling for a “shutdown” of Zimbabwe, spearheaded largely by conspiracy-peddling political opposition aligned twitter page, Pachedu. Among the reasons listed by the page for the proposed stayaway are a return of kombis, capacitation of hospitals and increase in salaries and pensions.
Speaking to Sunday News yesterday, businessman and Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) vice-president Mr Golden Muoni said a shutdown at a time that the country’s economy was still reeling from shocks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic would have an adverse effect on business.
“We have enough problems as it is now and we don’t need to add any more. Economically, we have suffered a lot since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As we speak, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has seen a sharp rise in fuel prices which also affects operations at various levels. We have to look at the effect that Russia has on the fertiliser supply chain in the agricultural sector. All these problems have led us to conclude that we need to talk to each other as Zimbabweans. Let’s sit down, brainstorm, come up with a reason for the price increases and then craft a way to arrest the cause of that problem,” he said.
Association of Apostolic Churches of Zimbabwe (AACZ) president Archbishop Tsungai Vushe said while the country was facing some problems, these were not insurmountable and the Government had already shown its capacity to lead effectively by initiating various infrastructure development projects.
“We need to do things that improve our nation and help the country as a whole. Overall, we have to appreciate the work being done by the New Dispensation in Zimbabwe because from road works to education and agriculture you can see that a lot is being done. We should give the Government some time to see through its programmes because it is clear that a lot is being done for the people of Zimbabwe.
As religious leaders, we should pray for the nation and also pray for dialogue because demonstrations will not solve anything.
There are people from other countries who love to see Zimbabweans in conflict and as religious leaders we should pray for our people, religious affiliation to come together and fight to solve the country’s problems,” he said.
Mr Taurai Pangira, a representative of the Zimbabwe Indigenous Interdenominational Council of Churches (ZIICC), said Zimbabweans should guard their sovereignty jealously and not allow foreign elements to sow discord among the population.
“As a God-fearing and peaceful nation, I would like us to continue down the path of tranquillity. We have seen other countries in Africa that listened to foreigners that encouraged violent actions but now that things are bad, they are nowhere to be seen to help rebuild that nation. God has a plan for Zimbabwe and we should not be deceived by people that have their own agendas.
What exactly are we shutting down? There’s only one Zimbabwe and there will not be another one tomorrow if we manage to destroy this one,” he said.
Bulawayo United Residents Association (BURA) chairman Mr Winos Dube asked Bulawayo residents to be wary of calls for a stayaway, as it could lead to the kind of violence and vandalism that cost the city dearly in January 2019, where public infrastructure was damaged, and shops looted and some burnt down.
“We can only take lessons from our past experiences with shutdowns and one thing to note is they have never yielded any positive results. Engagement with the relevant authorities, so that they understand the plight of the people, is the only way we can get positive outcomes. It is no secret that people are going through difficulties, particularly because of price increases, which means some goods are beyond the reach of the public.
“People also have other challenges like transport and problems with Zesa, for example, when it comes to the replacement of damaged transformers. But we are raising these things with authorities and we have been assured that solutions are being sought.
Zanu-PF Bulawayo Province spokesperson Cde Archie Chiponda said calls for a stayaway because of the transport blues being experienced around the country were misguided, as the Government was hard at work trying to bring sanity to a transport sector that had become synonymous with disorder.
“Right now, times are tough, all shoulders are being put to the wheel in an effort to achieve economic growth and to lift all our people to a better situation in the country and you have some advocating for stay-aways. It absolutely boggles the mind when you hear someone advocating for illegality in the form of mushikashika and illegal kombi operators.
“Have they bothered to check the death and accident statistics since the Government gave sanity to the transport sector through the return to Zupco?
Both have fallen drastically, not to say the sector is perfect but it is a work in progress. The achievements in that sector far outweigh some of the few negatives and the answer is to sit down and figure out how to capacitate the sector to make further gains not to simply call for a return to illegality for the sake of expediency,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Congress of Student Union Bulawayo Province chairperson Mr Tinotenda Masarirambi in a statement urged students to ignore calls for a campus stayaway.
Writing on his twitter page on Friday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said law enforcement officers would arrest those who attempted to disrupt Zimbabweans from going about their daily business.
“You wanna be unproductive? That’s your baby. You wanna try to stop someone from going where they want to go or do what they want to do or fend for their family? The law will do in its power to stop you!,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (ZCPSTU) says it is seized with engaging the Government to consider a salary of US$540 and has distanced itself from the calls of a national shutdown.
In a statement, the ZCPSTU said their efforts were coming at the backdrop of current salaries having been eroded by inflation.