Which way Professor Ncube? 

Somebody observed rather poignantly, that every cobbler, housewife, vendor and taxi driver in Zimbabwe is a spontaneous master of economic phenomena, aerodynamics, football formations and medicine!

Source: Which way Professor Ncube? – The Standard November 25, 2018

With zero experience and half an O’Level in an indigenous language, they know with painstaking confidence just how each of the doctors under whose knife so many patients are lost messed up an ordinarily simple surgical procedure; they know just which combination Rahman Gumbo and Sunday Chidzambga should have lined up, under what specific attacking or defensive formations for us to embarrass Liberia in their own backyard; they know vicarious liability and “Qui facit per alium facit per se” better than Advocate Thabani Moyo and the bewildered Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s whole bench; ordinary Zimbabweans claim precise knowledge and understanding of just how, since that fateful war veterans Black Friday, the Zimbabwean economy “hunzvied” and plummeted from one political blunder to another. Better than any trained economist, they know what specific conditions need to be in place and in what permutations for the Zimbabwean economy to both stabilise and simultaneously leapfrog from basket case to breadbasket of Africa in so little as 29 months!


Their all-knowing kiya-kiya confidence has dulled their faith in education and though they have neither the means, the willingness, nor the capacity to hold errant technocrats, failed coaches, bad politicians, inefficient doctors, overzealous soldiers and a civil service of laggards to account
. . .the citizens have grown a numbing intolerance and entrenched disdain for learned authority and meritocracy. It is enough, only on account of his caps, gowns and avowed qualifications, for any professor, however well-meaning — before they utter one word to Zimbos, about Zimbos, to be held in distrust, suspicion and contempt — and, harangued off the stage with little pomp and no ceremony .What is disconcerting and deeply annoying is, whilst knowing everything about specialist portfolios they truly know nothing about, Zimbabweans know little and are very poor at their own personal spheres of occupation.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube was hardly back on his seat before that casual observation of a post-budget analysis compromised by self and vested interest and dashed hopes, by pumped up presumption and premature hope, by poisoned political contexts and doomsday —prayer, by prejudicial doubt and endemic pessimism, by down right fear, panic and basic economic ignorance seemed to fuel every knowing conversation in the fuel queues, salons, living rooms, as it did in the boardrooms and sundry media platforms. It is as it should be. For with or without pedestrian simplicity and clarity to you and I, the minister’s every pronouncement kicks in and affects our lives most immediately.

Without any proven claim to effective knowledge and understanding of the jargon, the workings and the nutting and bolting of economic phenomena, I have chosen to waffle on the safe, far fringes of the debate until I secure a sober, detached and competent economic researcher and analyst out there to make sense of the real implications of that loaded budget statement. At the risk of disappointing my handful of readers, I shall be soliciting the solid, comprehensive and competent views of my fundi-buddy, Kimpton Gundani to distill and demystify the import of Ncube’s statement in the next instalment.

Suffice to say, I’m a passionate advocate of specialised leadership competence and meritocracy. I have no doubt the refreshing decision to appoint Ncube to the strategic Finance portfolio was one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s most inspired decisions ever, and the man needs a little more of those midnight spasms of inspiration from whence that came!

My knowledge, personal inclination and gut cannot be quite free of bias where Ncube is involved. At university, Social Science faculty, in that era of sincere academic rigour, when the rest of us happily celebrated “madoda score’’ Lower 2nd class pass, Ncube and only a couple other nerds would cry and sulk a whole year if they didn’t get a 1st class (distinction) in any subject they sat all of 4 years!

My barber thinks Ncube is some sly snake-charmer, who has just coaxed and manipulated Zimbabweans into a voluntary slumber, whilst squeezing the life out of them! Soon, hopefully to breathe them back into life again. Back then the wily genius and little devil must have similarly manipulated his way into Julia Mgutshini’s heart, for she too was a rare gem of a girl, every self-assured suitor’s nightmare and a genius in her own right!

Like many armchair fans, I found Ncube’s statement rather bland, devoid of those inspiring vava voom moments of sound and fury associated with iconic, trend-setting public policy statements. But there-in, says my barber, lies that lulling, cunning, romantic body art of the python which wows, woos and ensnares the duicker! Though surprisingly low-key, and uneventful, passing unnoticed like a World Men’s Day, my barber is convinced this budget will have the furthest, deepest and most far-reaching impacts on the economy and on Zimbabwean lives than all the past 37 budgets combined. We wait. Every second week of my shaving visit shall be a budgetary revelation.

I hoped to see more ruthless chop and hammer, and indeed many think its all tokenism, but cutting the salaries of his colleagues by a good 5% was an important, indicative pointer to the desire to trim government expenditure. I loved the initiative on ghost civil servants as I did the clear intention to dissuade consumptive extravagance, to pin success on effective performance and results…, to promote and protect local industry and halt the Japanese orgy on our roads. It is only logical that duty for imports is paid in the currency the imports are purchased, just as it is that companies collecting VAT in forex must remit in the same currency. I kind of understand the deliberate ploy to cast a blind eye on the lie of the value of the “bondollar”. It will be muscled out in no time by the market.

The revival of CSC and Zisco alongside the reform or privatisation of parastatals can only be good news to Zimbabwe ears. To hell with those Border Gezi militia. So indeed must be the express commitment to devolution of power hitherto decidedly shunned by central government. I particularly loved the strict capping of government borrowing, which has been the epicentre of our perennial government debt and pray that the onslaught on scaled-up tax collections is effectively ring-fenced and the Prof has a greater stranglehold on expenditure.

Good luck, Prof.

Zii Masiye (ziimasiye@gmail.com) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.