Source: A nation that banned its own flag | The Financial Gazette October 19, 2016
By Farai Mabeza
IN any other country in the world, displaying one’s national flag would be seen as a show of patriotism, a symbol of the bond between citizen and country.
But in Zimbabwe it can land you in jail.
This crude fact classifies the country as one of the most extraordinary nations on this planet where the ruling party has all, but privatised patriotism, nationalism and all things associated with them.
The country’s rulers had to stoop this low having failed to stop a raging wave of nationals draping the national flag in solidarity with a political protest started by the now-exiled Evan Mawarire.
Government had to craft Statutory Instrument (SI) 184 of 1987 to ban the commercial production, sale or “any abuse” of the national flag, effectively throwing a thriving industry out of business.
“The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, as the administrative authority in charge of the national flag, is concerned with the increasing incidents whereby members of the public have been using the national flag in a manner that is prohibited by the Constitution and the relevant Act of Parliament and regulations,” read a statement from Justice permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza.
A breach of the ban can attract a fine of US$200 (a fortune for most Zimbabweans and thus a huge deterrent) or a jail term not exceeding one year or both.
The banning of the flag is just one of a long list of curious developments that make the nation called Zimbabwe a perpetual candidate for the Guineas Book of Records.
While attempts have been made to ban social media it has been a bad day at the office for the ZANU-PF government apparatchiks.
But, of course, they will die trying.
Currently, they are working on a Bill that many fear will result in either some form of ban or strict regulation of use of the social media.
The Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services has said that the proposed legislation is neither a ban nor a control mechanism; but wary Zimbabweans are not taking their word for it.
All these developments are taking place at a time when law enforcement agencies have said that demonstrations in the central business district of Harare have been banned. The ban had to be reissued after falling foul of the law after the High Court ruled that proper procedures had not been followed in banning the protests.
The maze of government regulations and policies does not end there.
To appeal to Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to help rescue the broke government by directing more of their cash back home, a whole policy had to be crafted.
In hindsight, this Diaspora constituency is the same bloc that the government has so far successfully fought to deny the right to vote.
Now they want their money.
If this is not pushing one’s luck too far, then the State’s desperate situation has driven it crazy.
Hit hard by cash shortages and failure to pay its workers on time, government is also seized with the hugely unpopular issue of bond notes, an idea which has been met by ridicule and trepidation.
Zimbabweans fear a return to the dark days of rampant inflation, which resulted in the Zimbabwe dollar losing its value in 2009. This is not to say the economy as a whole is not already under a very dark cloud.
Political analyst, Ernest Mudzengi, believes that these policy measures and regulatory interventions are acts of desperation by a clueless regime.
“Remember the former governor of the Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono, once described the country’s economy as a casino economy.
“When you talk of the casino you talk of gambling and I think what the government is doing is simply gambling,” said Mudzengi.
The gambling is out of this world, to say the least.
Nearly 100 percent of government expenditure is going into salaries for civil servants. It took months to pay 2015 bonuses.
This year Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, just like he did last year, said there would be no bonuses and again in a repetition of 2015 the President and Cabinet said no, bonuses shall be paid. Where the money will come from, is the least of their worries.
The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association spokesman, Douglas Mahiya says the former liberation movement, ZANU-PF, has been an unmitigated disaster since it came to power in April 1980.
“The policies that have been pursued by the government since independence have never been for the people.
“They have never been for the workers, but for a few individuals who are corrupt and have led the country into the economic problems we are currently having,” he said.
Sour grapes? Maybe. Maybe not.
But it’s impossible to make an honest argument against his conclusion.