Government damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t

Source: Government damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 16, 2016

ZIMBABWE reminds me of Macbeth the tragic hero in William Shakespeare’s book by the same name.


After having embarked on a destructive path causing untold harm and loss, a detour by Macbeth to correct ‘wrongs’ seemed just as detrimental.

“I am in blood steeped in so far that were I to wade in no more returning were as tedious as go over,” Macbeth lamented as he weighed his options. He was overwhelmed by the challenges of switching course.

There was a cost to abandoning course just as dear as for following through.

He was damned if he continued on and damned if he turned back.

The Zanu PF regime currently finds itself in the same predicament. Doomed if they continue on and doomed if they reverse. Stuck is what the government is. Without much room to manoeuvre.

Having gone on a destructive course since the turn of the new millennium, bleeding the country and the masses, attempts by government to make a detour and correct the ‘wrongs’ and losses are resisted by the same masses. The regime faces resentment, resistance and even loss if it goes forward in much the same way it does if it seeks to reverse the course. Going forward creates almost as much poverty as retreating.

Case in point: the introduction of Statutory Instrument 64 a few weeks ago which is meant to address the de-industrialisation of the country. Going ahead with a de-industrialisation orientation where all and any items are imported for local consumption is at the further detriment of domestic industries; but at the same time introducing measures to protect Zimbabwean industries which are crumbling under cut throat competition presented by imports is not without tribulation. Two weeks ago spirited resistance by Zimbabweans (with or without a third force) saw violent protests at the country’s largest border post, Beitbridge. A Zimbabwe Revenue Authority storage facility was torched by fire at the border post as the demonstrations raged on.

The supposed-to-be restorative move of introducing protectionist measures was spun on its head. While the inflammatory implementation of SI 64 may, in the short term, be abrupt, loss-causing and damaging to the cross border traders and others relying on the imports, the long-term goal is to boost production and even create employment at the end of that rainbow. The end result is to transform the country into a producer and exporter instead of continuing on as a supermarket for South Africa and other countries.

Another example is, after dumping the hopelessly devalued Zimbabwe dollar for the US currency, introducing the bond note as a measure to address US dollar shortages and de-escalate the liquidity crisis is as “tedious as go over” with the masses fervently resisting the move. It is just as daunting to find a solution as it is to continue with status quo.

If we whittle all this down to the bone, there is a graver issue here. These two examples illustrate the loss of confidence by the citizenry in the regime. That is the central challenge gaping at government right now.

The citizenry, which has for more than a decade suffered under a yoke of unemployment, hunger, poverty, a dearth of service delivery, a general lack of opportunities and resulting desperation and hopelessness, can no longer trust that the regime has their best interests at heart. Because in the past 16 years they have felt that it was up to them to carve out their own ‘plans’ of provision and relative comfort, people feel they cannot overnight hand over their livelihoods and means of the same to the regime that has robbed them of their security and livelihoods in the first place.

Zero trust

But most telling of all has been that in all its endeavours of introducing this and changing this course or revoking that, it has never provided its citizens with safety nets. It has never given a thought to people, their livelihoods or lack thereof. And there is always a cost for a regime that fails to bargain with its people in mind.

People cannot continue being casualties whichever course the government takes. Policies have to be, not necessarily populistic, but people-centred. People-centred policies are the heart of servant leadership. But we don’t have that you see.

To the generality of Zimbabweans, the government is an enemy not a friend; a foe not an advocate. It robs, and doesn’t provide; impoverishes without restoring. Not for the ordinary man on the street, it doesn’t.

That has been the reality for the generality of the people and an inconvenient truth for government.

As much as knee-jerk reactions to presenting phenomena may be what the regime does, the bigger issue which the regime needs to, therefore, address as a root cause of rampant resistance among the generality of Zimbabweans is eroded confidence. Unless and until government addresses citizenry confidence, there will always be suspicion and mistrust from the populace towards it. It is up to the powers that be to figure out what these confidence restoration measures are and implement them. Any reserves of trust which may have existed in the people have long been depleted.

But one thing is for sure: current levels of distrust are not tenable for government. For anyone. Particularly, if the government seeks to thwart any measures or attempts real or imagined towards regime change. For as long as the confidence in government is zero, people will always be on the ready to agitate for leadership renewal. It is simple; it is not rocket science. Deliver or ship out. That’s the central message. There are no two ways about it.

Unfortunately arrests and intimidation do not help inject or manufacture confidence where it isn’t. In fact, if truth be told, they have the opposite effect.

Wade in no more, and, just deliver. Period!