The rejection of the government’s controversial national pledge by Zimbabweans and the scepticism that greeted the central bank’s announcement that it will, in two months’ time, introduce bond notes to address cash shortages was very instructive.
President Robert Mugabe’s government has lost the people’s trust and anything that it tries to introduce, even if it is for the good of the country, will be treated with suspicion.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora’s national pledge might have been introduced unilaterally when schools opened last Tuesday, but it is not something that is peculiar to Zimbabwe. The idea of countries having a national pledge is universally embraced.
Here in Zimbabwe some church denominations have reservations about the wording of the pledge and have vowed not to allow children attending their schools to recite it as demanded by the government.
The opposition to the pledge has spawned demonstrations, social media protests and even court action as citizens seek to stop the reciting of the statement.
Last week Dokora was quoted expressing surprise at the reaction, pointing out that the pledge was adapted from the preamble of the Constitution that was popularly endorsed by Zimbabweans in 2013.
However, as usual, the minister is missing the point. Zimbabweans are opposing the pledge not necessarily because there is anything wrong with the wording, but because they don’t trust the government’s intentions.
The public trust was lost when the government, which is notorious for conflating the State with the ruling Zanu PF party, introduced the noble but abused national youth service.
Zanu PF took advantage of a programme that was supposed to be non-partisan and turned it into a conveyor belt for a militia that was used to terrorise people that did not support the ruling party.
The youths, who were derisively known as Green Bombers, became a symbol of Zanu PF tyranny after they were indoctrinated at government-run camps to turn against their own.
Christian groups and parents were certainly reminded of this programme when they studied the pledge, which seems to borrow a lot from the Zanu PF narrative when it comes to the country’s history.
The critics do not trust the government’s intentions in introducing this pledge because of the authorities’ previous history of indoctrinating youths into believing that Mugabe is ordained to rule this country for life.
The same goes to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mangudya’s latest intervention to address cash shortages that have brought the economy to its knees and left depositors stranded.
RBZ announced on Wednesday that it will, in the next two months, introduce bond notes that will be pegged to the United States dollar — the currency of choice for most Zimbabweans post dollarisation.
The “new currency” will be backed by a $200 million African Export-Import Bank loan facility.
Mangudya also announced a stimulus package for industry that is tied to the introduction of the bond notes, but instead of giving relief to long-suffering Zimbabweans, the RBZ measures were greeted by serious scepticism.
The announcement revoked memories of the 2009 cash shortages and hyperinflation that peaked at over a billion percent.
In the minds of most Zimbabweans, the introduction of the bond notes was a precursor to the inevitable return of the much-feared Zimdollar that was officially demonitised last year.
Such fears are justified because the Zanu PF government has a track record of dishonesty.
Mangudya will have to do more to restore depositors’ trust beyond the verbal assurances he has been making because he is dealing with people that have been traumatised by their own government.
More importantly, this is time for serious self-introspection by the government. Citizens have made a serious statement, that they do not trust the rulers.