via ‘Mugabe’s Zanu PF losing touch with reality’ – DailyNews Live 3 August 2015
HARARE – Zimbabwe’s government is slowly losing touch with reality following its failure to protect workers and the presentation of a “cruel and anti-people’ Mid-term Fiscal Policy on Thursday, political and economic analysts have said.
At a time when the Zanu PF-led government has failed to deliver its election promise of 2,2 million jobs, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa dealt the majority of Zimbabweans a heavy blow when he banned the importation of second-hand clothes and groceries among other measures.
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti told the Daily News it was now clear that President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party do not have the people at heart.
“Chinamasa presented a mediocre and fascist document bent on punishing the poor people. What industry is he trying to protect when he is prohibiting people to buy affordable groceries from regional countries,” he said.
The MDC Renewal secretary-general noted that instead of uplifting the lives of over six million vendors, Zanu PF was making it very difficult for people to eke out an honest living.
“What makes me cross is that Chinamasa is clueless and cruel — a horrible thing to be,” he said.
This comes as most people in Zimbabwe, where unemployment tops 80 percent and the economy continues to tumble, have resorted to vending as a way of survival following the massive closure of companies.
Official figures from government show that close to 4 610 companies have shut down in the past four years, resulting in over 55 000 job losses, forcing the majority of employees into a life of vending.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said, oblivious of the collapsing economy around him, Mugabe continues to embark on endless foreign jamborees that have cost the national Treasury no less than $100 million in only two years.
“The bloated civil service is struggling to be paid on a regular basis and, in his mid-term fiscal policy review statement, a thoroughly exasperated and out-of-sorts Chinamasa, announced that the government intends to cut the size of the civil service bill by at least 40 percent.
“This effectively means that at least 200 000 civil servants will soon be laid off and dumped on the job market,” he said.
Gutu added that while the nonagenarian leader had managed to rig the July 31, elections two years ago, he was failing to rig the economy.
“We are now faced with the horrifying spectre of a national economy that has been virtually informalised in a very short two years.
“The revenue base for the tax authority continues to shrink and there is a real likelihood that the Zanu PF regime will very soon be totally unable to pay civil servants’ salaries and other benefits. Zimbabwe is presently in an economic and financial hell hole,” he said.
Without any political and economic solution in sight, the unemployment rate is likely to go up again following the recent Supreme Court ruling, which allows employers to dismiss workers on notice and without severance packages, that has seen close to 10 000 workers being thrown onto the streets in less than a month.
Instead of protecting the vulnerable workers, government — struggling with its own bloated workforce of nearly 550 000 civil servants — thinks the current company retrenchments are a necessary evil.
Industry minister Mike Bimha told delegates at the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) congress last week that the ongoing wave of job losses was good for the industry.
“To me, it is a reflection that we had taken too long to amend labour laws. You cannot continue to have a lot of employees when business is not doing well,” he said.
Bimha said companies have been dipping into operating budgets to pay retrenchment packages.
“It is expensive for companies to retrench and most industries were eating into their capital reserves hence the failure of companies to rise,” he said.
Bimha added that government supports productivity-related wages, singling out Ziscosteel, which has been idle since 2008 when it was shut down, but has accumulated a wage bill that stood at $200 million as of 2014.
“Why should we pay unproductive workers? My hope is that we will not have an amended labour law which will worsen things,” he said.
Nonetheless, health experts believe the continued retrenchments will result in increased psychological and physical health problems for the majority of Zimbabweans.
Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Itai Rusike said his organisation was concerned with these massive lay-offs without any financial packages or psychological support system.
“Among those that have been offloaded are people with chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension (HBP) and HIV, and they stand to automatically lose their medical aid cover as they are rendered incapable of paying for monthly subscriptions,” he said.
Rusike noted that unexpected retrenchment is known to negatively affect a person’s confidence, self-worth and self-esteem.
“Those that have lost their jobs may experience difficulty adjusting to a new and unfamiliar situation of redundancy, and it can severely affect a person’s mental health causing depression, stress and anxiety.
“Meanwhile, some dependents will be transferred to poorer or rural schools while others will drop out of school completely due to the changed financial circumstances, thereby shattering their hopes for a better future,” he added.