By Blessings Mashaya and Caroline Chiimba
Political analysts have warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa that his government is running out of time to fix the country’s worsening economic rot — which has triggered strikes and growing unrest among hurting civil servants.
The warning comes as teachers have officially issued a 14-day notice to strike, following the little progress recorded in their do-or-die talks with the government on Monday.
At the same time, the fuel and transport crisis in the country has reached desperate levels, with hundreds of stranded commuters now dangerously resorting to hitching lifts from lorries and pick-up trucks.
And medical doctors — who have been striking for over five weeks — now also say they will stay away from work until the government clarifies its proposed fuel scheme and also avails transport money to them.
Curiously, amidst this mayhem, the ruling Zanu PF says “everyone must carry the blame” for Zimbabwe’s myriad crises — adding that it was neither Mnangagwa nor his government’s fault alone that things were this bad in the country.
But political analysts told the Daily News yesterday that Mnangagwa was “running out of time” to fix the country’s tanking economy and to lance the boil of restless citizens.
“The truth is that the government is living a lie on issues such as the value of the bond note versus the US dollar, as well as policies that are not being responded to favourably by business and society at large.
“The ongoing strikes are also symptoms of a dysfunctional government system and the earlier that Mnangagwa focuses on addressing the fundamental economic and political issues before tackling the symptoms, the better.
“So far the government appears lost at sea, outside of making empty promises and threats, and this crisis will only deepen,” political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said Zimbabwe had been in a “long run crisis for nearly 20 years”. To that extent, Mnangagwa needed the whole of his five-year term to solve the current problems.
“Politics is sadly about promises. He will make more and more promises to extend the time for him to fulfil the promises. However, he risks damaging his credibility.
“This is a long run crisis whose solution will take years. At least he (Mnangagwa) needs the whole of his term to solve this crisis. It is a big crisis.
“There is no easy way out of this. He needs to recreate the conditions seen from 2009 to 2013. He needs the help of the opposition, civil society and the international community,” Masunungure said.
Writing on Twitter, industrialist and former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, Busisa Moyo, also warned that the economic situation in the country was approaching dangerous levels — further calling for urgent national dialogue to mitigate the crisis.
“National dialogue is now critical. A social contract should be accelerated by concluding the TNF (Tripartite Negotiating Forum) Bill.
“We are entering very tumultuous waters unnecessarily. Resolution of currency distortions that worsened in September but started in 2016 … it’s time to tackle collectively,” Moyo said.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo has also said that the current problems bedevilling the country needed a collective effort to solve them — rather than people “playing the blame game”.
“This is not about a Zanu PF or government issue alone. It is about all Zimbabweans having to put our heads together to get the country going.
“The workers who are striking are not demanding to be paid by Zanu PF, but by government, and the employer is engaging them now. So, it will be unfair to say government has failed now,” Khaya Moyo told the Daily News.
On Monday, the government held crunch talks with agitated civil service union leaders, in a bid to avert a national strike by restless teachers.
However, the meeting was inconclusive, as the government referred the unions to the little-useful National Joint Negotiation Council (NJNC) — with the dates of convening such a gathering yet to be announced.
As a result, miffed leaders of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta), Progressive Teachers’ Union (PTUZ) and other unions immediately issued a two-week ultimatum to authorities, notifying them of their intention to embark on a full scale strike.
“We presented our demands to the government, which include the payment of our salaries in United States dollars, adjustment of our salaries to reflect the new economic realities and we have also not minced our words on the mutilated bonus that we demand should be paid in full.
“Instead of addressing our concerns, the government offered nothing except a new meeting in the near future in order to discuss the adjustment,” PTUZ secretary-general Raymond Majongwe, said.
“The government’s tired story that it cannot pay in USD and that it is implementing austerity for posterity does nothing to assuage our most urgent concerns of incapacitation.
“We have subsidised the government for too long, and this is the time to say ‘thus far and no more’,” Majongwe added.
On his part, Zimta secretary-general, Tapson Sibanda, said while nothing tangible had come out of Monday’s meeting, they were still looking forward to the NJNC meeting that was promised by the government.
“Our position is that we remain incapacitated as nothing tangible came out of the meeting with government … the majority of teachers might fail to report for work.
“The government hinted on a possible NJNC meeting soon, where legal issues of this matter are concluded … and while we remain positive, we categorically told the government that most of our members will not report for duty because they don’t have the means, despite their desire to go to work.
“Meanwhile a notice of 14 days has been given to government culminating in a full blown strike if our conditions are not met,” Sibanda warned.
Militant Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) president, Obert Masaraure, said they had submitted their 14-day strike notice on December 31, and were gearing for a full blown strike next week.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) has defied the directive by the government for them to return to work within 48 hours, citing “severe incapacitation”.
“Following the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the government and health workers, the ZHDA was given the mandate to engage its members to return to work within 48 hours, ending January 7, but doctors have no transport money and the fuel scheme remains obscure.
“The ZHDA members have therefore remained incapacitated and will not be able to resume normal duty till these matters have been addressed by their employer.
“It is important to note that the few available ZHDA members who showed up for duty in various hospitals had done so as a sign of good faith and remain in solidarity with those at home,”ZHDA secretary-general Mthabisi Bhebhe said.
Zimbabwe is currently in the throes of a mega economic crisis which has resulted in much suffering and anger among citizens who accuse the government of introducing a raft of measures which have further burdened them instead of alleviating their pain.
As a result, Mnangagwa who first swept to power via a military coup in November 2017, amid much hope among the generality of the country’s citizens — who had endured nearly four decades of hell under former president Robert Mugabe’s ruinous rule — has come under increasing pressure to stem the current economic rot. Daily News