By Chenayi Mutambasere
So recently I had the fortunate experience of travelling to Zimbabwe. What this means is on return my to the UK I am currently the newly recruited news anchor being at the receiving end of the famous question “Saka makawana zirisei kuZimbabwe?”
It is never easy to come up with an accurate answer in these circumstances it can depend on many external factors on how you respond, is this person wanting a political response, how much time do they have for you to truly paint the picture, well which aspect of the whole country are they most interested in and so on and so forth…
So here I am, having narrowed down my response to 4 possible matters of interest most of which have been sighted as reality by some and dismissed as myth by others.. Here is how I saw them …
1- Health Sector in crisis
Perhaps the most obvious one to be truly known as reality. Being in the diaspora we have been virtual witnesses to relatives dying prematurely through circumstances that really don’t justify a young person losing their life.
While I was in Zimbabwe a dear friend passed away, what was sad is I knew this young lady from the age of 5, our parents were friends. She later became close friends with my young sister so I knew her fairly well.
Her illness was very brief probably something short of less than a week from admission to death. To listen to the narration surrounding her death one point hits home the most. Has Zimbabwe become a No Cash No Care country?
With less and less specialist accepting medical aid or ecocash or any form of ZWL currency for that matter, most patients have to ensure they have enough USD before they can be seen by a specialist even during a medical emergency.
While there is no expectation for specialist to be freeloaders what can be done by government to improve this status quo? Almost in the same period I watched Nervous Nerris aka Mthuli Ncube battle to explain that they will be subsidizing grocery shopping for the MoD (Ministry of Defence).
In the same week known corruption warlords are cleared of corruption charges because ZACC has no evidence. Meanwhile the ordeal my friend went through is not narrated without mentioning the young boy (approximately 7 years old) who also was needing the urgent assistance of a specialist who wouldn’t see him without the cash denoted in USD. “But I earn in ZWL the father pleaded” only to fall on deaf ears.
It is a sure reality that young people are continuing to die young in Zimbabwe from an ailing health service system where No Cash No Care is fast becoming the order of the day. It is also a reality that as yet the government has not presented any means to resolve this crisis.
2- Commodity Shortage
One thing for sure certainly in Harare is that the place is still buzzing like yesteryear. The supermarkets certainly those in the suburbs remain stocked with ‘most’ of the basics and some non essentials too. Punters fill the isle, at whatever time someone is getting something.
Business is looking good for these grocery stores. Strange it seems to most given that the average living wage in Zimbabwe can barely afford a basket of basic goods.
That is if a teacher can earn Between ZWL100 to ZWL500 which on the parallel market equates to USD$5 to $20 respectively whereby a packet of lemons cost ZWL$40 so a teacher can literally afford 4 packets of lemons on one month’s wage.
So who is buying from these supermarkets.
Well quite literally Zimbabweans are living hand to mouth. Amidst a gross mistrust of the banking system and the economy at large, it has become more attractive for the working class to spend as they go along. Live for today because tomorrow a new currency is coming.
The unpredictability of the economy makes micro or household financial planning so difficult its just better to spend, spend, spend. The supermarkets maintain their margins at the expense of reduced savings. No savings will eventually reduce money supply which means that Mthuli will soon give birth to another of his funny money schemes – watch the space.
So while its seemingly clear that the idea of shortage is all but mythical – I can’t end there . I have one question for this government – Ko UPFU huripi – What did you do with the mealie meal. On my last day I spent the best part of 3 hours looking for mealie meal either the white non refined or the millet grain meal with absolutely none to be found anywhere.
I couldn’t believe the country has run out of its staple food. Eventually I found 2kg bags of Zviyo at ZWL$45. This is evidence of a whole new low. The products that are locally produced and supplied are not fairing so well against those that are imported.
The idea that this government is increasing local production and exports is all but fallacious especially on the backdrop of mealie meal being imported from neighbouring countries.
3- Continued misconceptions about Chamisa and Sanctions
When I first heard someone suggest that MDC’s Nelson Chamisa was singlehandedly responsible for bringing sanctions on the country I blatantly thought this to be a joke.
Infact I couldn’t fathom anyone believing that Chamisa (smart as he is mind you) would convince Donald Trump to enforce sanctions on the country. It seemed to me unbelievable that a country with a great number of educated folk would believe such hogwash.
Much to my surprise on the ground this rumour is fully believed by some. There is a cohort of Zimbabweans who genuinely believe that when President Chamisa leaves the country he is going to enforce sanctions on Zimbabwe.
This one myth I do wish to bust fully. The actions of governments of democratic nations such as America, UK and all of Europe are determined by their electorate. The electorate are whom they seek to please as it is the electorate that votes for them to stay in power.
Therefore it would be disingenuous on their part to be seen to partner with or support governments that violate human rights. The sort of ways that governments violate human rights are when someone falsely arrested by the ZRP is denied medical attention and dies in police custody as in the case for Hilton Tamangani. This is what brings about sanctions.
4- Dead End Economy for the young
With reduced production there is a reduction in employment capacity across the nation. I can attest to more than half the young people of employable age not being gainfully employed.
Unemployment has become indiscriminate there is such a limited number of jobs available that even the well connected are feeling the pinch.
While the economy is being held at ransom by a few the many young people are fast becoming the generation of little hope. Jobs and opportunities continue to be scarce.
The reality has become that in more forms than one, employment or income earning opportunities have surely become dead man’s shoes…
The following realities also persist
– Roads are still very bad
– No Water in Harare
– Load shedding persists but a little less than at its worst
– Water drainage in Harare remains an issue
– I didn’t see any of the new ZUPCO buses especially after hearing they would be everywhere ; kombi’s and mushika shika predominantly occupy the space
– The state house does look unoccupied this is true
– Fuel shortage persists on an unprecedented scale
Chenayi Mutambasere (Msc Development Economics and Policy) is the MDC UK and Ireland Province Secretary for Industry and Commerce. You can follow her on Twitter: @ChenayiM