The Business of NOT doing BUSINESS

President Mnangagwa has said its no longer about politics but economics, economics and economics.
President Mnangagwa has said its no longer about politics but economics, economics and economics.

By Jennings Rukani.

ZIMBABWE has been beset by a twin devil of the political and economic crisis, for nearly twenty years now. It is understandable for such a situation to manifest in countries like Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan where hot wars are the daily bread. However, for a country like Zimbabwe to experience a crisis of this magnitude resulting from a latent war boggles the mind.

The manufacturing sector has not only entered a period of stagnation but rather that of decay. The author of this article happened to have been part of the delegation accompanying about 12 Government Ministers in 2012 to visit the industrial sector in Bulawayo. What we saw there was painful to even the strong hearted. The same could be said of Gweru, Mutare and to a large extent Harare.

The factories were an eyesore of rust, decay and archaic machinery, some of them dating back to 1956. Bulawayo used to be the heart of the country’s manufacturing and headquarters for the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ). The railway yard looked like a graveyard for locomotives. One must hope, against hope, that the current Government’s approach to hire second hand train engines will improve the situation.

The leaders of countries with a functional economy know or should know that politics and business are in a love – hate relationship. Whatever they say in public tends to affect the stock market either positively or in a negative way. The best thing for them is to minimise talking, even those with the gift of the garb. We are yet to test the theory whether a country without any meaningful economy such as Zimbabwe, has an economy alive enough to respond to the respiratory attempts of political chatter by the powers that be.

Citizens of this Southern African nation have often been told that their country is rich, that it is endowed with natural resources and therefore has great potential. A statement like this has been the mantra since independence. However, young people want tangible results. The “natural resources mantra” has almost become a cliché to them. Generations have lost a whole age of physical ability and with it, an entire future that was very promising as they attended high school in the 80s. Whatever happened to former President Mugabe’s “look East Policy?” What worthy outcomes did our country derive? In business, one should always look everywhere, not East, West, North or South.

The “New Dispensation” has also sent mixed messages especially to the local people. Their general narrative on investment and doing business has rather been very positive. It also received positive feedback, especially from the international community. However, we are yet to see changes in the legal framework that turns on the democratic and free, fair elections green light. Investors enjoy the positive vibes from the “Zimbabwe Open for Business” campaign, but they only act on tangibles which link words to deeds by Government.

Potential investors are prepared to sign thousands of MOUs but will not bring any meaningful foreign direct investment (FDI) until elections are held. The new government leadership fired many CIO Directors and top police officers. The firing of the Police top brass was reversed a few days later in unexplained circumstances. Firing of over 3000 Youth Officers was recently rescinded, presumably to comply with a court directive. Remember the fired CIO Officers went with banks of state secrets. Is it safe to keep them fired?

Civil servants who are over 60 years of age have been fired from their jobs without adequate notice as well. The threat to trim the civil service is still hanging on top of these government employees like a machete. Permanent Secretaries have been ordered to carry out an audit of staff duplication within their ministries. If my memory serves me well, this is the 4th time such an audit of staff members has been carried out without conclusion since 2009.

Government needs to be reminded that civil servants are human beings too. Hanging an axe above a person’s head for many years is traumatic and paralysing. There are Directors in various ministries who are walking aimlessly in Government buildings because they either have not been fully assigned duties or are not sure whether they are staying or going. How do their families feel after serving Government loyally for many years? Thousands of unemployed youth are eagerly waiting.

Together citizens of Zimbabwe have been compelled into the business of not doing business. The irony is that the Executive has been hiring more from its ranks of the over 65 and even the over 70 years old.

What a country, what a leadership.

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