By The Solutions Tower Staff.
April represents a special month for Zimbabweans across the globe, notwithstanding race, colour or creed. It is a period to reflect on this southern African nation’s political exodus from colonisation by former masters, Britain. April 18, to be precise, is a day for self introspection as the nation takes time to reflect on the odious trip to freedom, including the sacrifices taken by men and women of Zimbabwe to gain independence.
Zimbabwe, during this month takes time off to appreciate and take stoke of the sacrifices made by the gallant sons and daughters of the soil (heroes and heroines), both the living and deceased. Gains and losses are evaluated and analysed during this crucial period on the country’s calendar. Sadly, however, the majority now associate April18 with mere commemorations rather than celebrations.
Fall of the social structure: A Henry Masinire story
Henry Masinire is a widower approaching his 80th birthday. The old and visibly frail man is still into digging wells for a living at such an unbelievably advanced age. A resident of Mudyawabikwa Village in Sadza, Chikomba District, about 190km south-east of the capital (Harare), Masinire has been into this trade (digging wells) ever since he left formal employment in Bulawayo during colonial Rhodesia.
The current harsh economic and social realities bedevilling the country have forced Masinire to continue working despite his old and ripe age. As the breadwinner retirement, to him, is not an option. Henry, as the old man is affectionately known, has been able to provide for his two grandsons and himself through the physically demanding occupation.
Masinire points out that his son-in-law, the father of his grandsons ,has been struggling to make ends meet ever since he too was retrenched after the mine he used to work for shutdown a couple of years back. For the financially elite and average man in the street, Masinire’s story may appear like one plucked out from the world of make-believe.
But alas, the story is just a tip of the iceberg – and is just a glimpse into the socio-economic tragedy of an average Zimbabwean. Ever since the attainment of independence from colonial bondage 37 years ago, many ordinary Zimbabweans have been experiencing a gradual social decline.
Normally, society is structured into three main groups: the elite, bourgeoisie (middle class) and the lower class. Under normal circumstances, social stratification should allow for mobility, which could either be upward or downward.
Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, the epoch from independence to date has seen a steady ‘demise ‘ of the middle class, hence many would agree that in Zimbabwe we now only have the very well to do and the extremely poor – just the haves and the have nots.
April in retrospect
On the social front, the plight of the general population in this once celebrated breadbasket of Africa has continued to deteriorate .The current cash crisis has worsened. Long queues at banks are now the order of the day, and failing to get the maximum daily withdrawals from banks has become common.
The poor state of affairs has led the central bank, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, to put in place measures to rationalise the situation. One of these measures is to reduce the maximum cash back from retailers to individuals to $20. This is meant to encourage retailers to deposit a considerable amount of cash into banks after end of business each day.
Use of plastic money is also being encouraged, amid expectations that it would help ease cash shortage problems. The broad picture of the situation yearns for more realistic solutions to the problem. Part of the long term remedies should look at the revival of the many once vibrant industries in Zimbabwe.
Mining and agricultural sectors used to play pivotal roles in the socio-economic growth of the nation. Meanwhile, government should be praised for the launch of the land redistribution exercise .The above helped bring about a balance in land ownership patterns among races.
Lack of monitoring and unavailability of resources has, however, adversely affected growth of the agricultural sector in the aftermath of the land reform programme. Zimbabwe used to export beef and other agricultural products within the region and to Europe before the land reform program but due to a number of reasons, exports have been crippled.
This has resulted in loss of foreign currency over the years, amid a plethora of challenges entrapping the agriculture industry. Many former black employees of former white commercial farmers joined the ranks of the unemployed as a result of disturbances in the sector. A look at the mining industry is also an eyesore .Most of the mines have since closed down because of a number of factors. Exports of minerals and mineral products have declined over the years.
Closure of mines has meant that thousands have lost their jobs. Government did well to introduce the indigenisation program. But the previous mandatory 51% shares for the indigenous people has been a major blow towards the effort to luring foreign investment. One hopes that the shelving of this draconian policy can now help revive not only the mining sector but all industry by attracting investment.
The ZimAsset initiative is also a welcome development but without resources and proper implementation, its success remains a pipe dream. April has shown the continued exodus of Zimbabweans to other countries in search of so called greener pastures. The exodus testifies to a loss of skilled manpower to other countries.
While the state has managed to increase literacy rate to almost 99%, according to available statistics, it is a shame to still note that most of the graduates from colleges and universities are unemployed and are leading poverty stricken lives. Such a sorry state of affairs has a negative impact on social development and does not inspire and motivate the young.
Corruption sticks out as one chief culprit against social and economic development in the country. The establishment of the anti corruption department is a good move but social and economic woes threaten its success as some its officers have become amenable to corruption, among other variables.
The country has been under Zanu PF’s grip and its nonagenarian leader, Robert Mugabe, for the past 37 years. Many Zimbabweans now believe that change in the political arena has the potential to bring about positive change to their country. Accordingly, many have embraced the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Morgan Tsvangirai, Dr Joice Mujuru, among others.
As for effects of the MoU on the political landscape, only time will tell. One thing is, however, certain and it is that Zimbabweans, if they can put their heads together, have the capacity to resolve their inhouse problems. To a very large extent, it is clear that Zimbabwe can play a positive role in the socioeconomic well being of its partners on the world stage.
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