Stir the pot: Paidamoyo Muzulu
YESTERDAY, February 14, Zimbabweans in relationships celebrated Valentine’s Day. It is a day that has been commercialised, but its origins may not have changed much over the centuries — celebrating love.
Zimbabweans across the country from different stations in life celebrated the day — some by simply wearing the colours red and white, others by purchasing chocolates or having expensive dinners and for others yet another WhatsApp message conveying love.
As the country celebrated the gift of love, the regime went all out to show how distant it is from reality, have no empathy for the majority poor except to tick the boxes with the Bretton Woods institutions.
This is the week the regime just showed its true colours about how much it cares about the citizens. One has to look at four issues that took place namely the response to the deadly coronavirus, Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council fees hike, new domestic employees gazetted wages and the hiking of the maize-meal prices by over 40%.
Despite the World Health Organisation declaring coronavirus a public health emergency, Zimbabwean authorities for political reasons have decided to keep the borders open to Chinese travellers.
In a post-Cabinet briefing it said: “With effect from January 25, 2020 the Ministry of Health and
Child Care activated a surveillance system which includes follow ups on travellers to Zimbabwe who visited China and other affected countries. To date, 1 433 travellers have been reported to have passed through Zimbabwe’s ports of entry that are screening travellers. The Government of Zimbabwe has agreed with the Government of the Republic of China that these travellers be subjected to self-quarantine for a 21-day surveillance period, in order to ensure early detection of symptoms.”
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, China, was put under lockdown by Chinese authorities, creating a ghost city of 16 million people in a measure to control the spread of the disease.
However, Zimbabwean authorities for political capital has only implemented what it terms “self-quarantine for a 21-day surveillance period”, which is woeful in a country that is struggling to provide decent primary healthcare.
In a move that has no relation to the political economy, Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council hiked examination fees by nearly 2 000%, effectively making children of all shopfloor workers exam dropouts. In one single move, education has gone back to be the preserve of the elites.
An Ordinary Level pupil now has to pay $190 per subject, which translates to $1 900 for the average 10 subjects they normally write. For Advanced Level pupils, they now have to fork out $1 377 to write three subjects plus the compulsory communication skills course.
To bring this into context, the lowest paid workers on record are the domestic workers and the regime last week gazetted their new salaries as $160 per month. This translates to a measly $1 920 per annum, still below the minimum taxable income of $2 000 per month.
It is from this very salary that the regime expects domestic workers to pay their children’s examinations fees. To all practical intents and purposes, education is now beyond the reach of the poor and most likely the vicious cycle of poverty is now more than a reality for them and their posterity unless some miracle happens.
The uncaring government further compounded the poor citizens hardships when it hiked the price of maize-meal by over 40% to $70 from $50 per 10kg bag. Maize is the staple food for the majority of Zimbabweans.
In announcing the hike with immediate effect, the Finance ministry said: “However, the wide gap between the market and the subsidised price has created undesirable arbitrage opportunities for unscrupulous players, resulting in market and supply distortions. In view of the above, I am pleased to announce that government has reviewed upwards the subsidised price from $50 to $70 per 10kg bag of roller meal against the prevailing market price of the product.”
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube has lived up to his word in his first budget statement in 2018 that “government would follow the market”.
What is shocking is the government has given in to cartels, demands to profiteer and forget about the suffering masses. It just confirms that Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi was correct in his opinion that cartels now controlled the media, government, police, the judiciary and the National Prosecuting Authority. The cartels have become a law unto themselves and the Executive is impotent to deal with the rot.
Zimbabwe has all of a sudden gone back in history to the uncaring Bourbon House that in 1879 through Queen Mary Antionette said: “If they cannot have bread let them eat cake.”
In a similar fashion, President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month told the poor in Kuwadzana township, Harare, that his government could not control the price of beef and people should change their diet to vegetables and potatoes. Can the people eat “murivo nemapoteto” without their favourite sadza which has been priced out of their reach?
The anger should be looming on the horizon as the Executive fails to show some love to its citizens.
Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist and writes here in his personal capacity.