THAT the majority Zimbabweans have started feeling the pain of Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s economic reforms as a necessary rite of passage in the healing of the Zimbabwean economy which has been sick for far too many years, is not in doubt.
However, while all citizens understand that there could be no going back on the raft of measures introduced to deal with the haemorrhaging economy, more painful, perhaps more than the new tax regime itself, is the fact that some top government officials who contributed to the economic demise helped themselves to national resources, were never brought to book.
Indeed, now that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has warned Zimbabweans that there would be no going back on the tax reforms, and that the citizens must take the pain, it is important that the President declares corruption a curse which retards development for it to receive the required attention it deserves.
Otherwise the measures to restore the economy would come to nothing if the usual suspects continue to roam the streets like free birds.
For instance, is it not true that there are still several multiple farm owners who have reduced the farms they grabbed into wastelands, forcing the country to waste precious foreign currency importing food and other needs which may as well have been produced locally?
Why have these individuals not been investigated and much greater pain visited upon them, rather than ordinary citizens who are already being heavily taxed to pay for the crimes committed by the ruling elite and their acolytes?
It is not in doubt that several current and former Cabinet ministers owe power utility Zesa Holdings several thousands of dollars in unpaid bills. What kind of pain is going to be visited upon them? Is it not the ordinary person again who will take the pain on their behalf simply because they are “powerful and untouchable” even as they are still on the farms?
Regrettably, particular individuals partly responsible for government’s profligate spending have remained in its employ. Some even driving luxury vehicles and living in mansions bought by government loans that could have been invested into farming activities.
Yet, now we have the rest of the population forced to help them carry their cross. In fact, theirs is probably a lighter load because they are already economically well-up compared to the rest of the population that played no part in their excesses.
As part of the measures, if the government is, indeed, genuine as it would have us believe, these fat cats should be made to feel the pain more.
Buying new luxury vehicles for legislators and chiefs, for instance, should not just be temporarily halted in the face of a cholera outbreak, but should become a new culture in which public officials must be content with basic and efficient, but cheaper vehicles that will help them get the job done just as the luxury vehicles would have.
We believe Mnangagwa should extend such austerity measures to the fat cats in government so that they also endure the pains of economic liberalisation Ncube is preaching about.
Making the economy “happy” at the expense of ordinary Zimbabweans does not cut it. In fact, it must cut across the board. Indeed, as the President rightly said, the challenges are primarily centred on the need to contain internal and external debt — of which ordinary citizens had nothing to do with that debt, except government.
We understand why Mnangagwa is passionate about the economy, he must be assured that we are all in it too, but we demand sincerity. The President must also consider the feelings of the citizens, and eradicate corruption, which has eaten into the nation’s social fabric.