The ripple effects of the bombshell that government dropped on Monday concerning the abolishment of the United States dollar as legal tender in Zimbabwe are yet to be fully felt and, already, speculation is in overdrive as Zimbabweans play around with possible mutations concerning what this means for the ordinary people.
What is quite clear in the debates that have been going on since the announcement, which caught the nation off-guard, is that citizens have long-lost trust in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government and its ability — or willingness — to pull the country back from the brink of economic collapse.
The manner in which the government has, since the days of former President Robert Mugabe, dealt with the country’s economic challenges and the attendant currency crises, in particular, over the years has tended to be somewhat cosmetic, proving to be only functional in the short run.
While the temptation is to give the new development a chance, the fact that the currency crisis speaks to much bigger and deeper economic challenges means this might end up just another cosmetic approach, only able to scratch the surface without digging deeper to the root problem such as addressing economic fundamentals, dealing with corruption and fulfilling democratic tenets to engender international confidence.
If history is anything to go by, and realising that some of the actors in this comic drama were also Mugabe’s enforcers despite claims of the “Second Republic” – with the new development – one can sense that we are likely to keep going around in circles while those in power skirt the major issues they are supposed to confront and deal with. As long as that is not done, no matter how many times we will tinker with the economy or change currencies, it will not work. The solution to our economic problems is political.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s sentiments concerning the market self-dollarising betray the government’s obsession with control. But as we have seen over the years, you cannot control the economy and make a success of it. What is important is to put enabling policies and laws in place and allow the market to become operational, and if all the fundamentals are dealt with, it will self-control.
What is needed is to build confidence within the population, and as long as there is no form of arrangement involving all political parties and stakeholders, that is not going to happen. This is a road we have walked before, and even if our leaders choose to ignore that history, even formulae from the moon will not work. They have to face it and do what needs to be done, even if it means climbing down from their high horses. Without that, they will tinker and tinker and tinker… and still come back to that same hard, untenable place.