Threats have never solved any economic crisis, anywhere. We have seen this here. We remember 2007 and the arrests of businesspeople to enforce damaging price controls. We remember these same terms being used; from “unscrupulous businessmen” to “economic saboteurs”, and from “malcontents” to “renegades”.
We recall Obert Mpofu’s inspectors raiding shops and arresting people, but never arresting inflation.
We remember the 5 000 arrests made that year, including those of executives of large corporates; Willard Zireva of OK Zimbabwe, Zed Koudanaris of Innscor, Adam Esat of Edgars, and Robin Parlou, a Spar franchise owner.
Did all this action resolve anything? Did it bring down prices? No. It cleaned shop shelves of goods and warehouses of inventory. Worst of all, it created a sense of panic and siege that has lingered to this day.
Yes, some gained much in those years of hyperinflation. For instance, some Ministers even used that time to accumulate vast properties, as one suspects you might be aware. But, for most Zimbabweans, this was a time that they lost everything. They lost their pensions, life savings, and some even lost the lives of loved ones. Many had to start over.
So, when they see signs of that era, please don’t tell them not to panic.
They remember when Barclays could not issue money at ATMs due to what it called “data overflow”, really a fancy term for too many numbers. Or the cruelly polite notice at Spar, which said “for your convenience, just multiply all the prices by 1,000,000”. They lost their dignity and chased after food delivery trucks. They changed diets entirely. They ate bulgur.
And you know, Minister, what makes them panic more? It is not the memory of the crisis alone. It is the fact that nobody seems to be taking charge.
We would panic less were we slightly confident that someone, at least one of you, actually had a plan. But there is nobody showing leadership on the economy over there. We have seen your rallies. We have been entertained by the cussing, the slogans, and the open fights for power. But we have heard nothing on the economy.
And so we panic, because we have long realised that we are on our own. Nobody, except ourselves, is looking out for us.
You want another example? The economy is in trouble, and yet the two men who are supposed to be in charge of it both have, over recent days, refused to take responsibility. First, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, in an interview with Capitalk FM, said he would not take responsibility.
Just days later, central bank governor John Mangudya is quoted saying he has done just about everything he can do, and it’s up to the government now.
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