Pray Instead For Zimbabwe’s “Economic Demons” On National Day Of Prayer
14 June 2020
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By Robin Mungate- Tomorrow, June 15, 2020 has been declared the Presidential Day of Prayer in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic whose infections have spiked.

After Zimbabwe recorded its first case on March 20, 2020, the infections have now risen to 343, as of June 12, 2020, with predictions painting a grim picture in the coming days or months.

In its latest forecast, the World Bank said Zimbabwe’s economy may contract by 10% from the initial growth projection of 2,7%.

To all intents and purposes, this is an understatement. In his letter to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in April this year, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, was candid.

Professor Ncube told the IMF that the country could be headed for a health and economic catastrophe because of Covid-19, pleading for bailout packages to jumpstart the economy.

According to Zimbabwe’s Treasury chief, the economy could cumulatively contract by between 15% and 20%, and warned that “this is a massive contraction with very serious social consequences”.

As the nation cries out for divine intervention to fight the pandemic, Zimbabweans must not lose sight of their self-inflicted miseries that probably dwarf the negative impact that Covid-19 has had on the economy.

When Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor, Dr John Mangudya, likened the on-going economic woes to a “demon” that needs to “exorcised”, cynics fell off their chairs with laughter, brushing-off the former CBZ Holdings chief executive as hallucinating.

I hope the Governor, whose speeches are now punctuated by bible verses and parables, will not apologise for speaking truth. In actual fact, Zimbabwe’s has been held hostage by “demons”, defined in Merriam Webster as “a source or agent of evil, harm, distress, or ruin”.

Zimbabwe’s economy is under vicious attack from many fronts.

Perhaps its biggest undoing is the endless political bickering which has poisoned the operating environment. Next in line is the culture of corruption that now permeates all facets of our society.

Of late, a new type of cancer is devouring the country’s currency which has been on the back-foot ever since the exchange rate was liberalised in February 2019.

The reckless and selfish behaviour of currency speculators, big and small, is actuating the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar whose effects are being felt through skyrocketing prices in retail outlets and the disintegration of aggregate demand, which has weakened the cash-flows and balance sheets of many companies.

Such short-termism has nothing to do with Covid-19. And yet it creates high levels of poverty and instability that strokes the egos of demons that the Central Bank Governor was referring to.

Whenever rampant malpractices start to threaten those in power, their natural reaction is to defend their turf.

In the face of the crisis, President Emmerson Mnangagwa fired warning shots on June 10, 2020, by declaring a war against “political detractors, elite opportunists and malcontents” who are pushing a nefarious agenda or regime change.

Hours later, the security chiefs issued an ominous warning following an upsurge in rumours suggesting an imminent military coup d’état in the country due to the groundswell of public disenchantment over the economic crisis.

While such extreme reactions are unwarranted and uncalled for, the culprits must not cry foul when the long arm of the law finally catches up with them.

Instead of getting sucked in needless rent-seeking behaviour and creating money from thin air, at this juncture Zimbabwe requires patriotic citizens who turn their swords into ploughshares.

Crucially, our farmers must work the land while those in business must turning ghost factories in Workington, Southerton, Graniteside, Msasa, Belmont, and elsewhere into industrial hubs that produce for the domestic market and for export.

The curious case of Drax International which sought to make a killing from the Covid-19 pandemic is just one of the cases, most of which go unreported, that highlight that conscience is on empty in many of our people.

The fact that the country ranks high up the Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International shows that those in our penitentiaries could be a small fraction of the offending citizens who deserve incarceration in Zimbabwe’s prisons for breaking the law, wittingly or unwittingly.

Just recently, the RBZ came hard on mobile payment platforms that have been turned into havens for illicit deals. Dr Mangudya has described the rampant abuse of the payment system as now more like the biblical “Sodom and Gomorrah”, which had to be destroyed because of the waywardness of its citizens.

While it is correct to posit that Zimbabwe is weighed down by a host of economic challenges that are contributing to the current crisis, among them the unrestrained government spending which is outside the National Budget, if would be tragic if not fatal to ignore the perilous behavioural patterns whose negative impact has overtaken them all.

What that means is that the nation must join President Mnangagwa and members of the clergy in praying not just for divine protection against the menacing Covid-19, but for our own redemption.

In other words, we must pray for the spirit of discernment to overcome currency manipulators and the corrupt amongst us, whose selfishness is impoverishing the majority of our citizen while destroying the future for our children.

By the same token, those in the police force, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the Judiciary must be God-fearing and be of good courage when confronting crime, especially in high offices.

To restore public confidence in the arms of the State, the conduct of our public officials must be beyond reproach, even when pressure is brought to bear on them by those who abuse their power.

Soon, a treatment for Covid-19 will be found, but it will not exorcise the demons that are running riot in our society and economy.

If only our people could embrace the old wisdom that says ‘there is no substitute for hard work”. Such wisdom will help cast away the demons that are destroying our country’s economy while rendering our people destitute.

Robin Mungate is a development expert with interest in Corporate Social Responsibility practices in the southern African region. He writes here in his personal capacity. He can be contacted at [email protected]