In our NewsDay Weekender edition on Saturday we carried a depressing story of how the country’s major public hospitals have turned into dens of death as helpless patients succumb to their sicknesses in the absence of medical personnel who have been on strike demanding better pay and working conditions.
It is a difficult situation. It is unfortunate that ordinary people have become collateral damage in the standoff between government and the medical personnel. In the meantime, it would be unfair to demand that the doctors and nurses go back to work when their earnings and working conditions have become untenable.
In fact, the problem is even more far-reaching, going beyond the health sector as almost every working person’s earnings have been significantly eroded since the government’s misguided decision to introduce a local currency, whose value has continued to plummet against major currencies.
What is probably sad is that when the government first decided to introduce the bond note, they were warned against the move, but insisted there was sufficient support to hedge the surrogate currency. Sadly, we are back to the horrors of 2008. It would appear our leaders never learnt anything from the mistakes of yesteryear.
Prices of basic commodities and fuel have been sky-rocketing over the past few months. Government has tried to tinker with the economy, and some of their schoolboy interventions — like attempts to ban mobile money transactions and the use of foreign currency — has shown that this government has no solutions to the problem bedevilling the country. If they deal with the economic fundamentals and the political conundrum, there will be no need for “command economics”.
If government deals with the fundamentals, it would be unnecessary to take doctors and nurses to the Labour Court to coax them to return to work. That is not a solution. Their concerns and grievances are genuine and should be addressed. A court order is not going to deliver medication and equipment into dysfunctional public health facilities.
If truth be told, government literally robbed every person who earns money in this country when they introduced the surrogate currency on the fallacy that it was equal in value to the United States dollar, which had brought some stability to the economy since 2009. Now that the market has spat out the bond note, or RTGS, or Zimdollar — or whatever its real name is — justice demands that whatever people are earning should be multiplied at the same rate that the US dollar is fetching on the interbank market. This is because people’s earnings were denominated in US dollars.
Zimbabwe is on the edge of the cliff. There is frustration and desperation all-round, with a lot of uncertainty as citizens offer their labour for a pittance as the local currency continues to lose value. This is simply government failure at its worst.