GWERU - As Zimbabwe's economic meltdown gathers pace, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says the MDC will soon launch peaceful mass demonstrations to force President Robert Mugabe’s government to act on the plight of millions of desperate Zimbabweans who are plagued by rising poverty, hunger and disease.
Addressing the media here on Thursday, Tsvangirai said the planned demonstrations would be a public display by long-suffering Zimbabweans of their pain and anger regarding the “dead economy” that Zanu PF had created — which had turned the country from being a breadbasket of the region to a nation of beggars.
“We have the capacity to mobilise and there is no doubt that we have the capacity to exploit the current state of affairs.
“But we want an orderly Zimbabwe with stability. It’s not just action for the sake of action, and it’s not even action against Mugabe, but action to resolve the national crisis,” Tsvangirai said.
He blamed Zanu PF for “dragging” a once thriving economy into the mud, to a point where millions of Zimbabweans had now been reduced to paupers.
“Zanu PF must realise that they have created these conditions. We can’t have such an economy, where in fact there is no economy to talk about,” the MDC leader said.
Tsvangirai’s comments on Thursday tie in with what he said last year at his party’s congress in Harare where he called on Zimbabweans to go to the streets and demand change at a time that the ruling party is consumed by its deadly factional and succession wars, at the expense of badly-needed service delivery to the people.
“If you go back to Murambatsvina, people were chased away from the cities to go to the rural areas, but they are back in the cities.
“We have more people in the urban areas now and we should have a response to that. People do not have jobs, hence they will do anything to earn a living,” Tsvangirai said.
He also bemoaned the destruction of commerce and industry around Zimbabwe, which has witnessed companies such as Bata in Gweru, which used to employ thousands of people, now operating at 30 percent capacity.
The Zimbabwean economy has been in free fall since the disputed 2013 elections, with companies continuing to close and tens of thousands of people losing their jobs.
And as Tsvangirai walked the streets of Gweru ahead of his media address, there were visible signs of desperation among vendors and other unemployed Zimbabweans, some of whom were jobless graduates from the country’s universities and colleges.
Economic experts say the hardships afflicting Zimbabwe have reduced the country to one of vendors, with everyone trying to sell something to survive.
In most streets in the urban areas, scores of young men and women roam around selling an assortment of products including cell phone recharge cards, vegetables, clothes, traditional herbs and skin lightening creams.
This has seen virtually all urban streets littered with card board boxes, and making them dirty and difficult to navigate during peak hours — a huge contrast from their squeaky clean image of two decades ago.
The capital Harare, for example, has virtually been transformed from its “Sunshine City” moniker into a shanty town, with its pavements littered with makeshifts vendor stalls. And as the comatose economy and the attendant liquidity crunch have continued to bite, corruption levels have also soared, further complicating the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans and pulling the country down the drain.
Economic analyst Takura Mugaga recently said if the situation persisted, Zimbabwe would continue to experience heightened urban decay and poverty levels, which could lead to social upheaval.
The situation has been worsened by the fact that the broke Zanu PF government is still battling to get funding for its economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset), which requires well over $20 billion.
Another respected economist, John Robertson, also recently highlighted the need to scrap the country’s controversial indigenisation policies which he said were responsible for chasing away investors.
“How can anyone amend theft? What government is doing is that it is simply fine-tuning its theft mechanism. I say they must scrap the whole thing (indigenisation). Something wrong cannot be made right.
“They should work on a new policy, but this time with investor input,” Robertson said.
Issis Mwale, another economist, said the government must solve its international relations problems.
“At the moment, the country is in a fix with most international organisations like the European Union, of which most investors are EU affiliates.
“There is need to have a reasonable Foreign Affairs minister who will look into all these issues as well as tell Cabinet what investors expect from the indigenisation law,” she said.
Mwale said the country also needed to resuscitate its agriculture sector, as well as its dormant parastatals.
Other economic experts assert that austerity measures such as reducing government’s expenditure on its bloated workforce would help to restore the fiscal credibility of the financially-stricken country.