We have been saying it

HARARE - Last week, the Daily News published a comment urging President Robert Mugabe’s administration to urgently act decisively and sincerely on the worsening cash shortages and the deepening economic crisis.

The message was one of countless ones relayed by the newspaper in the interest of the long-suffering masses.

Crucially, it sternly warned the authorities of a looming disaster — a repeat of the terrible 2008 economic meltdown that caused untold suffering — if the long-running cash crisis is not addressed.

We always knew, so did many, that the crisis will eventually reach a boiling point.

Some time back, it was even said; “you can rig elections, but you cannot rig the economy”.

That statement still rings a bell.

Interestingly, the Daily News’ latest warning seems to have been quite spot-on, as proven by the dramatic events over the weekend.

Over the two days — Saturday and Sunday — things went haywire.

In that short space of time, prices of basic commodities shot up, responding to the bond notes/United States dollar exchange rate which suddenly surged on the parallel market.

Spooked Zimbabweans — haunted by the sad and apparently fresh memories of 2008 — also besieged service stations to stock up on fuel.

There was panic.

People also stormed shops to amass basic goods, fearing a repeat of the dry painful days when supermarket shelves were empty.

Our last week’s comment had been prompted by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s rather casual response to legislators’ concerns over the worsening cash shortages and consequent ripple effects — price hikes, panic and illegal money dealers flocking the streets.

  Saddened by the crippling cash shortages, legislators took the FinMin to task over the deepening crisis in Parliament.

The concerned parliamentarians demanded an explanation from the Treasury chief on what government’s plan was in curtailing the long running crisis.

  Speaking in the National Assembly during a question and answer session, worried Shamva South Zanu PF MP Joseph Mapiki questioned Chinamasa on government’s policy concerning the issue of money changers.

Simply put, Mapiki wanted to know — just like all the other worried and anxious hapless Zimbabweans — what authorities’ action plan was on the infamous illegal foreign currency dealers who have resurfaced en masse on our streets on the back of the escalating cash shortages.

But Chinamasa’s response was far from flattering.

He said: “I only heard about the issue in the past. The issue was being handled by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe who punished them through penalties.”

He added: “As government, we don’t have laws to arrest money changers but we agreed in Cabinet that we should enact such a law. We are going to investigate and as I said, I am going to issue a ministerial statement concerning the issue.”

Seriously!

Does it really require an investigation to prove that illegal money changers are back on the streets, in full force?

Chinamasa et al need to understand this; Zimbabweans learnt the hard way and they are fully aware of what is happening. Beyond the rhetoric and comforting messages, they know things are not well.

To them, the return of the illegal foreign currency dealers is a bad omen.

It’s a signal of bad times.

From experience, it’s a strong indicator of a tough and cruel economy, with harsh effects on the ordinary people.

While government may try to calm the agitated masses, talk and no action will not save the situation.

The cash crisis is just a tip of an iceberg when it comes to Zimbabwe’s economic challenges.

It is a manifestation of bigger problems to come and addressing them needs a broader and pragmatic approach.

Without belabouring the point, we are pleading with authorities to sincerely address the cash crisis and the myriad problems bedevilling the country.

Surely, Zimbabweans are not asking for too much. They simply want to lead normal lives.

Most of them don’t want to be money changers, hustling on the streets every day.

Neither do they want to be enquiring and chasing an ever-changing exchange rate like they did in 2008.

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