Zimbabwe: a daunting social reality

The big news out of Zimbabwe last week was that inflation had dropped down to three digits. Great! We’re very happy for ourselves. But really, what does that news matter when prices went up dramatically and our currency was devalued this month on the heels of Gono’s “Sunrise,” more like sunset, project. For the record, inflation is a measure of the increase of prices over a set period. Why am I telling you this? Because dear reader, I want you not to be surprised when August’s month on month inflation figures come out; it is going to be much higher than the celebrated levels of July.

Thank you very much Gideon Gono.

Speaking of Gono, there’s a new consipiracy theory floating around out there. This one, sired by exiled businessman Mutumwa Mawere, speculates that Gono (like Jonathan Moyo) is exploiting the power vacuum in ZANU-PF to become law unto himself. Quoth Mawere

The role of emergency powers in a democratic state is a different subject that requires its own assessment but in this column, I thought it would be useful as we critically evaluate the assertion that Jonathan Moyo and Gono are probably the two most important individuals in Zimbabwe who have sufficiently understood the power vacuum in Zanu PF to effectively and efficiently use Presidential Powers to undermine not only parliament but unconstitutionally undermine civil liberties in the name of national interest.

Interesting theory.

It is startling but true that Mugabe has done nothing in both cases to reign in the apparently limitless power these “young turks” on their mediocre campaigns to “reform” Zimbabwe. On the contrary and much to the chagrin of ZANU-PF’s elder statesmen Mugabe has defended both men viciously, at times threatening to the wrath of the law to protect his young guns. This despite everyone, and I mean everyone else’s realization of how far “out in left field” their ideas and have been, to quote the oft used American analogy. What! Converting Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation into six strategic business units? That was Moyo. What! Converting Zimbabwe’s currency midstream and dubbing that monetary reform? That was Gono.

If Mawere is right, it’s only a matter of time before Gono’s new found influence crumbles. Just like Moyo before him.

I’ve been wondering lately, is it me or is there a real irony of ironies playing out in Zimbabwean news reports. In this report from the Herald, president Mugabe suggests (for the umpteenth time this week) that agricultural output is increasing this year. Yet over here the nation,s millers are saying,

Zimbabwe has run out of maize-meal, its main staple food, in yet another sign of a deepening crisis in the southern African country.

In a stark reminder of how the gains of independence from Britain 26 years ago were fast eroding away, Zimbabweans woke up on Monday to celebrate Heroes Day holiday held in commemoration of fallen heroes of the liberation struggle, but with shops empty of maize-meal.

The chairman of the Zimbabwe Grain Millers Association (ZGMA) that groups private milling firms, Thembinkosi Ndlovu, said the countrywide shortage of maize-meal was because the state-owned Grain Marketing Board (GMB) had not supplied maize to millers because it did not have any in stock.

Isn’t it ironic?

To be fair, allow me now dear reader to invoke yet another concept from basic economics ; market failure. A market failure is basically when the market system is unable to satisfy the public good and/or create the most efficient exchange of products and money.

(You should know by now) I belabor myself to elucidate economic concepts with just reason. The supply of grain to millers in Zimbabwe is a market. The Grain Marketing Board, a parastatal has a monopoly in this market but they are failing to satisfy the public interests. This is no small public interest either; in Zimbabwe, as in many places across Africa cornmeal is the staple. Therefore this (and can we have a drumroll please,) is a market failure. A (agricultural) commodity exchange market failure in an agrobased economy. Our economy cannot function if we cannot get agriculture right. Efficiently operating the agricultural sector is the most basic requirement for the sustenance of our entire economy.

Whatever it is, the mother of all ironies or a market failure, the reality is life on Zimbabwe’s streets is officially past impossible. This is a daunting social reality.

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