So­cial me­dia: A po­lit­i­cal plat­form fight­ing V2030

Zim­bab­wean shop­pers have been at the re­ceiv­ing end of a wave of price hikes ever since Govern­ment an­nounced a raft of mea­sures to sta­bilise the econ­omy. Most the price hikes have been fu­elled by so­cial me­dia

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Comment & Opinion - Dr Pan­ganai Kahuni Cor­re­spon­dent

THE cur­rent eco­nomic nar­ra­tive oc­cur­ring in Zim­babwe re­minds us of the pe­riod of eco­nomic mad­ness of 2008. The eco­nomic pe­riod of 2008 saw cap­tains of in­dus­try, whole­salers and re­tail­ers aban­don­ing busi­ness morals and ethics for po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency.

They all cov­ered them­selves un­der the guise of “lack of pol­icy con­sis­tency”. This re­sulted in all em­ploy­ing price hikes as the sole busi­ness strat­egy which they all sought to use as a so­lu­tion but failed dis­mally to ar­rest the ru­n­away in­fla­tion. Un­til Govern­ment came in with the multi-cur­rency pol­icy, in­fla­tion was run­ning amok with no busi­ness so­lu­tion in sight.

Vi­sion 2030, which ED has es­poused, is meant to cre­ate a mid­dle in­come econ­omy by 2030. A mid­dle in­come econ­omy en­sures sus­tain­able life­styles for ev­ery cit­i­zen. Cur­rently, the gap be­tween the poor and the rich is too wide and Vi­sion 2030 seeks to erad­i­cate or bridge that stink­ing eco­nomic gap be­tween the poor and the rich.

The jour­ney to Vi­sion 2030 is never go­ing to be easy. The Sec­ond Repub­lic de­lib­er­ately adopted this vi­sion know­ing too well the eco­nomic hard­ships the na­tion was to walk through. Par­al­lel to this vi­sion Govern­ment is putting in place mea­sures to fight cor­rup­tion.

In pur­suance of the strat­egy of mak­ing Zim­babwe a mid­dle in­come econ­omy by 2030 Govern­ment pro­nounced a raft of eco­nomic mea­sures which it in­tends to op­er­a­tionalise start­ing mid this month. While a dead­line has been set for the pol­icy to be ef­fected, it is dis­heart­en­ing to note that busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives have de­cided to at­tack the pol­icy with mea­sures that are threat­en­ing to bring the econ­omy to a halt.

While busi­ness con­cerns against the re­cently an­nounced mone­tary pol­icy which is yet to be ef­fected can be un­der­stood from a busi­ness per­spec­tive the re­ac­tion by whole­salers and re­tail­ers is both un­pa­tri­otic and re­ac­tionary in na­ture. One would think that the busi­ness com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly cap­tains of in­dus­try, whole­salers and re­tail­ers must have en­gaged Govern­ment rather than burn the house.

No one con­dones Govern­ment to act with­out in­volv­ing in­dus­try. In cases where a pol­icy is pro­nounced and there ex­ista lead time be­fore im­ple­men­ta­tion, hon­estly busi­ness must en­gage Govern­ment be­fore em­ploy­ing the de­monic 2008 strat­egy of price hikes which in essence de­stroys pro­duc­tiv­ity. In Shona we say “us­arase mbereko pa­musaka peku­firwa”.

The past weeks have been crazy in Zim­babwe with cit­i­zens taken un­aware and un­pre­pared by whole­salers’ and re­tail­ers’ ac­tions in re­sponse to Govern­ment mea­sures meant to mit­i­gate the cur­rent huge for­eign and do­mes­tic debt. While the mea­sures, painful as they may cur­rently ap­pear to be there are a good foun­da­tion to re­cov­ery. Zim­babwe can­not con­tinue to de­pend on bor­row­ing and re­ceiv­ing do­na­tions then ex­pect the econ­omy to be self­cap­i­tal­is­ing.

The past has been bad and that can­not be con­tinue any longer. It is now time to swal­low the bit­ter pill in or­der to re­cover the econ­omy and busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives can­not also be al­lowed to re­main in the com­fort zones of price hikes that threaten the sur­vival of cit­i­zens un­less they are now a po­lit­i­cal plat­form for po­lit­i­cal mes­sag­ing like the so­cial me­dia.

It is dis­heart­en­ing to note that in­stead of find­ing ways of en­gag­ing Govern­ment, busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives who take home fat pay pack­ets and have not given pay rises and bonuses to work­ers em­ploy price hike strate­gies. Sur­pris­ingly, this is done soon af­ter read­ing spec­u­la­tive mes­sages on so­cial me­dia. What bog­gles the mind is how a learned whole­saler and re­tailer takes so­cial me­dia mes­sages for a fact.

Zim­bab­weans, with our high lit­er­acy rate, can­not hon­estly be driven by the lies that are ped­dled on so­cial me­dia to the ex­tent of de­lib­er­ately at­tack­ing a pol­icy that seeks to re-in­vig­o­rate the econ­omy so that it grows to mid­dle in­come lev­els.

Ta­ja­mukas

Pol­i­tics comes once ev­ery five years and goes. Pol­i­tics alone does not bring food on the ta­ble. In 2008 peo­ple were mo­ti­vated by pri­vate me­dia to do the un­think­able in pol­i­tics which only served to worsen the sit­u­a­tion. The MDC and ZCTU mo­ti­vated peo­ple to stay away from work, en­gaged in vi­o­lent and de­struc­tive demon­stra­tions, looted shops and su­per­mar­kets but they did not bring food on the ta­ble.

This his­tory of bad pol­i­tics that de­stroys both the econ­omy and sur­vival of cit­i­zens while few in­di­vid­u­als be­come filthy rich from donor funds is what must not be al­lowed to rear its ugly head on us again. It is said once bit­ten twice shy. Zim­bab­weans must be shame­ful of prac­tis­ing bad pol­i­tics such as price hikes, loot­ing of shops, ped­dling lies on so­cial me­dia, etc. There must be a plat­form of prac­tis­ing in­clu­sive di­a­logue as so­lu­tions are sought to re­vive the econ­omy.

So­cial me­dia is now awash with neg­a­tive mes­sages that seek to mo­ti­vate cit­i­zens to do the un­think­able. ZCTU and MDC Al­liance also seem to be cap­i­tal­is­ing on the price mad­ness by whole­salers and re­tail­ers. The ta­ja­mukas feel it’s time to profit on the neg­a­tives as they be­come in­no­va­tive not in find­ing so­lu­tions that bring food on the ta­ble but for craft­ing de­struc­tive strate­gies aimed at mo­ti­vat­ing the pub­lic to do the un­think­able.

Peo­ple must un­der­stand that re­viv­ing the econ­omy is not the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity of Govern­ment. Zim­bab­weans, from Govern­ment, busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and cit­i­zens, are all re­spon­si­ble for re­viv­ing the econ­omy. While it may be con­ve­nient to blame Govern­ment, busi­ness must also take the blame for wan­ton price hikes, cit­i­zens for im­port­ing un­nec­es­sary goods and the op­po­si­tion for be­ing un­nec­es­sar­ily mil­i­tant in the search for a last­ing so­lu­tion.

It is my hum­ble view that Zim­babwe’s sit­u­a­tion can be im­proved if ev­ery sec­tion of the econ­omy plays its part pos­i­tively. The vi­sion for a mid­dle in­come econ­omy by 2030 is both doable and achiev­able if ev­ery sec­tor of the econ­omy be­haves re­spon­si­bly al­low­ing pos­i­tive and in­clu­sive en­gage­ment to take place.

Trac­ing our fot­steps to­wards the2008 cri­sis or mi­grat­ing to the Tu­nisian or Libyan sce­nario will not make our eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion bet­ter. In fact, more lives will be un­nec­es­sar­ily lost if Zim­babwe is made to fol­low such thorny routes. In my hum­ble view this neg­a­tive sce­nario be­ing spon­sored by so­cial me­dia and politi­cians of du­bi­ous cre­den­tials must be avoided at all costs for the good of the na­tion. ◆ Dr Pan­ganai Kahuni is a po­lit­i­cal, so­cio-eco­nomic com­men­ta­tor, re­searcher and diplo­mat in the SADC re­gion writ­ing in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

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