The Sunday Mail
A fortnight ago, I listened to the Zanu PF Political Commissar Dr Mike Bimha address the United Family International Church gathering. He spoke passionately on the need for Zimbabweans to be more positive and to work in unison.
It was not political bickering or mere grandstanding. He flawlessly spoke a lot of sense on the subject. Yours truly, the eternal optimist, was left pondering much about where we would be as a country had we all been that progressive.
Dr Bimha spoke about economic development, which he called a war and one that could only be won if we are a united front, everyone playing their part and not denigrating or rubbishing efforts by the Government and other stakeholders. He has always impressed me as a leader. When he was in Government, his eloquence, appreciation and analysis of issues always gave me good stories that carried the day for our paper. I was on the The Herald’s Business desk then.
As one of the leaders of the ruling party, Dr Bimha appears to have sharpened his natural skills in clearly articulating issues. Indeed, he wowed the crowd with his eloquence and appreciation of issues that Sunday two weeks ago. He said our greatest undoing is our fixation on the negative and yet there is so much we should be proud of as a nation.
“I was in UK for a meeting of investors a few months ago. At tea break, three investors came to me and said are you the gentleman from Zimbabwe, and I said yes, then they said there is a lot (of good) your country is doing.
“I asked them how they knew about it and they said they had their own intelligence sources that keep them updated. They said the problem is that you don’t talk about it and at the end of the day you are your own worst enemies,” he said.
This is, indeed, a challenge we must all repent from and chart a new path. It boggles the mind how some in our midst are oriented towards denigrating and downplaying all Government efforts directed at improving our welfare, expediting development and escalating growth.
All well-meaning programmes, policies and initiatives are casually dismissed as ineffectual, ambitious and impractical. There is neither rationality nor perspectives in analysis. It appears preconceived notions preclude balance and perspective in many instances.
Yet it is incumbent upon a populace to track progress made, to be inspired by it and to consequently gain even greater impetus as we march towards the Promised Land.
There are growing calls, and they keep getting louder, for our populace to be our own advocates, to be actively involved in supporting initiatives and interventions introduced and rally behind well-meaning and well-thought- out programmes. They are conceived to alter our circumstances, to trigger growth and go beyond just intention. Any policy or programme is surely judged on its efficacy.
We are on a journey and there is much to be achieved, milestones to be attained and heights to be scaled. This demands industry, engagement and unflinching application. It calls for each and every one of us to dig deep within ourselves, summon hope, honour and high resolve and get to work.
All hands on deck. That way, we will all be proud of the work of our hands. We have attained very significant traction in a wide array of areas. Evidence abound of this.
Some salient examples will suffice. The economy is on a growth path. It grew by an astounding 7,8 percent last year and Covid-19, drought and sanctions notwithstanding. It is projected to grow by 4,6 percent this year. By all accounts, this is resilience writ large. This should make us all proud and we should, in our various spheres, say it loud and proudly. But oh no, some just see evil and hear evil, even in the face of such outstanding achievements.
We are hard-pressed to emphasise where we have come from. Economic growth was hitherto negative, non-existent or negligible but we turned the corner. We are on track but we need to work even harder to not only preserve our gains but consolidate them. It is work in progress and we can only get drunk with euphoria at our peril.
When progress is made, and one looks back at what has been achieved, it naturally inspires and motivates one to keep going, knowing fully well that efforts are paying dividends. One then moves with greater confidence, energy, vitality and exuberance. Success does breed success. Greater progression is not just feasible but becomes the singular goal.
Agriculture is in ascendancy, despite some formidable challenges posed by environmental factors such as drought, rising temperatures, floods and carbon emissions.
The Pfumvudza/lntwasa concept has proven to be a panacea to our agricultural productivity challenges. It is designed to broaden and deepen climate-proofing agriculture. Conservation farming techniques are applied and appropriate agronomic practices implemented.
For the 2022/2023 agriculture season, 1,5 million households have completed training on the concept while over 800 000 have already finished holing as confirmed by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development chief director for Agriculture Advisory Services, Professor Obert Jiri. He noted that more traditional grains were being distributed in drier regions as they are drought-resistant.
Food security has been prioritised by the Government and the efforts are bearing fruit, with easily discernible evidence of this. No one can take away such progress nor can it be ignored.
The introduction of the Zimbabwe dollar was prudent, however contentious the issue was at the beginning. It was quite easy for some to call for the use of the US dollar as the anchor currency. Arguments were made around its stability and the preferred vehicle as a store of value. More vociferous arguments were advanced to the effect that our fundamentals were not in place.
Prices of goods and services were spiralling out of control, inducing dire circumstances to the larger populace. Speculative tendencies and unsustainable arbitrage were the order of the day until recently. Fiscal and monetary authorities intervened. The introduction of gold coins as a store of value has had the desired effects, diminishing the fixation on the US dollar.
Furthermore, the directive for all Government ministries, departments and agencies to collect levies and fees in local currency except in specified instances, has increased use of the local currency. In fact, the local currency is now in demand and it is not uncommon for people to now search high and low for it.
Furthermore, the Government got tough on suppliers and contractors through tightening payment controls. Advance payments have been discouraged, if not entirely cancelled. Indeed, prices have been put under the microscope as some were charging as much as five to 10 times the market prices.
We commend the Financial Intelligence Unit for a continued clampdown to flush out pockets of resistance. Owing to the general stability obtaining in the market, month-on-month inflation dropped to 12,4 percent in August from 25,6 percent in July.
This is evidenced on the ground. For example, the price of cooking oil is now ranging from $ 2 999 to $3 199 depending on the shop, down from the previous $3 999. Sugar (2kg) has been reduced to $1579,99 from $1 749,99.
The Government is continually improving our education system. The President just this past week announced the progressive introduction of universal and compulsory free basic primary education as from next year.
Salaries for civil servants are constantly being reviewed in keeping with realities on the ground. Civil servants’ foreign currency component has been increased to US$200, with the remainder being in local currency, as announced just a few days ago. This is a step in the right direction. It should be noted that previously, over 90 percent of the budget was consumed by recurrent expenditure, mainly salaries for civil servants, and this evidently was not sustainable. There was a compelling need to cater for productive purposes, as well as social support ones. A delicate balance has to be struck. Notable progress is being made in addressing civil servants’ welfare issues, in the face of compelling and competing considerations.
In the health sector, equipment, medicines and medical staff issues continue to be addressed with increasing budget allocations. It is noteworthy, for example, that ZimStat revealed a few days ago that the latest figures (2022) indicate a 63 percent decline in maternity mortality.
This is encouraging, as most African countries are encumbered by tragic maternity deaths. The number of current deaths is still far off the mark as noted by UNICEF to reach 0 percent maternity mortality by 2030, but tangible progress is being made.
All this is happening despite the country being under biting sanctions. The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Professor Alena Douhan, compiled a report indicting the United States and other Western countries for imposing illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe.
She noted that sanctions targeted entities in the productive sectors of the economy, including mining, manufacturing, tourism and agriculture “which made it challenging for Zimbabwe to rely on its trade and industry to promote growth”. Just in the first decade, our trade balance plummeted to -23 percent in 2010. A trade surplus was last registered in 2000 at $155 million, which represented approximately 74 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
There is no denying the deleterious effects of sanctions. We commend the UN Rapporteur and other Heads of State and Government who called their removal at the United Nations General Assembly a few days ago. Strive Masiyiwa, the pre-eminent Zimbabwean entrepreneur with global clout and recognition, also joined the calls to end sanctions two years ago.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last week again boldly told American President Joe Biden to lift sanctions imposed on this country.
So then, we have made undeniable and unstinting progress on many fronts. We have transcended seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We have soldiered on despite some odds heavily stacked against us.
All this must entail pride and passion for one’s country. It shows us we have the capacity to achieve even more, as our circumstances clearly demand. Zimbabwe is on the right path, as the foregoing attest. We cannot let some whimsical, unfounded and manifestly biased assertions steal our thunder.
Granted, there is much to be done and we are not under any illusions about it. It has been repeated ad infinitum by the powers that be. It has been said that it is not so much where one is that matters, but the direction one is headed. On this score, we are doing fine, very fine.
There should be support for Government strategies, policies and interventions. There should be acknowledgement for progress made. It is inexplicable how others just choose to see no good, hear no good and speak no good. It is akin to cutting the nose to spite the face!
In God I trust!