R>BY ITAI DZAMARA
The long rope is firmly in the hands of the Zanu (PF) regime and all eyes are fixed on President Robert Mugabe and his colleagues to see how they can extricate the nation from the quagmire. In central Harare, a supermarket almost empty, next to it three shops in a row with doors closed and various notices and followed by a Bata shop with smashed windows but virtually deserted.
In the industrial sites, hundreds of factories and companies are closing or drastically scaling down.
These are the signs of the ongoing war by the Zanu (PF) government against manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers over pricing modules.
How many doors currently closed and with all sorts of notices ranging from claims of stock-taking, going on leave and so forth are going to reopen? How can the empty shelves be filled again? The spotlight is on government.
Mugabe and his ministers have been threatening, rather than promising, to take over or “nationalize” all those businesses that close in response to the price freeze.
“That is mere rhetoric,” MDC (Tsvangirai) secretary general Tendai Biti said. “There is no way a broke regime can take over all the business it has forced into oblivion. Is there anything they have taken over since the closures started?”
Industry and International Trade Minister Obert Mpofu last week claimed that government had put aside huge amounts of funds for back-up. He told The Zimbabwean that the regime still believes it can handle the situation.
“We have measures in place to avoid deliberate efforts at destroying the economy and we will move in to ensure the continuous supply of commodities to the people,” he said. Mpofu’s remarks showed that the government either lags behind events or deliberately ignores the reality on the ground for its own convenience. He speaks as if things are still under control but industrialists say that initial statistics show closures of 40% of all industries during the past three weeks, while hundreds of thousands of workers have already been laid off.
Independent economist, John Robertson says there is no way the country can recover from this devastating setback. “The economy is in real turmoil and the situation has worsened beyond any redemption under this government and its policies,” he said.
“This is utter chaos,” a supermarket owner in Harare said. “We have closed two of our branches and only one is still open but only for this week because we cannot manage. We wonder and wait with suspicion to see how they (government) will take over and provide to the people.”
The Zanu (PF) regime, for all its bravado and arrogance in claiming it has the capacity to take over all closing businesses, is grappling with bankruptcy and should have closed shop itself had it not been for the printing of money to fund its activities. But it cannot buy vitals such as fuel, drugs, electricity, water treating chemicals and spare parts.
Virtually all the parastatals have either collapsed or are totally unviable, despite having in most cases inherited operational infrastructure and equipment from the colonial regime as well as drawing massively from the national fiscus since Independence.
captions: a023 and 007- Empty shelves at two major supermarkets, one in
Harare and one in Bulawayo, two weeks ago.