Financial low self-esteem and indiscipline traps Zimbabweans in perpetual poverty

I have always been amazed, if not dumbfounded, by the numerous motor vehicles on our country's roads, and the huge shopping that Zimbabweans seemingly are always engaged in - yet, the very same people complain of suffering due to the economic meltdown.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

The question that never ceases to torment me is: if the vast majority of us are suffering economically, how can we afford all those things?

Admittedly, Zimbabwe has been undergoing unprecedented economic turmoil for the past two decades – mainly due to the ruling ZANU PF’s gross incompetence and mismanagement – which has affected the vast majority of the population – but, are we not also to shoulder the blame for our own financial predicament?

Unfortunately, the answer is a big YES!

As much as the vast majority of Zimbabweans are suffering, our own financial indiscipline  can never be taken out of the equation.

With shocking statistics as at least 90% unemployment – with most of us being engaged in low-income informal sector employment – coupled by other factors, such as our products being the most expensive in the southern African region – how, in the world, can we afford to buy such luxuries?

My own conjecture would be that, as Zimbabweans, we have internalised own poverty to the extent that we now readily accept it – kujairira nhamo – and no longer view ourselves as capable of achieving any higher goals in life than buying cars, smartphones, clothes, and groceries.

As such, we have accepted being eternally broke, that we now have become so undisciplined, so as to live hand-to-mouth – even if tomorrow we will be back to being broke.

How else can one explain, working so hard – probably selling second-hand bhero clothes on the street, and grossing an average of US$20 a day – and yet, afford to pay US$100 for a child to go on a useless school trip?

We then embarrassingly whine and whinge that our children are failing in school because they have no textbooks!

Furthermore, after paying for that school trip, we are back to square one – dead broke, and awaiting more money.

This appears to me as if we have lost all self-esteem in ever being able to always have money in our pockets, and would rather just spend thoughtlessly and recklessly.

We no longer perceive ourselves saving every cent we get, with the intention of buying or building our own homes – that is why most of us who have the latest smartphone, or drive that cool Japanese-imported car, are still lodgers.

We have cast away any dreams of ever owning our own homes.

However, such an attitude is utterly inexcusable!

Our parents, who worked during Rhodesia, and the early post-independence Zimbabwe, obviously earned better than most of us do today.

However, they allowed themselves to dream big – really BIG!

That is why they did their best to save every penny they attained, as they never wasted money on such things, as we do today.

I can bet you that if our parents were still working today, they would rather save up for a house for their families – and would, as such, not waste it on meaningless expenditure.

We, indeed, did have a relatively comfortable upbringing, but they were never as prodigal as our generation.

Their big dreams gave them enough discipline and confidence to be financially savvy, such that they avoided wastage on trivial things, which they knew would curtail their ambitions.

Even during our school sporting activities, we were provided healthy, but basic food, such as buns, bananas, and milk – whereas, today, our children are lavishly splashed with expensive Chicken Inn!

What type of irresponsibility is that?

Truthfully, this attitude clearly shows that our own financial low self-esteem has creeped in, and we have lost any belief in our own abilities to achieve.

The current economic meltdown can never be an excuse, as the blame lies squarely with us.

Why would anyone be content with being a lodger for the rest of their life, yet can afford to eat out everyday, buy the latest smartphone, and import a car from Japan?

Why do we find it so hard to believe that we can actually still have relatively decent livelihoods, despite the current economic problems?

Why not use that cheap feature phone – kambudzi – and use the money that one would have used to buy a smartphone, to invest in a small business?

Why not walk to work – as most of us now work near our residences – whilst investing in building that house?

Have Zimbabweans fallen hook, line and sinker to useless consumerism – characterised by cheap offers, such as zero deposits on irrelevant products – such that, we would rather be driving around, yet be lodging in someone else’s house?

Needless to say, these ‘cheap offers’ are anything, but cheap – as the monthly payments required will inevitably amount to far much more than the initial cost.

Such indiscipline has easily been witnessed when some us were retrenched and awarded severance packages.

What did we do with them?

Each can answer that for themself, but I can tell you that most wasted it on useless things, as revelry, ‘smallhouses’, and the occasional sofa or two.

I remember some war veterans, after being awarded pensions and grants, in the mid-1990s, blew the money on such things as hiring a  whole bus to ferry one or two people!

Yet, the sage ones managed to invest wisely, and today – despite also feeling the pinch of the economic problems – are faring much better.

Zimbabweans have to be wary of this consumerist mentality, and cease looking down on their own abilities to invest, save and achieve great things – even from an income that may appear meager.

There are people in this country who are genuinely suffering, and I have great empathy for them – as they have not much options – but, quite frankly, some of us have only ourselves to blame for the magnitude of our predicament.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should you invite him to speak at any event or gathering. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975. Please note that his email is currently down, after being hacked.

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