HARARE – If there is one thing our leaders are masters of, it is the blame game.
They will always craft ways of explaining the cause of a problem, rather than come up with pragmatic, long-term solutions.
For a long time, President Robert Mugabe’s government has blamed sanctions, Western forces et al for the myriad problems faced by the nation.
The sanctions mantra seems to have been shelved for now, though.
But for some time now, the new chorus that bond notes are being externalised has been getting louder.
Word has been doing rounds in the corridors of power, with authorities desperately attempting to explain why the bond notes — a surrogate currency valued at par with the United States dollar — are also vanishing from circulation, instead of them actually easing the cash crisis, as promised by the monetary authorities.
On the contrary, the cash crisis is deepening, with the stubborn bank queues getting even longer.
In their explanation of the escalating liquidity challenges, the authorities have blamed externalisation and accused some elements, including businesses, of skirting the banking system.
Just last week, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa told the National Assembly that: “The practice by some traders, including foreigners operating within the reserved sectors of the economy, to operate without banking accounts is unethical business practice that should not be tolerated in this country.”
“Non-banking of cash by such unscrupulous traders has a haemorrhaging effect on the circulation of money in the economy,” he added.
Well and fine, those ill-practices could be contributing to the problem, but it’s quite difficult to buy that as the major cause of the cash crisis.
This is not the first time Zimbabweans are experiencing the terrible and painful cash shortages.
Long-suffering Zimbabweans, who lost their hard-earned money to hyperinflation, have simply been taken back to the dreaded period of 2007-8.
And since then, those painful experiences have made Zimbabweans lose trust in the system, particularly the banks.
That lack of trust and confidence is the same reason why today’s cash shortages are difficult to curb.
And government must regain that trust.
That’s where the problem lies, not the externalisation blame game government is playing.
To also prove that government enjoys playing the game, rather than address the root cause, is the issue of imports.
As local manufacturers faced decimation, government began pointing fingers at the affordable and competitive imports for the industry’s demise.
The authorities went to the extent of banning imports — through the Statutory Instrument (SI) 64 — in a desperate effort to save the local manufacturers.
Though it might have had positive effect, the protectionist measure might have worked in saving the struggling local industry, the manufacturers did not get where they are — operating at way below capacity while scores others shut down — because of imports.
No. Imports have always been there.
They are not the root cause of the problem.
Misgovernance, bad policies, lack of accountability and gross mismanagement — the list is endless — are the reasons why Zimbabwe faces the abyss.
And playing the blame game, coupled with the introduction of stopgap measures – bond notes and SI64 – is not and will never be the solution to Zimbabwe’s problems.
There is urgent need for the authorities to regain the people’s trust, implement sound long term policies and above all, political will.