By Leopold Munhende
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa and his top lieutenants are all in the dark as to when their austerity measures will begin to bear fruit or at the very least differ on the period of pain citizens are supposed to bear.
This has been clear from their statements as they seek to pacify a restive citizenry pushed to the brink by a belt-tightening that seem to target the poor only.
At a time when ordinary Zimbabweans expect synchronized communication from their leader, Mnangagwa told his Zanu PF party’s politburo meeting last Wednesday that citizens should expect an easing of the suffering by year end.
“I am aware that our current austerity measures are causing some hardships to our people but this is necessary for us to have a stable and growing economy which is in sync with others in the region and elsewhere.
“So we must brace and endure the hardships…as I highlighted in the past, the situation will begin to get better by the end of the year,” said Mnangagwa.
It would have been reason from positive anticipation even if this was a blue lie but Mnangagwa’s declarations fly in the face of comments attributed to his austerity frontman, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube.
Ncube is supposed to be the technocrat, Mnangagwa’s go to man on economic matters and this is the expert, an economic mathematician who should have a better idea of how long the suffering will last.
Only to complicate matters by constantly changing and chopping his policy positions. Initially Ncube said the austerity measures will end in 2020, but less than a year into the project, the Treasury Chief seems to be easing up a bit and abandoning the programme altogether.
Mnangagwa and Ncube early this year said the country will have its own currency at least by the last quarter of 2019 or the end of the first quarter in 2020, but less than 24 hours after the President told an international television station while on a State visit to Mozambique, everything changed.
Ncube announced the country had abandoned the decade long multi-currency system dominated by the US dollar and a new currency had effectively been introduced with all domestic transactions now denominated in the local dollar.
This attracted a rebuke from industry leader Luxon Zembe.
“Only 24 hours before the coming in of the new currency, both you, the President Mnangagwa were saying that the new currency will come before the end of March next year but within a day you came with the new currency and by so doing, you are creating confusion and uncertainty and you are failing to recognise that we are business and businesses operate on a cycle where we plan based on policies,” said Zembe a former president of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo who is supposed to provide accurate information and data to investors as regards the country has not fared any better.
Moyo has his own version of when the austerity measures will last telling British think-tank two weeks ago: “The austerity measures will likely last for the next three years.”
It left citizens unsure on who they should trust.
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) which is supposed to be on the pulse as regards fuel prices has had to use social media to announce price changes.
One moment the authority will refuse there is no increase blaming social media for seeking to cause alarm in the market only to validate the claims hours later.
Few if any still trust Zera anyway and they are alone, Mnangagwa has to do better in his communication.