A SEJA’s view on the social and economic outlook for 2021

By Tinashe Muzama

First and foremost the year 2021 has been a pain for the ordinary Zimbabwean with the majority just getting by. The outlook has been a painful year, the economy has been deteriorating while the standards of living are even worse. To make matters worse Covid-19 has taken its toll both socially and economically. The coronavirus is exacerbating long-standing structural issues, and Zimbabwe’s economy will remain weak while poverty rates are high, despite headline economic growth in 2022. Power shortages are frequent, and present a risk to mining-led economic growth. Protests over shortages of essential goods, high levels of food insecurity and endemic corruption, as well as declining real wages amid high inflation, highlight the risk of wider political instability among others.

Moreover it is good to note that our society is now fully awake and now knows transparency and accountability and this is leading to the questioning of authority. People now have an idea of what they want for their livelihoods, for their social justice. People are activated and are pointing at culprits that seek to disturb their fundamental needs. Public Services are being identified fairly and people have the knowledge on their rights and obligations. Increase in cases of drug abuse, robberies (armed), high mortality are the order of the day. The Social environment wasn’t/ isn’t conducive for many youths. A lot of anti-social behavior has been caused by a lot of factors. The anti-social behaviors are; Drug abuse, early child marriages, school dropouts to mention but a few mainly being the effects of the novel coronavirus which led to the lockdown. There is not much to celebrate on especially on the social aspect in regard of the Abuja declaration, the national budget did not attempt to match the 15% and the allocation was never effective to such an extent the health system started detiorating. The social protection levels are an insult to the marginalized and less privileged.

Furthermore Zimbabwe is still facing inflammation coupled by poor pay outs for most workers. Corruption is still up especially in the mining sector where directly or indirectly costs that come out of mining caused homesteads displacement and pollution are paid by the already financially incapable citizens. Foreign Debt still shrinks the pockets of the citizens. The 2000rtgs withdrawal in banks still seems unfair as it is little for many. Some people with companies are still evading tax payment while this is highest in mining and other illegal activities like Mabhero and that tax is being paid for by citizens. Instead of using the tax (public funds) correctly, unscrupulous deals happen in our beloved country. There is no job creation as promised.

The year 2021 is still a challenging year to many citizens and also we had a high rise in corruption that is the national index of the price and income which was different; education financing a lot of money went to the curatorial service and upgrading of schools to meet the global pandemic standards where difficult. Zimbabwe is plunging in debt and the government has marginalized young people. Young people where heavily affected by Covid 19. Economic wise, lack of employment caused an embarkment on informal ways of getting money which again led to a lot of corrupt activities….In short, the economic outlook of is hectic, traumatic mostly to the youths especially on the basis of survival and ways to make ends meet.

The main problem that we have is currency to such an extent that duty, fuel, etc charged in USD yet people earning bond, so how then can the government create confidence in public when they are not accepting bond themselves. Similarly government should pay salaries and bonuses in USD if all essentials are pegged at forex. The reason why it’s like this is because it creates conducive conditions for a looting spree. Remember we tried banning forex transactions and it didn’t work. There’s a need to dignify the ZWL not print too much of it, pay taxes in ZWL, print proper notes that show permanence of value (ZAR200 note was printed in 1994, South African can commit to it) you do this before you say ZWL is the sole currency. In fact people will switch to it naturally if it is treated with dignity and I humbly associate myself with this syllogism currently being touted by the business community.

To make matters worse Mthuli forecasts a 7.5% growth, yet the budget does not support that. It’s an extractive budget where government wants to tax the poor more, eg the $50 phone tax and sets 30000 which below the PDL as tax free threshold. No new industry of note apart from some over hyped Chinese mining companies like the one in Mvuma otherwise youths will continue to be jobless. Inflation may rise especially if there is poor rains. Basically the fiscal and monetary conditions will not improve. 2022 is an electioneering year especially beginning April (independence month) where Zanu PF is expected to get itself into full election mode preparing for 2023 elections. This means social upheaval and social conditions will deteriorate markedly. Repression will be order of the day, abuse of women and youths will increase. Public goods will be accessed on partisan political lines. Autocracy and neo patrimonialism will be order of the day. Public offices will be weakened and rule of law will definitely suffer as Zanu PF agitators will enjoy impunity.

At this juncture, a lot has happened, but a lot more is coming in 2022. It’s unfortunate to know there is the PVOs Bill, it’s kind of crippling. As always, there was no clarity and policy implementation is always our challenge. We are at the risk of confusion in the meantime and going forward. Let’s Exercise our rights by demanding government to own up to its social welfare responsibility despite the major problem in Zimbabwe being the state and its reactionary which only takes into consideration the needs of the few. Our major job should be how do we make it more about the people not politics and how do we demand for better in way that will force them to listen.

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