Bury Everyone In Your Path: The Zimbabwean Theory

Now, this is a full-on rant. I am honestly disappointed with the way that we as Zimbabweans have been behaving. I think this is something that has plagued our nature for the last two decades. Now bear with me as I am generalizing a lot. Not all Zimbabweans who are here exhibit the behavior, but the lack of social justice warriors is making life difficult for all of us.

There was a bit of noise made on the internet about social justice keyboard warriors. These are people who easily get annoyed by something they see and they stick it on some form of social media and express their unhappiness with a situation. My problem with social justice keyboard warriors is that they will complain from the comfort of their homes where they have all the things they need. Most of the time they are speaking so that they are known to complain about things that do not really affect them.

20190621_171900
No place like home

I had a period as a social justice keyboard warrior, however, I tried to proffer solutions or advice, better yet I always try to disseminate information to my friends and anyone else bored enough to read my blogs and follow my tweets. As time went on, I started to realize that there are some things that my fellow citizens of this country need to know about.

So for those that do not know, the last 18 months in Zimbabwe has been an interesting journey. Zimbabweans do not want to realize this, but for the last two to two and a half decades we have been living a false life. The prices of goods and services have not been realistic as we haven’t had our own currency for the longest time, and when we were using the US Dollar, prices of goods and services were still incorrectly priced. Most Zimbabweans do not even know the true value of a US Dollar. I remember at one stage, a beer was USD$1, a loaf of bread was also USD$1 and a ride on public transport was also USD$1 from certain parts of Harare to the city center. How in the world are these three very different products and services the same price when they have different factors associated with their individual price breakdown.

img_20180424_130659_688

As a result, there have been strange things going on around the pricing of goods. To give you an example, there a sports club that I used to frequent. A shot of gin is cheaper than a can of tonic water. In fact, the tonic water costs twice the cost of one shot of gin. How does that even make sense?

So we now have a situation where suppliers of goods and services are profiteering from the struggling Zimbabwean. I appreciate that if an entity is in business, then their aim is to make a profit. I do not have that much of a problem with service providers charging ridiculous amounts of money for their services and goods. Competition (or what little of it there is in the Zimbabwean business landscape) dictates that eventually, those guys will reduce their prices because their products will move slowly as the consumer becomes wiser about their spending habits and looks for a better deal. Also if I feel that I am being ripped off by a supplier, I will find another supplier who provides a similar product at a price I am willing to pay.

The real problem I have is with the individuals in this country who are screwing the system and then screwing their fellow Zimbabweans. Of late there have been stories floating around about how Zimbabweans are making life difficult for each other. There is an Engen service station which I drive past on my way to work every day on Harare Drive. I recall about a week or so ago, as I was driving to work I saw a short fuel queue. I joined it and when I was at the front of the queue, I took out my bank card to pay before they put fuel in my car. They advised me that all payment platforms were down and that they were only accepting cash. I thought nothing of it, drove off and was annoyed for a little bit, but decided that I would have to find another service station. I didn’t think to ask to see the point of sale machines to verify.

Photo0590
Somewhere in the Eastern Highlands

“I am not surprised the system is down. It’s so old and needs a lot of upgrading. It is not uncommon for the network to drop.” I said to myself. However a few days later my cousin then advised me of the same situation at another service station, except there were guys walking through the queue SELLING cash to people who wanted to buy fuel at a 30% premium. So basically if you wanted to put ZWL$100 you would have to transfer ZWL$130. What annoyed me, even more, when I heard this story was that the guys selling the money worked for the service station. Like what the fuck guys? So you BUY cash at a premium and then buy fuel from the same establishment. These guys were basically making money on both sides with no regard that the situation that ALL Zimbabweans are in. It’s not my fault I don’t have cash on me. In fact, the system was broken by individuals who were hoarding cash and as a result, the Banks had no cash to give customers because of the lack of deposits of physical cash. So why am I being punished when I go to the service station to buy a product using one of the legal tenders, only to be lied to and taken advantage of simply because I don’t have access to cash? This isn’t profiteering. This is straight-up robbery.

_DSC0142
Somewhere in the Eastern Highlands

The fact that we do not have the ability to truly show some sense of compassion is the downfall of this beautiful nation of ours. I feel annoyed when foreigners say that Zimbabweans are the nicest people in the world. We are nice to visitors yet we treat each other like dog vomit. It makes no sense to me. The fact is that we have a LONG way to go as a nation. We have serious mindset issues that need to be addressed and changed, and we have to HONESTLY have some national pride.

For the longest time, Zimbabweans have made the fight between us and the ruling government without realizing that in the background we are fighting with each other at such a base level. We are the sum of all our problems and the solution to those problems. I am proud to be Zimbabwean but also ashamed at the same time. The dodgy deals that the government get up to are no excuses for us to do the same to each other.

Photo0538
Chinhoyi Caves

Zimbabwe belongs to the people who were born in this country, and those who have lived here for so long that they know no other home. It doesn’t belong to a select group of people. It belongs to you and me. The citizens of this country. If there is rubbish everywhere its because we as a people do not care about the environment. It is our responsibility to ensure a future for the generations that are coming, otherwise, we will always be remembered as the generation(s) that let a beautiful thing die. Once we start to plan for the future properly, we will see a light at the end of the tunnel. Until then, Zimbabweans need to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if what they are doing is benefiting the bigger picture or is it just blatant greed with the disregard for everything else.

Let’s do better as Zimbabweans.

zw

 

 

Advertisements

MISPLACED ANGER: A SHORT ZIMBABWEAN STORY

misguided anger

So lately Zimbabweans have been expressing a great deal of anger towards the current situations in the country. Now let us all bear in mind that there are a myriad of problems bedeviling this tiny country of mine. As time has gone on, it seems like it is a preferred position to always be angry about everything. There is a lack of positive attitude in our people.

human-evolution-five-stag_5795db436848f-p
Zimbabweans should be at the last stage of formalisation but many prefer the brute strength technique

As a people, we feel that the government should be doing better, and we are suffering from an extreme lack of confidence in what they are doing. Confidence is not something that we will find overnight in the government or any government for that matter. I think that the world has changed a lot in the last decade. Believe it or not, we as a nation have also changed in some aspects, and in other aspects, we have not changed at all.

Zimbabweans in supermarkets be like this regardless of the price

We have become stuck on stupid because of the time we spent using the US Dollar such that we don’t know how much USD$1 ACTUALLY costs, there are some who truly believe that the USD is the currency we should still be using, yet all of the information points to that being one of the reasons why Zimbabwe is in the situation we are in now. We as a nation of consumers are only waking up slowly to the fact that there were retailers who were profiteering off us, yet we did not do anything other than misdirecting our anger.

a7319b57-3795-47d9-b728-d05c8e814555
This butter must be amazing to be this price!!!

I do not intend on discussing my position of the recent SI142 as that requires it’s own separate blog, however when the government imposed the statutory instrument of SI142, Zimbabwean’s collectively lost their damn minds. Everyone was up in arms and were hurling obscenities about the government and what they were planning on doing. No one looked at the root causes of the problem.

F759B8CC-0314-47C3-B991-4EDDBFFC4AD1
This was a local supermarket near where I live during the madness

The way I see it there are two problems (among many) that we were dealing with. The first is legacy issues. We cannot deny that the current government’s current problems are because of the previous mismanagement. Then there was the behavior of industry during this time of confusion. Industry was putting up their prices in some of their establishments faster than the exchange rate between the USD and the Zimbabwean Dollar. Now they needed foreign currency to import some of the things that they were importing and couldn’t access it from the banks, so they went to the parallel market to find that foreign currency. They bought expensive USD, and they passed on the cost to the consumers. At the same time, we had other shady individuals speculating on the exchange rate and helping to push up the rate, we also had individuals or possibly even organizations that were going and taking loans and going to the parallel market and buying and selling USD. This resulted in most prices in most establishments rising in some instances on a daily basis. Zol (my internet service provider) increased the cost of their capped package from $87 to $97 to $185 in the space of three months.

5c750d34-ac17-40ba-a63a-9c771671ab8b
A restaurant in Harare during the days of madness

Now, while all of this was going on, most people directed their anger DIRECTLY at the government to arrest the situation. I am not going to say that there weren’t ANY elements in the government who weren’t involved because I suspect that there were some members of the government, at different levels, who had their fingers in the pie also. At the end of the day, there were no innocent people. Instead of taking the retailers (who we keep in operation and give money to almost on a daily basis) to task for their behavior, boycotting certain retailers for their profiteering manner, or advising our fellow citizens of where to get the best deal, we continued throwing our money at the retailers, and complaining that it was the government’s fault. Yes, they are implicit, but they aren’t the ONLY people to blame.

d3b5e584-fd3f-441d-9eab-d8618b75b01c
Another local supermarket in Harare during the madness

With prices like those Zimbabweans were like:

take my money

Recently, Paynet, which is (to my understanding) provides an IT solution to banks and other organizations to assist with the processing of salaries efficiently between the employer’s bank and the employee’s bank. I assume they own the license for the platform or they are a licensed dealer. So they had a contract or arrangement with most the private banks that their services would be paid in a particular currency which the banks agreed to. However recently, it turns out that the banks knew in advance that they owed Paynet money, and basically refused to pay the monies owed. This resulted in Paynet (rightly so in my opinion) suspending their services to the banks. Paynet fully explained where the bottleneck was and highlighted that it was not their fault. The customers owed money and services would be suspended up until the debt was cleared. Well didn’t the angry Zimbabwean come out baying for Paynet’s vital organs? What did Paynet do wrong? They are in business and are not a charity. They have salaries to pay, taxes, licenses and other obligations that we as citizens know nothing about. How do you keep on operating a business when your customers aren’t paying? Do you let yourself sink and keep the customers happy but not your employees?

 

Another example is the issue with some of the services that we receive from our local councils. There are some services that they struggle to provide because the overall infrastructure is so ancient. So most people do not receive council water to their houses (My parents haven’t received council water at their house since I was in primary school) and as far as I am concerned, it is not ONLY due to council’s ineptness (because we can’t discount that), but there are infrastructure deficiencies among other things. We are supposed to have trucks driving around collecting our trash. To my knowledge, the last time that my trash was collected was probably 2-3 months ago now, but at the same time, we have reports that the council bought iPads worth $23,000.00. Instead of us as the people demanding local government (councils, district offices) to be more accountable, we find it easier to blame the ruling government. We should be upset with the local government for going and splurging taxpayers money on such. Some people may chime in and say “Well people aren’t paying their rates so can you blame them for not coming to collect your trash”. I can’t blame them if they do not have the resources to collect our trash because people aren’t paying their rates. Don’t go and then spend money on iPads as an excuse.

maxresdefault
Zimbabweans having a friendly debate

We have to complete our evolution as a people. We have all being through some trials and tribulations. Some more than others. Some went to school with people who lost family members during the land redistribution that happened, others lost family as a result of the cholera outbreak, and some have lost friends and family due to the inability to cope with the situations they are trying to manage and what feels like a constantly shifting playing field. At the end of the day, we are ALL Zimbabweans whether we like it or not. Unless we start to change our mindsets, our behavior won’t change. Other people say we are the nicest people possibly in the world and I agree, but only to other people. To each other, we still behave as though it is a Mortal Kombat Tournament. You can tell by the way that people are quick to pick an argument as opposed to having a discussion and potentially learning something new, even the way that people drive on the roads without any regard for anyone else. We as the PEOPLE are the ones with the potential. We can’t even trust each other to do business together because everyone is trying to get on over the next person. The sum of us is greater together than us individually.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear” – George Orwell

 

I Cry For Home Part. 1

I hate talking about my country when I have nothing good to say. I used to actively avoid it. The last few weeks has shown me that I have probably been doing it all wrong. I had a long conversation with a friend of mine last night and there were a few things that made me upset, made me laugh and angry all at the same time. Oh yes and also confused.

Now there are a lot of issues that I want to cover and to make it easier to read I am going to split them up into a few blogs.

In any country that you live in that has a reasonably civilised government (I cannot call the current government of Zimbabwe civilised but that’s my own opinion), you can kind of see the method to their madness, they will tell you stories that are 80% true because they don’t want to burden the citizens with the truth. I think that’s better than what my government has been doing since they came into power under what I consider to be dubious circumstances on my birthday in 2017.

I am not even too sure where to start. What honestly pains me is to see how far we as a people in Zimbabwe have gone in the same direction that our “leaders” have gone in. The moral fabric that we have left in us is worrying in my opinion. We have gotten to a dog eat dog world. The levels of profiteering are beyond me. It seems that we look at the government and we are basically copying them. In some instances, I think it is justified. There are some costs that need to be passed down the line to consumers, while there are others that could be passed along more gently by retailers/service providers coming together to discuss how to manage the situation. A simple example is when the government waited until the middle of the night on a weekend to announce that the price of fuel was going up by 150%. First of all, this was a dick move because this was done in the middle of the night. In fact, a friend of mine had spent the whole day in a fuel queue, only to get to the pump just after midnight (the price hike came into effect at midnight) and was horrified to be advised that the price was $3.31 per litre of petrol. The additional $2 that was added by the government is a tax. So we have the 2% transaction tax, we have a $2 tax on fuel, we have a carbon tax…. Like what the fuck? Now we can debate whether it was right, legal or necessary another time. The fact is, fuel had to go up as it was much cheaper than the region.

The downstream effect of increasing the cost of fuel doesn’t seem like it was looked at properly. Public transport in this country is run by private individuals. Those individuals immediately increased the fares in response to the price hike. Now, this is where I feel that they could have handled the situation a little better. In a civilised country they would have come together, discussed the fuel hike, done their calculations and then possibly raised the issue with the relevant ministery to advise them about their position. The problem is, the government doesn’t regulate the public transportation guys, and a lot of other industries I might add, very well. In fact, with these public transport guys, they are essentially a law unto themselves. The government’s response is to engage private players (shock horror) to partner with the actual (defunct) public transport government parastatal. The government parastatal’s vehicles are all but grounded due to lack of maintenance and other issues.

As in their “best” practice, the government stitched up this deal without giving any details as to what was agreed between these private players and the government. The government is going to have to pay these guys for the service, and the government is going to get the money from us taxpayers, further eroding what little we earn as we will be taxed for it.

The result is that future generations are going to continue to bail out the government. They had a big drive that they said they were going with to reduce their domestic debt. At the same time, they have decided to increase their debt with this arrangement which they hastily put together. It had the desired effect of reducing the cost of transport that the cowboy private transporters. Some people are praising them for this move. I see it more as a reactionary knee jerk reaction that is going to come to a head soon and the position will still be the same.

I guess we have no other option but to simply accept what we are provided with by our government. It’s not living if we can’t find bread, fuel is frighteningly expensive, we don’t have basic services like cleaning drinking water from the taps and our roads are in a state that makes it a mission to drive around unless you have a car with high clearance. Living in this country is like being a prisoner in your own house. At the end of the day, this country does not belong to one person or an elite group of people. This country belongs to every single person born or raised here. It is our responsibility to do our best to ensure that future generations have a chance to make something of their lives. Zimbabwe was here before most of the people in this country, and after we leave it will still be here.

Let us change our mindsets about how we care for the environment, how we made it conducive for all to have a chance to be the best version of themselves, let’s change how we do business with each other, let’s move forward from the mindsets that we have been stuck in since I can remember. Our lack of togetherness about the vision we want for this country will always be our downfall. The vision isn’t some pie in the sky vision of having an underground running and high-speed trains. The vision needs to be practical and start to address the basic things that every human needs to start to survive in this crazy world we live in.

 

Backwards or Sideways

Happy 2019 to you all. It has been a very long time since I had a chance to blog. I feel bad because it is something that I enjoy doing but haven’t had a chance to do it in a while.

Things have gotten really wild at home in the last four or so months. There was a pronouncement that made no sense made by our Minister of Finance which resulted in people losing their collective minds and suddenly charging exorbitant prices for products. Of course, none of our salaries have been adjusted and we are collectively seeing our bums. Prices in most places have more than tripled, there have been a few companies who have successfully held the govt at ransom and succeeded, however, there have been civil servants who have tried to hold the govt at ransom (most of the reasons made sense, though one of them didn’t) and they failed. It is hard to understand when our junior doctors are on strike citing unsafe working conditions in the public hospitals (no surgical gloves, medicines to name a few) they are threatened with being replaced with other doctors who are aren’t working, but when a company that produces alcohol indicates that they are going to start charging for their alcohol in real currency, the govt backflips to assist their business but doesn’t seem to do the same for our doctors. Sure we can get into arguments about the Hippocratic oath that doctors make. However, if the working conditions are not safe, then one shouldn’t work.

This surely shows that we have misplaced priorities in this country. The misplaced priorities extend further than just the govt. We as a nation of people also have very misplaced priorities. We are all suffering in our own ways, but when I spoke to some people, they were more upset about the fact that this beer producer wanted to charge in hard currency and not in the funny money we have. They seemed to be unconcerned with the fact that the public hospitals were under-capacitated in terms of staff and tools. It almost feels as the though the govt decided that if we as a nation sober up to the actual plight that we are in, the nation would descend into madness. Well, we are already deep in the madness as it is.

Unfortunately, the hole that we are in as a nation is deeper than we realise. The fact is that we do not have the forex reserves to properly operate (The reasons why we have a shortage of forex is a debate for another day.). Everytime forex comes in (be it from tobacco or gold or the mythical diamonds that we have in this country), it is used to cover a gap. The earnings we receive shouldn’t only be used to bridge gaps otherwise that’s all we will spend our time doing. It means that there is no development happening in the various industries.

Sometimes I feel like the govt is like a student. When I was a student I used to live paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t earn much, but I knew that by the end of the second week of the month I was skint. What’s funny is that I actually had a specific attitude to the little money I would earn. I had two monthly expenses which I used to pay as soon as I got paid. I would pay for my monthly transport ticket (my justification was that now I could travel to university and work) and I would pay my monthly phone line rental (I could call people). After that, I would have one or two nights out with the boys and then I was screwed. I wouldn’t have money to buy myself anything nice or do anything other than going to the pub to watch football or going to a bar. For me, that was allowed because I was a student and I didn’t know any better. A govt can’t exhibit such behaviour. They aren’t a student… or are they?

Like it or not, there are many issues that need to be resolved if we are to ever go forward in this country. There are some issues that I won’t even go into because I have limited knowledge about some of the subject matters and they would need their own analysis. I do foresee the govt having a torrid time playing catch up with the private sector because they left the likes of public transport to the private sector, the setting up of the fibre network also to private players, they let a mobile money platform take over payment methods in this country without having any control over them, and the mobile network providers erect their towers around the country without having some control over it. Now before I get attacked for what seems like the singling out of a particular company, please bear in mind that these are just a few examples that came to my mind.

What is worse is that the govt has let the nation become ruled by service providers who do whatever they want, charge the prices they want to and there is no reprise for us as customers, all the while we are being to taxed to hell and back by the govt with their 2% tax. How can this be a conducive environment to live in. We have no real consumer protection other than the small groups that we have to set up ourselves. We have a crisis of confidence in the govt because they simply do what they like without consulting the people who it will affect. Sure, some may say that the govt doesn’t need to consult us and they can impose anything they like. However, buy-in from all stakeholders is required.

At the end of it all, we may say that we are in 2019 in Zimbabwe, but in reality, we are very far behind. I still believe that we require a few things if we are ever to call ourselves a proper nation:

  1. Accountability for everyone
  2. Transparency from those in positions of power
  3. The WILL to actually change the way that we have been doing things.

This year is going to be one hell of a ride. Ultimately all we can do is try and remain positive through it all, tighten the belts and be ready for anything. At the moment there is no crystal ball that can tell us where we are headed. The way I see it sideways seems to be the only direction that we are going in. Sideways might be me being optimistic. It may be a slow slide backwards