Mugabe should have stayed at home


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ZIMBABWE – For most Zimbabweans, 2015 will rank among the worst in living memory after unprecedented job losses and deepening poverty. 

The economy continued on a downward spiral this year and the government appeared clueless on what needed to be done to put brakes to the collapse.

Thousands of workers lost their jobs in the aftermath of a July 17 Supreme Court ruling that gave employers the green light to cancel employee contracts on three months’ notice and without benefits.

Company closures continued to be the order of the day and more employers became increasingly unable to pay employees on time.

The government, which is the biggest employer, has been shifting pay dates because Treasury can no longer collect enough money on time to meet the State’s obligations.

Pensioners have been the hardest hit by the drying coffers as they went to Christmas without their November payments.

Only security forces were paid their December salaries, with some civil servants expected to be paid as late as next month.

The government has also been prevaricating about bonuses for civil servants amid indications the Finance ministry has no idea where it would get the money to pay the 13th cheque, which was due in November.

As if that was not enough, Zimbabwe is on the throes of a serious drought blamed on the El Nino weather phenomenon.

A responsible government would have by now rolled out a drought mitigation plan to prevent the loss of livestock on a massive scale and starvation, which has become a common occurrence in Zimbabwe.

However, it appears as if it is business as usual for President Robert Mugabe’s government.

The long-time ruler threw a lavish party for his under-performing Cabinet and hangers on last week before flying out to the Far East on a month-long holiday with his family.

Back home, Mugabe left the majority of citizens unsure whether their children would return to school next year because they have not been paid their December salaries.

Most Zimbabwean families were not able to celebrate Christmas this year, but Mugabe and his ministers have the temerity to party and go for holidays in faraway countries.

This happens in a year when Zimbabweans have been watching in awe as new Tanzanian leader John Magufuli has been bucking the trend of out-of-touch African leaders.

Tanzanians this year did not celebrate their independence anniversary because Magufuli felt that the money could be put to better use by the impoverished country.

Instead of speechifying about past glories as our leaders are wont to do on April 18 of every year, the newly-elected Tanzanian president spent the day cleaning the streets with ordinary people.

He has also moved in to drastically cut wasteful government expenditure, targeting unproductive foreign travel by his ministers.

Ghana appeared to take a cue from Magufuli last week when ministers were banned from flying first class.

According to reports, Mugabe had by September blown over $33,2 million on foreign trips in 2015 alone.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has set aside over $17 million for the president’s trips next year, an allocation that dwarfs that of several other key ministries in comparison.

The government cannot be asking ordinary people to tighten their belts when the president is clearly living beyond what the country can afford.

If he had the governed at heart, Mugabe would have spent his annual holiday at home this year and for once tried to sample local holiday resorts because of the calamitous situation Zimbabwe finds itself in.

He should have remained at home to show solidarity with long-suffering citizens and given direction to his government to deal with the multifaceted crisis affecting the country.

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