Targeting the poor, ED’s policy since day 1!

Arrival of President Emmerson Mnangagwa on a hired private jet at Lanseria Airport ahead of the SADC Solidarity Conference with Western Sahara. (Photos: DIRCO)

Taxing the poor to death, evictions from ancestral lands, hunting vendors with guns and sjamboks, houses demolitions and unjustified lockdown measures, it seems as if the “new dispensation” is set to make the poor vanish from the face of earth be it as a matter of written policy or otherwise.

Since day one of ED Mnangagwa’s presidency in all his policy inconsistencies and unthought through ideas, the man has been true to one thing, fixing the poor not the problem.

Mnangagwa’s flowery reform rhetoric during the early days of his presidency did not match with his administration’s actions. From the regressive 2% Intermediated Money Transfer Tax (IMTT) to a botched up COVID-19 response let’s take a loot at some of the few policy actions the government took with a sole purpose of pressing the poor.

Robbing through tax

In October 2018, the Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube illegally introduced a 2% tax on all electronic financial transactions as part of the government’s Transitional Stabilisation Programme (STP) as he launch a raft of measures to stabilize the economy. (The high court later ruled that it was illegal by the time it was imposed.)

As expected the decision had ripple effects as it led to the skyrocketing of prices in both goods and services as the market responded to the new measures in order to stay afloat.

The poor shouldered the most because after all they were the ones who were using mobile money since most of them were not integrated in the mainstream banking system. Since that tax was flat it took a higher percentage of income on the poor than on high-income earners, people have highlighted this then but no one listens.

Policy experiments

Ever since he took over from his mentor Mnangagwa’s government through the Reserve Bank and the Ministry of Finance have been experimenting policy measures in real life with little or no regard of the consequences.

The ban on the official use of the US dollar and other international currencies and subsequent policy reversal, the ban of mobile money and restrictions on publication of official inflation figures were some of the experiments which were conducted live and all these policy experiments have hurt citizens especially the poor.

The ban on foreign currency and the rapid devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar saw some working people earning less than USD 20 in a month, food prices become out of reach for many. When the government finally saw the policy failures it reversed the policy with not compensation or apology to those affected.

Demolitions

In 2020’s rain season Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing asked the Council to comply with a Cabinet resolution to demolish illegal structures with no compensation for the people who have either been duped by land barron’s or have acquired land on what is now deemed Sb illegal place.

This legalistic approach which dehumanises people shows how the government views citizens. The rights if citizens to decent shelter and other protections should be a priority for the government however the Mnangagwa government has been taking this legalistic approaches to policy with no consultation or human rights or needs considerations.

Evictions

Against popular outcries, the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa attempted to remove Black Zimbabweans from the land in Chilonga to make room for a white-owned dairy farm.

Weeks later villagers in Hwange and Binga districts in Matabeleland North woke up to the news that they are facing eviction from their ancestral homes to pave way for Chinese mining projects.

Even though public outcry sometimes halts these evictions two things remain. 1) the government’s order of priorities shows a total disregard of citizens’s interests and aspirations and 2) these communities will constantly live in fear of evictions as long as the motivations of their evictions remain and in the two cases above the need to give a dairy farmer the land and mining interests for the later.

These projects are designed to benefit the rich and well off members of the society, the poor are just out through all this for the benefit of the people not even from their community.

Targeting the informal market

A man is arrested by police officers after resisting orders to vacate a vegetable market area in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, March 31, 2020, on the second day of a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Zimbabwe’s informal workforce, which comprises 85% of the country’s total number of workers, has been struggling even before the COVID-19 pandemic, raft measures to prevent the spreading of the virus were a shot on the arm for many in the informal sector who depend on their daily work for survival.

The Mnangagwa government copied countries like China who only confine small portions of their populations and global north countries who afforded billions in cushioning their citizens from the effects of lost income. Without consultation the government imposed strict, military enforced lockdowns with little or no regard for the people whose livelihoods depend on informal hand to mouth economy.

The fate of the ZW$ 300 monthly payments proposed as safety nets to help the poor is not known to this day. At the end of July 2020, the finance ministry said that about 250,000 people were benefiting from the programme however several investigations have found no one who have benefited from the programme.

Without safety nets people were left with no option but to find ways to business during the lockdown but the government decided to unleash the police and the military on people trying to feed their families this has shown disregard for the poor to say the least.

The Commuter Omnibus ban

In the pretext of fighting COVID-19 the Mnangagwa government banned all private commuter omnibuses popularly known as kombis from operating and has given a chance to owners to register their vehicles for them to operate under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) franchise as a matter of written policy.

Questions of how committing workers will travel or how young people employed in the sector will sustain their lives were never asked. And as government controlled ZUPCO busses choke with high volumes of traffic, people are spending hours waiting for transport wasting valuable time.

At the same time few transport operators out of desperation attempt to operate risking jail time, injury or death on the hands of the police who have adopted a tendency of smashing vehicle windscreens.

For the commuting public the ban is negative and so it is to transport operators but for the government which rarely listens to its people they are not seeing anything wrong with that.

A Looter Continua!

Corruption even though it is not a matter of written policy has been part of the Mnangagwa’s government since it’s inception, lack of accountability for those accused of corruption and lack of seriousness in pursuing allegations of corruption is an indictment on a government which was set with an agenda to get rid of corruption.

It is evident that corruption is not a priority for the Mnangagwa government, everyone accused of corruption is out either on bail or their charges dismissed and those accused of mobilising against corruption are either in prison or are threatened by the state to an extent that they cannot have a good night sleep.

Corruption is paid for by the poor Pope Francis once said, in this case the poor are paying for the corruption their government is either ignores or promotes.

The solution!

There is a solution for everything, a silver bullet the Mnangagwa government doesn’t want to swallow, as soon as it decide to engage democratically and responsibly with the citizenry the sooner they will open spaces for dialogue with the wider society, the more they will grasp reality and work to address key problems faced by the silent or rather silenced majority, the poor.

Suggest more solutions in the comment box below

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[Development Professional, MSc Development Economics, Rural Development]

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