Angry Mnangagwa lashes 'unpatriotic and inhumane' forces

Angry Mnangagwa lashes 'unpatriotic and inhumane' forces
Published: 19 April 2019 (235 Views)
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday accused some businesses of being "unpatriotic and inhumane" following the recent sharp hikes in the prices of basic consumer goods around the country.

At the same time, the irate 76-year-old Zanu PF leader made an impassioned plea to long-suffering Zimbabweans to bear with the government as it moved "to address distortions" in all sectors of the economy.

Addressing thousands of Zimbabweans at the National Sports Stadium who braved the heavy rains which pounded the capital yesterday, Mnangagwa also said that his government had the capacity to address the country's worsening economic challenges.

"The introduction of a market-based foreign exchange rate system is expected to stabilise the economy in the long run. However, government is alarmed by the recent wanton and indiscriminate increases of prices which have brought untold suffering to the people.

"This conduct by stakeholders in business, industry and commerce is inhumane, unethical, unpatriotic and goes against the grain of economic dialogue which the Second Republic has espoused.

"Government remains determined to restore the purchasing power of all workers," the miffed Mnangagwa told the gathered crowds at the rain-swept stadium.

In February, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) introduced the RTGS dollar when it unveiled its Monetary Policy Statement which sought to breathe new life into the economy.

However, the RTGS dollar - which opened trading at 2,5 against the US dollar - has since lost its value sharply, with the interbank market battling to attract money.

In particular, forex parallel markets have shot to more than RTGS$5 to the greenback, amid indications that the situation could get worse soon.

As a result, manufacturers and retailers have sharply increased the prices of basic consumer goods, in response to the premium rates obtaining on the thriving parallel market.

However, Mnangagwa promised yesterday that he would cushion hard-pressed workers and ordinary citizens, by stimulating economic activity in the country.

"My government remains committed to addressing distortions in all sectors of the economy. We have made an upward review of the producer prices of maize, soya beans, wheat and cotton. Wheat supplies are set to improve, while the establishment of small-scale bakeries will be facilitated to enhance more affordable bread prices.

"The setting up of Silo Foods company will further see increased availability and affordability of many basic commodities throughout the country," Mnangagwa told the crowds.

This comes as Zimbabweans are witnessing the daily skyrocketing of prices of basic consumer goods in the country.

Apart from these steep increases, many private schools have also announced sharp hikes in their fees, further piling on the stress on already hard-pressed parents - especially those earning their salaries in RTGS dollars which have been seriously eroded by inflation which officially stands at a staggering 66,38 percent.

The price increases come on the back of what both business and political analysts say is a result of policy inconsistencies by authorities - following last week's surprising announcement by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube that the country would have a new currency within a year.

"I predict that by the end of June this year, it (the black market forex rate) will be 1:10 ... in other words people are becoming poorer and poorer.

"Bad economic mismanagement is theft of people's savings and this has been created by Mthuli ...," former Finance minister during the short-lived government of national unity (GNU), Tendai Biti, told the Daily News on Wednesday.

Biti was reacting to the increases in the prices of most basic commodities, including the price of bread which has risen from RTGS$2,20 to RTGS$3,50 - which business blames on the rising costs of production and the volatile operating environment in the country.

The hike in bread prices came days after millers had increased the price of mealie-meal, in response to last week's hike by the government of grain producer prices.

This prompted political analysts to warn Mnangagwa's government that it was killing confidence through policy inconsistencies.

"I think what we are seeing is the collapse of the economy in a number of ways. First, the foreign currency crisis has persisted, necessitating that industry has to pay a premium on the black market in order to access foreign currency for inputs that are needed for production.

"The second thing is that the economy is not growing … we are not seeing new industries … so incomes for citizens have remained stagnant.

"Then thirdly, there is the speculative aspect in which prices are pegged at the black market rate, and where people tend to take advantage of the situation.

"Fourthly, there are inconsistencies in terms of policy. We hear one thing on the currency from the RBZ. We hear another from the minister of Finance ...," political analyst Rashweat Mukundu told the Daily News earlier this week.

"Essentially, we are in a stagnant situation where prices are shooting up, incomes have remained stagnant, civil servants received an average of $60 to $70 as an increment ... meaning at the end of the day, the increment may come down to $30, which is going to be washed away by the increases in consumer goods, transport and fuel costs.

"Zimbabwe is in a deep crisis and one can only wonder if we will get to the end of the year under this situation," Mukundu added.

But Mnangagwa yesterday said part of the solution to the current problems was national dialogue aimed at uniting and re-building the country.

"I commend the progressive minded leaders of political parties who are part of the national parties' political dialogue. This is a hallmark of mature, responsible and patriotic leadership, which puts national interests ahead of selfish ambition.

"The platform will enable us to have conversations that will help us to develop our country," Mnangagwa said.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa was conspicuous by his absence at yesterday's celebrations, which were attended by many leaders of smaller parties.

Mnangagwa, who swept to power amid much hope among the generality of the country's citizens - who had endured nearly four decades of hell under former president Robert Mugabe's ruinous rule - has been battling to re-build the moribund economy.

But the tough task of rebuilding Zimbabwe's shattered economy and lifting the quality of life of its long suffering people, has so far proven to be a tad too onerous for him and his misfiring Cabinet team.

- Daily News

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