In the United Kingdom – train, maritime, and transport workers’ unions are planning crippling rail and tube strike action next week – in their show of force in the face of an ever-rising cost of living (which is increasingly out of reach of many Britons) and, their poor job conditions
As I write this, frontline workers and community organizations are planning to march through central London today, expressing their displeasure and outrage over similar grievances.
Across the Limpopo River, youth organizations are currently staging peaceful protests against the unacceptably high unemployment in South Africa, and also the growing divide between the rich and the poor, in a country still haunted by a history filled with massive economic discrepancies.
Needless to say, the major underlying causes for the increased economic challenges currently being faced by people across the globe are well-known – being Russia’s heinous and hideous invasion of its western neighbor Ukraine, leading to a significant increase in fuel costs, and contractions in food supplies (especially grains) as well as, domestic economic fundamentals (possibly, respective governments’ own mismanagement and incompetence).
Nonetheless, citizens of these countries appreciate one critical aspect of any leadership that desires to be taken seriously – it is always the government’s obligation to ensure that the population is protected from any economic shocks, regardless of whether these being of foreign origins (which can easily be dismissed as being “beyond the control of a country’s authorities”), or are self-inflicted on account of poor governance on the domestic front.
Either way, there is no excuse for those in power not to deliver on their mandate – be it, ensuring the affordability and availability of commodities, provision of a conducive environment for investment and creation of employment, and a high standard of working and living conditions.
In other words, it means naught if economic challenges being experienced in a particular country are due to a war thousands of miles away (of which it is not involved), or its own incapacity to manage the affairs of the state or even so-called sanctions imposed on it – it boils down to the same thing…it is the government’s responsibility to guarantee that the citizenry are not gravely affected, or at the very least, minimally impacted.
There can never be any excuses.
Which is why those in the aforementioned countries have taken it upon themselves to either take to the streets or collective job action, protesting against their leadership’s failure to cushion them from economic hardships – no matter how these came about.
As a matter of fact, in South Africa, those peacefully demonstrating on the streets include members of labour unions associated with the ruling ANC party, such as COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) – a sign that these workers are prepared to hold their own alliance partners accountable, should they consider them as having failed in their obligations.
Why should they keep all quiet and docile – or, even offering blind support to the ruling establishment – yet, confronted by indescribable suffering and impoverishment?
Would that not be the height of insanity and idiocy?
This brings me back closer to home.
In Zimbabwe, we have an inflation rate that has recently reverted to its previous rabid tendencies – now believed to be reaching the 200 percent mark, leaving most basic commodities unaffordable by the vast majority – compounded by an exchange rate that has gone rogue, in the midst of paltry salaries (largely eroded by the incomprehensible reintroduction of local currency).
In the UK, the prevailing fear – that has prompted many onto the streets to protest – is the inflation rate projected to move precariously towards the 11 percent point by year-end.
Actually, some British school teachers interviewed today by Sky News were demonstrating predominantly based on their preempting this forecasted rise in inflation, even if they were not yet feeling the pinch – and, did not wait for the economic situation to deteriorate any further, for them to finally take a loud stand.
The national unemployment rate for South Africa currently stands at 34.5 percent – with 63.9 percent being of those in the 15 and 24 age group, and 42.1 percent between 25 and 34 years.
Therefore, it may need a proficient psychologist to unravel and explain the apparent inaction, docility, and disinterested nature of Zimbabweans – whose own economic hardships far outweigh those of both the UK and South Africa, yet show no interest in genuine serious action against the government.
In a country in which over half of the population survives in extreme poverty (on less than US$1.90 a day), and 85 percent earn below the poverty datum line – a domestic worker’s salary is not even enough for a box of condoms – one would have expected citizens to be much more irate and infuriation than the British and South Africans.
Unemployment in Zimbabwe is widely believed to be north of 90 percent – with the few in formal jobs earning slave wages, and the rest who are scrounging for a living through the informal sector (including those benefiting from government and ruling party so-called “employment projects”) unable to afford to buy even a decent home for themselves.
When urban dwellers have not had any water coming out of their home taps in months or even years – and, having to fetch the precious liquid from long distances away – common sense would expect massive outrage and outbursts of anger.
Zimbabweans are going about their daily lives as if everything were tickety-boo – save for some mumblings and grumblings on street corners, public transport, or social media – but, absolutely nothing in real tangible action, that can push for long overdue economic reforms and seriousness on the part of government in taking citizens’ grievances sincerely.
I find it nearly impossible to point at a logical explanation.
Indeed, some may link this to a fear of the expected brutal government crackdown on any form of dissent – particularly, when dealing with a ruling elite that had no qualms shooting dead, in cold-blood, protestors.
Nonetheless, who is going to brutalize someone who has decided to stay at home for a given period of time, as a sign of dissatisfaction over the deplorable state of affairs in the country?
Yet, we can not even do that!
Admittedly, we may hide behind the excuse of the need to fend for our families – thus, can not afford to miss even a single day of work, whether formally employed or self-employed, as each and every cent counts.
Well, is that not merely being myopic!
What is the logic behind failing to take action today, so as to have a better tomorrow?
Does it not make sense to lose some income today, in order to safeguard better prospects – under a more conducive economic environment for making far much more money tomorrow?
Why would anyone with sense prefer making a few dollars today, but then make no money at all tomorrow – as a result of a deteriorating economy, that was left unchecked?
Did some Zimbabweans not earn, for instance, US$20 a day not so long ago – but, can not even make US$2 today – simply because they could not stand up for themselves in the past, but rather elected to “make money”?
Where is that money now?
Let Zimbabweans be reminded that, taking action in order to secure a better tomorrow – even if one loses money today – is a form of investment!
Those in the UK and South Africa are fully aware of this fact – no wonder their economies are light-years ahead of our own here in Zimbabwe, in spite of the challenges they are also facing.
However, they would never allow their countries to sink deeper and deeper into an abyss, as they simply watch with folded arms – just because they want to “make money” today!
They are wiser and more intelligent than that!
Let us not act as if we are not feeling the pain of the mismanagement, incompetence, and corruption at the hands of our ruling elite – as if we are okay with our suffering.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]