Press Statement on the State of Economic Emergency in the Country

Source: 14 January 2019Democracy, Economy

Fellow Citizens;

The situation in our country has reached another level.

As citizens, we are forced today to declare a State of Economic Emergency in the Country given the unbearable pain and suffering that citizens are experiencing.

We are already witnessing escalating social unrest across the country with a real risk that the situation will completely unravel if the government does not take urgent action to address people’s pain and suffering.

The government’s failure to act in the face of a complete socio-economic breakdown amounts to abdication.

While the crisis is pervasive and all encompassing, we seek to highlight the following BIG 5 PROBLEMS that have a totally debilitating impact on citizens:

Salaries Have Become Valueless amidst skyrocketing prices of basic commodities

The value of salaries over the past few months has become valueless given the steep devaluation of the RTGS balances against the United States dollar. The situation is made worse by the fact that workers’ salaries have remained unchanged, yet prices of all basic commodities have skyrocketed.

This is an existential crisis for all workers – both civil servants and those in the private sector.

The government and all employers must immediately acknowledge the fact that the RTGS is not at par with the US dollar and adjust workers’ salaries accordingly.

Crippling Fuel Crisis

The current fuel crisis has reached emergency levels. Citizens are forced to spend days in fuel queues and are unable to go about their day to day business. Despite our earlier calls on this the government has failed to be totally transparent in forex allocations to fuel suppliers, creating a murky environment in which some fuel dealers are accessing forex at the official 1:1 rate and selling at parallel markets rates. Reports abound of some who are even exporting fuel to neighboring countries at a profit. The situation is very volatile at most service stations as tempers are flaring.

Again without total transparency in the allocation of foreign currency and the purchasing of fuel – the problem will not be solved. Furthermore, the government should stop protecting a cabal in the fuel industry and simply allow all those with foreign currency to import and trade freely.

The latest announcement of a 300+ percentage increase in the price of fuel is a
disaster. The government cannot look at just one aspect and ignore others. In this case, the government is acknowledging that the US dollar is not at par with the RTGS, yet when it comes salaries, the government is insisting that US dollars are equal to RTGS. This level of hypocrisy is unacceptable.

Health Sector Crisis

The situation in our health sector has reached emergency levels. As far back as November last year, we called for the declaration of a state of emergency in the public health sector. Essential drugs are generally unavailable and where they are available, prices are beyond the reach of most Zimbabweans.

Again, the government has failed to take decisive action to address the health crisis. Some importers receiving foreign currency allocations are turning around and charging the public exorbitant US dollar prices.

Health is life – it cannot be that the government fails to prioritize the $6 million dollars that is required monthly to ensure full availability of drugs.

Currency confusion

The present confusion with regards to the currency in use in Zimbabwe cannot be allowed to continue.

The government cannot continue the fiction of a 1:1 exchange rate between the US dollar and the RTGS. This fiction is at the core of the destabilization of the whole macroeconomic environment.

The fiction is existing today only to serve the purpose of underpaying workers and in order to give those who are in positions of privilege the opportunity to profit when they access US dollars at the 1:1 rate and burn on the parallel market.

We want to talk directly to the Minister of Finance, Prof. Mthuli Ncube on this:

Professor get out of the book you are living in and see the hard cold brutal reality of the hardships that citizens are facing.

Your call to the nation to tighten belts and swallow the bitter pill of austerity measures under the false promise that prosperity will come lacks legitimacy.

The first condition for any project seeking to mobilize national sacrifice is total transparency and accountability with regards to public finances. We have made several calls in the past on simple things that the government should do to ensure unreserved transparency in government revenues and spending and all we have seen is lethargy on the part of government.

We have not seen any sense of urgency on the part of government when it comes to closing loop holes and opportunities for corruption and undue benefit by those who are connected. This is particularly so with regards to access to foreign currency at the 1:1 rate.

We can only conclude that certain interests are currently benefiting from the current mess and are not concerned in solving the crisis. The fact of these cat fish who thrive in muddy waters cannot be dismissed.

Under these circumstances, the citizens cannot be the ones to bear the pain of the so called reforms.

Lack of Jobs and Means of Livelihood

Ultimately, the fundamental nature of the crisis is that the majority of Zimbabweans, especially young people, do not have jobs and or means to a livelihood. The situation is so desperate that it must be treated as an emergency. The few who are still in formal employment are under threat because of the government’s failure to stabilize the macroeconomic environment and create a viable environment for business. Most companies have already stopped trading because of the confusion.

It is therefore unconscionable that under these circumstances the government would criminalize those who are trying to survive through vending and other forms of informal trading. In a situation of economic emergency such as ours, people should be allowed to work and survive. The harassment of vendors, cross-border traders and other informal traders must immediately stop.

Our Demands to the Government

We make the following demands on the government:

Recognize the State of Economic Emergency in the Country and urgently attend to the BIG 5 PROBLEMS outlined above.

We are calling on the government to wake up from it’s current slumber and officially recognize the state of economic emergency in the country. The indifference and total failure to acknowledge people’s pain and suffering is dangerous and a sure way to disaster.

In acknowledging the State of Economic Emergency, the government must recognize that it cannot be business as usual and the whole state must mobilize itself to relentlessly attend to solving the above mentioned BIG 5 PROBLEMS.

We expect to see government and parliament fully focused on solving these evil problems with clear communication to citizens on what the government is doing.

The “there is no fuel shortage”; “fuel queues mean that fuel is available”; “fuel crisis will be over in a few days” type communication that has come from the government with regards to the fuel crisis is a typical case of a state dangerously taking citizens for granted.

In acknowledging the State of Economic Emergency in the country, the government must recognize that it cannot waste scarce foreign currency on expensive foreign trip to nowhere where those involved in the syndicate walk away with thousands of US dollar allowances. The norm internationally is that leaders cancel foreign trips and stay put to work round the clock to address emergency situations.

In acknowledging the State of Economic Emergency, the government must recognize that every little available public revenue must be directed towards providing the greatest benefit to citizens and not feeding a rapacious bureaucracy. The fact that today the government is planning to splash millions of dollars on expensive cars for members of parliament when hospitals have no drugs is a clear case of a government that is dangerously out of touch with reality.

Inclusive National Dialogue

We are calling for the government to accept the urgent need for an inclusive national dialogue. The government must accept that the nation is in peril because of both economic and political reasons. As such it is important for the country to engage in a dialogue that brings about a political solution intended to address the social-economic challenges. It must be made clear that the problems we are facing go beyond political parties. As such, we are calling for an Inclusive National Dialogue bringing together credible representatives of political parties, civil society, churches, labour, youth and women. We will not seek to prescribe the outcome of the IND at this stage; however our expectation is that we will find an inclusive political solution that will reduce the crippling polarization in our country and set forth a clear reconstruction agenda, underpinned by robust political and economic reforms.

Our Course of Action / Way Forward

Given the extraordinary situation in our country, we are announcing today the beginning of a national mobilization of citizens using means provided for by our constitution.

From this Friday, we will be commencing a rolling series of Citizens’ Vigils every Friday until our demands are met.

We emphasis that ours is peaceful non-violent action.

Non-Violent Protest

We call upon the Citizens to exercise non-violent protest to force the government to acknowledge the urgency of the situation and heed the call of the citizens. In line with this, as the Citizen’s Cabinet we declare our support for the ZCTU led national shutdown and urge all citizens to participate peacefully.

We appear before the nation today and we show our faces. WE have nothing to hide. We stand firm in the democratic rights and freedoms provided by our constitution, above all the right to peaceful protest and the freedom of assembly and expression.

We appeal to the government to take the citizens’ voices, anguish and pain that we convey today seriously. As Citizens` Manifesto and Citizens Cabinet we would want to categorically make it clear that we derive our mandate from the people of Zimbabwe in their individual and organizational diversity and we will continue to advance their interests through robust engagement as a local homegrown people’s movement. We dismiss all insinuations to the contrary.

It is love for country that motivates us to take a stand today, we fear that if the government fails to act with the necessary urgency, those who will come after us maybe faceless and at that point it may be too late for the country.

Sunungura Zimbabwe! Zimbabwe Sunugura!

#YearofthePeople
#GoreReVanhu
#UmyakaKaZulu

Media Contacts: +263774985214/+263779797927
Email: info@citizenscabinet.org

Source: Citizens’ Cabinet