Friday and early Saturday presented a real bonanza for purveyors of negative news as it became apparent that a number of service stations in cities and towns did not have fuel. Instead, queues meandered wherever the commodity was found.
The headlines screamed about the long-prayed for crisis that should force a political settlement of convenience between President Mnangagwa and MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa.
The reality is more straightforward.
First Zimbabwe is short of foreign currency. The reason is that our companies are not exporting sufficiently to generate enough foreign currency.
The little forex generated has to be allocated to the most critical sectors as per need such as health, fuel and electricity.
The country is in the process of rebuilding its economy. That means shortages are bound to happen in the recovery period, whether that is food, medicines, fuel or electricity.
Government has been open about these challenges and called on all Zimbabweans to play their part to minimise the suffering among ordinary citizens. It is not about scoring political points.
The vehicular population is also increasing exponentially. Traffic logjams in cities bear testimony to that. Some of the vehicles are not even registered. But they consume fuel imported using scarce foreign currency.
This is unfair to fellow citizens who dutifully meet their obligations.
Reserve Bank Governor Dr John Mangudya, also raised concern about the distortions caused by people hoarding commodities, including fuel. People abuse social media to create unnecessary panic buying in fear of shortages. As more join the mad rush, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, and fodder for those hoping to score political points.
Unfortunately, due to the limited forex reserves, it is near impossible for fuel suppliers to anticipate such mischief by keeping huge stocks of fuel given the competing demands. The result is a big time-lag between the false “crisis” and replenishment of supplies, whether the fuel is in Mabvuku, along the Feruka pipeline or still being loaded in Beira.
What could have been reasonably shared nationally becomes a possession of a few greedy individuals trying to sell on the black market.
This can only hurt our economy further and prolong the suffering.
Second, every Zimbabwean of goodwill wishes for unity and peace in the country. President Mnangagwa has been at the forefront in preaching that message — that we are all Zimbabwean. We have no doubt that if he had his way, the Constitution would have been amended to change the winner-take-all electoral system in favour of something inclusive. That is why he has been very accommodating of the opposition, only if they were reasonable enough to appreciate that he is hamstrung by the law.
The opposition itself has not made the President’s situation easier by insisting on irrational, unproven claims of electoral victory in the July 30 elections and accusing ED of theft. Thankfully, he has remained statesmanlike in the face of these tantrums. But what they do is to deepen and widen the gulf between the two.
Everyone, including the churches and foreign governments, may wish to bring the two leaders together, but there must be a show of goodwill on both sides. It is unrealistic for the victor to be treated as the beggar. That is not how political settlements are made.
There must also be a greater goal to any such negotiation and settlement beyond personal benefit. What is the opposition bringing to the deal? Is it being suggested that there are people sabotaging the economy and can only be appeased by having their leader taking a seat at the high table? If that is true, it would be a matter of time before they are exposed and the law should be ruthless.
But more important, a settlement requires a meeting of the minds. It would be counter-productive to bring into the Executive people whose sole agenda is to make Government dysfunctional.
There is no obvious benefit to the winners or losers of the popular vote under such a scenario.
Our appeal is therefore that Zimbabweans put their minds together. There is no crisis we can’t resolve together. But divisions open pathways for enemies to keep our nation in a state of panic and uncertainty while a few selfish individuals prosper.
Let us not use small challenges like late deliveries of fuel in the country to manufacture a crisis. All it demands is a spirit of sharing and togetherness.