Isdore Guvamombe Reflections
Well, it is always good to take a merited sabbatical and retreat to the village: the last repository of wisdom and knowledge.
For the month that I had taken a sabbatical from this column, I spent days on end discussing matters of state and governance with village elders with cotton tuft hair. Their worry is we are a greedy lot. We love profiteering on everything. When we marry off our daughter for the second time after the failure of her first marriage, we charge even more than we charged the first husband.
The new year has not only brought a new trajectory to Zimbabwe’s political dispensation, but has brought revived hope for a greater future, socially, economically and all; the harbinger of it being the military intervention and subsequent assumption of the Presidency by Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa at the end of last year.
As the political drama unfolded, we the villagers without access to TV sets, huddled around our shrieking small radios to get the latest news and at times tried to get information from our urban partners, but their WhatsApp messages more often than not misled us.
However, by the festive season we had really gotten into the right information and path and we are happy we are where we are now, under a new dispensation.
The full import of this instalment is to say the new political dispensation will not bear fruits until Zimbabweans in their broad totality, especially the retail sector, changes attitude. Massive profiteering, which manifests itself through high prices of commodities, should be nipped.
We are glad the President has come up with a subcommittee to look into this and placed it under the charge of Vice President Constantino Chiwenga. We trust that this will bring the much-needed relief on arbitrary pricing.
The prices of goods have become critically unbearable. We, the villagers, are by and large at the receiving end of the price hikes. As we speak, there is lack of sincerity on those selling us seed, fertilizer and agro-chemicals, yet we survive on farming.
Cash is most scarce in the village and these businesspeople or retailers are giving us a three-tier price system: cash, swipe or EcoCash. Obviously the lowest prices are for cash, while EcoCash and swipe are almost at par.
Prices of fertiliser and agro-chemicals have sky-rocketed beyond our pockets, and this is indeed an affront to good business practice. As villagers, we are no good mathematicians, but we certainly can see that the situation is getting out of hand.
One thing is that we are not asking for price controls, but we are asking for prices that make life bearable to us. The most shocking aspect is that even in terms of meat, when butchers buy cattle from us, they pay very little, but just after slaughtering the cow, they sell the meat for 10 times the buying price.
Since when has skinning and slaughtering become so expensive? Beef is now going for above $10 per kilogramme, and we ask, what causes this? Another issue here in the village is that some people are reselling fertiliser in their shops, which they would have bought from beneficiaries of the Command Agriculture.
In yonder Dande communal lands in Mbire, Command Agriculture fertiliser is being sold for between $10 and $15 per bag to retailers and dealers who then resale the same fertiliser for $45. This does not need any serious investigation. It is common knowledge in the villages and the culprits are known. They are easily traceable. Others are selling it by the roadside.
There is a boom-gate at Mahuwe in Mbire, about 40km north of Guruve. Police and council officials who man the gate actually charge a fee to dealers who wish to pass back to Guruve, Harare, Mvurwi and elsewhere with the looted fertiliser. This is not good for the country and indeed for the economy. The same fertiliser is resold per bag for US$30, $35 for bond notes and $45 for EcoCash and swipe.
In our opinion as villagers, this is an area that can easily be solved with an urgent intervention and thwart that level of corruption. A raid in shops at growth points today will lead to the recovery of thousands of tonnes of fertiliser. It is a contraband that is too easy to identify.
Working on our attitude as a country towards just doing the right thing, with or without the presence of law enforcement agents, requires national discipline. Individual Zimbabweans must fit into the national ethos.
They must fit into the new national trajectory. Most of the problems we face as a nation are a matter of attitude. We are just greedy. Greed should be our middle name.