Zimbabwe. A beautiful country with diverse cultures and a population of over 14 million. Cultures so diverse that it creates business opportunities for everyone in a wide variety of areas. In this lies a problem though because its in a crumbled economy. For those living in Zimbabwe you will understand what I’m on about, but for anyone abroad I will elaborate.
Zimbabwe’s economy is at a point where no one person ever believed it could go. Not long ago I remember chatting to a number of people and hearing them say it can’t get any worse, but still it did. Almost daily you wake up to hear of another company that closed or is planning to close. Between January and April this year the number of companies that closed was over 80. This number I believe is also not accurate as it won’t account for all the unregistered business’ that closed in that time. Unemployment, last I saw, was pegged at over 95%, probably more around 98% today. With it being so high people are forced to vend for a living. They grow vegetables and pick fruit to sell on the roadsides and in the streets as a means of survival for them and their family. These vendors in turn kill local business’ as they can’t compete with people who don’t have overheads in the form of Tax, Company licensing, etc.
Government can’t afford to pay civil servants on time, yet you see today that Mrs Mugabe, her daughter and grandchild flew off to Singapore for the baby’s checkup. Zimbabwe has some of the best doctors available, South Africa is a stone throw away, yet thousands of dollars was spent flying 8,231km to see a doctor for a simple checkup that will probably take no more than 30 minutes. Thousands of dollars that could help import food for the starving, create employment for the jobless and pay our doctors, nurses & teachers. Thousands of dollars that would bring relief to the banks that have ques of people waiting for any money they can get.
The recent import ‘restrictions’ that came in made it almost impossible for business’ to replace stocks sold. Companies that had permits to import and gave cash to RBZ saw their money being taken by Government to buy new cars instead. These restrictions were put in place to promote buying local products, but there is a problem with this. We don’t produce much and some of the stuff we do produce requires something to be imported to produce it. Then we saw what recently happened at BeitBridge Border post. The import regulation took away the livelihood of the vendors that would go across the border to get goods to sell here. It took away their life line and because they are desperate they did the one last thing they could. They retaliated. If you take someone’s lifeline you may as well take their life!
In an effort to recover from this dire situation, the people of Zimbabwe call for a national shutdown and stay-away. This is to force the government to change or it will completely ‘break down the crumbling walls’ of Zimbabwe. A just cause and one that should be supported by all if we are to see any change happen, but not good for the economy. I call this the ‘Impossible Economy’. I watch my employers trying to decide what they should do.
Should we close and face the probability of not reopening because of the loss sustained? Do we open and face the potential risk of being burnt down or boycotted for not supporting the cause? Will we face interrogation and threats from the government for not opening as have happened before? Will our staff be safe?
These questions come over and above the fact that most companies owe suppliers massive amounts of money and cannot pay because sales are over 60% lower than what they should be. Employers are expected to have a ‘Crystal Ball’ and to just know what to do next and when to do it. Times like this make me grateful that I don’t own a business. The stress of having to plan in an economy that doesn’t allow you to plan more than a day let alone two months or more as we used to. Knowing full and well that closure of the company would mean loans into the company will not be paid back. Wondering what the right thing to do is so that it has the best outcome for the employees. That is if your lucky enough to have an employer that cares more about the people in the business than the business.