By Richard Gandari
Last Thursday, Zimbabweans woke up to the shock announcement of Honorable Mthuli Ncube’s nightmarish budget statement.
It was a gothic litany of fiscal salvos, meticulously crafted for their shock value.
Anybody who had optimistic plans for a prosperous 2024 will have to lower their expectations by a large margin.
With normal countries enjoying state lottery, Zimbabweans will be busy enduring state robbery.
If the proposed budget is not opposed in totality, it will hamper economic growth and destroy livelihoods, even for the staunch ZANU PF members who blindly voted for the ruling party.
There is no need to apply any imagination to see how things will fall apart owing to the toxic budget authored by Mr Mnangagwa himself, according to Minister Ncube’s public admission.
As once mentioned in this column, Professor Ncube is a lame duck, entirely serving at the pleasure of the President.
The Minister of Finance can be fired from his post if he so much as clears his throat while his autocratic boss is talking.
As a warning shot, President Mnangagwa fired Roy Bhila as Industry and Commerce deputy minister on the same day of Minister Ncube’s budget statement.
Needless to mention that the President can easily promote a deputy minister of his choice, should a vacancy arise, at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
Whenever critics call out President Mnangagwa for his excesses and monumental policy blunders, his supporters quickly jump to his defence, hailing him as infallible and firmly placing him back on his high horse.
Yet frankly speaking, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa has been one of Zimbabwe’s notable liabilities, even dating back to his henchman days during the Mugabe era.
His character is at variance with common norms in any part of Zimbabwe, setting him aloof as an epitome of deviance.
Notably, from a sociological perspective, the theory of labelling argues that deviance is not inherent in behavior itself, but rather is created through the process of labelling and social control.
Once individuals are labelled as deviant, they may be more likely to internalize this label and adopt deviant behaviour.
With this theory in mind, it can be argued that whoever labelled Mr Mnangagwa as the Crocodile made a very costly mistake.
The prison-tutored, dubious lawyer internalized his nickname and literally behaves like the reptile he is named after.
He is calculatingly patient but vindictive and unforgiving.
The diabolical 2024 budget is an extension of his retributive triumphalism against Zimbabweans who rejected him at the polls in August 2023.
Even the few who voted for him must suffer until they learn to mobilize their peers and save the Crocodile from the labour of rigging elections, a tedious process he ‘jokingly’ admitted to during a conference recently held for CEOs in Victoria Falls.
For a return trip between Harare and Bulawayo, a motorist using a family sedan will be robbed of US$50 by Mr Mnangagwa’s cash-gobbling tollgates.
Add that to the US$200 for an ordinary passport making it the most expensive travel document in the SADC region.
Now, that presents an economic conundrum for the bungling president and his administration.
When economic activities are arrested by irrational policy pronouncements, the economy contracts and does not grow.
All the lies delivered by the President in his speech at the 78th United Nations General Assembly in September 2023, will fall flat as the domino effects of prohibitive travel costs spread across all sectors of the Zimbabwean economy.
Unfortunately for Zimbabweans, the man at the helm of the country does not appreciate the concept of interconnectedness when it comes to policy pronouncements and economic fundamentals.
He never learnt any lesson from the death of 17 citizens in January 2019, during protests sparked by his arbitrary announcement of a sharp increase in fuel prices.
To his sole credit, the Crocodile does have thick skin and seems to take constructive criticism – albeit grudgingly – slightly better than his predecessor Robert Mugabe.
Constitutionally, Mr Mnangagwa’s second and final term ends in 2028.
What follows afterwards is any man’s guess but the surest thing is that Mr Mnangagwa’s hopeless administration will exit the stage someday.
Until that day comes, we must brace ourselves for the last kicks of a dying horse.
The 2024 budget is the clearest testament that President Mnangagwa does not care about leaving any legacy worth remembering beyond his funeral or constitutional exit, whichever comes first.
Therefore, patriotic Members of Parliament, genuine opposition parties, civic society, and all progressive citizens must unite to collectively reject Mr Mnangagwa’s self-serving budget.
Excessive taxation will never be the panacea for Zimbabwe’s deficiency of viable leadership and the curse of policy inconsistency.
In the wise words of Winston Churchill back in 1904, “We contend that for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”