Leadership in Denial

“Even as your body betrays you, your mind denies it.”

Sara Gruen, the author of Water for Elephants. I couldn’t think of a better way to describe what is happening in my beloved country Zimbabwe than this quote from Sara Gruen. Zimbabwe is now a country where our leadership signals left but then turns right.

Only last week President Robert Mugabe was telling the nation that the country’s economy was on the mend. Mugabe made these startling remarks at a 2014 President’s Medal Shoot Competition prize-giving ceremony in Harare recently. The statement was shocking as it was coming at a time when Zimbabwe’s anaemic economy is virtually on its knees and worsening. Evidence of economic decay is so stark that one would not expect to hear the country’s leader speaking otherwise. To make matters worse, its Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa had the audacity to defend such a statement, saying there was a significant improvement in the economy as compared to the previous year. He cited the current record-breaking tobacco selling season as a good example that the economy was recovering.

But is that enough to say that the economy is on a recovery path?

Is a good tobacco crop all we need to assess the economic well-being of the country?

Should we really use it as a barometer in a country where industry has virtually ground to a halt with thousands of workers being retrenched, joining thousands of other jobless Zimbabweans?

What recovery are we really talking about, when the country’s revenue collector Zimra fails to meet its revenue targets for the first half of the year?

Chinamasa, as much as he would want to defend his boss, should know better; after all, he is the one who recently revised the country’s growth prospects downwards. In a July 1 2014 letter of intent and a memorandum of understanding to the International Monetary Fund, Chinamasa halved Zimbabwe’s projection for real gross domestic product growth for 2014 to 3.1% from 6.1%. Chinamasa said the downward revision reflected, among other factors, continuing low business and investment confidence, scarce liquidity and subdued international prices for our major exports. He also said the country will continue to experience low inflation, reflecting weak domestic demand and tight liquidity conditions.

It is against this background that you begin to wonder why the country’s leadership is in denial. Whose word do we believe now? Maybe Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises was right to say:

“you can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another,”

… and the sooner the Zimbabwean leadership accept that they can’t live in denial forever, the better.

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