By Prosperity Mzila
A disheartening sight it was, witnessing sick people walk in and out of pharmacies empty handed. After having paid exorbitant amounts to have a doctor’s diagnosis and yet the prescribed remedy for the healing process proved out of reach for many. Pharmacies in Zimbabwe had since a month ago introduced a three tier pricing system, with drugs selling in hard greenbacks or an equivalent according to the black market prevailing rates. The whole process seemed unfair, wicked and self-enriching at the expense of the patient’s life.
People wailed under the three tier system, with great agony. They tried to acquire the much needed foreign currency on the black market, knowing perfectly well that they were dicing with a 10 year jail term if they got caught by the law enforcement agents on one side and a will to survive on the other hand. Their cry was luckily heard, as they have been blessed by a listening President.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ears are always fixed to the ground listening for distressed signals from his people. He caught wind of what was prevailing in the pharmaceutical industry and was greatly saddened by the lack of empathy by our pharmacies. Speaking at his maiden ‘Thank You Rally’ in Murombedzi on the 24 September 2018, President Mnangagwa never left anything to assumption, he spelled out that the pharmacies should with immediate effect revert back to their normal pricing system, which was represented by a 1:1 between the bond note and the US$, failure to which they risked losing their licences. This directive was effective immediately.
Quite a number of people in the country suffer from non-communicable diseases which mean they require medication on a day to day basis. Defaulting to take the medication religiously results in the patients being exposed to terminal consequences. Meanwhile, the pharmacies have been double dipping, approaching the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for foreign currency to buy medication at a rate of 1 bond note equal to US$1. The President cautioned them to stop double dipping forthwith and understand why they are in the profession they are in, to save lives and not to help accelerate people’s health demise.
The President has been on a drive to bring sanity to the economy that seemed to run wild and out of control, together with his Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube. The shortages of basic commodities which were said to have been perpetuated by foreign currency, was a lie, it was due to some elements bent on sabotaging the economy through speculation on black market foreign currency exchange rate. The President working together with his brilliant Minister of Finance have been closing in on all the loopholes that were syphoning foreign currency out of the country and some unscrupulous dealings that caused a lot of suffering to the general populace.
First in order to put a stop to the black market foreign currency trading, the President introduced a mandatory sentence of 10 years to anyone caught illegally trading in foreign currency. That gave quite a scare to the illicit foreign currency dealers and the black market rate crushed from a high of 600 bond per US$100 to a low of 180 bond per US$100.
At the same meeting in Murombedzi, the President sought to address the issue of car imports that were coming into the country in large numbers, a situation that proclaimed a false picture of the Zimbabwean economic situation. We can’t have Zimbabwe labelled as one of the poorest countries in the world yet almost every family has a fleet of minimum two cars. Currently, the Zimbabwe gobbles a total of over a million litres of fuel per day. It became obvious that people do have foreign currency in their homes except that it was directed to less critical commodities. As part of the austerity measures, the Minister introduced the payment of duty on vehicles in foreign currency. This makes a lot of sense because if a person is able to import a car using US$ they are perfectly capable of paying for their tax in the same currency.
The President will not allow the people of Zimbabwe to suffer at the hands of a few exploitative individuals; he listens and takes heed so as to act. He is a concerned President with a vision of building Zimbabwe and bringing sanity to all sectors of the economy. As the people of Zimbabwe, there is need therefore to come together to work and resuscitate our economy, to reach an upper middle class economy by 2030.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.