According to Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube the government is in the process of compiling a database for “the urban vulnerable” who need subsidised mealie-meal. The database, he said, will come out soon. He also said they already have a rural database for the vulnerable.

In the next couple of weeks our database should be ready. We expect to make a lot of progress this week and then next week we should be able to see the beginning of the new system.

Subsidies always work better if they are targeted, if the person who is vulnerable is identified and receives that subsidy directly.

It cuts off the abuse that has been identified with the subsidy. The second point is we want some kind of voucher system or cash transfer system that will just do that, which is targeted at the beneficiary.

On the contrary, this needlessly opens up the system to corruption

The first point that must be said is that the government need not waste its time trying to identify who is vulnerable and who is not. It should safely assume that all its citizens are vulnerable and exposed, a quick calculation will show that even employed civil servants are very vulnerable.

With more than two thirds the population living under the poverty datum line which is most certainly well above $3 500 now and unemployment of more than 90% it is ridiculous that the government is even engaging in this exercise. In fact even those who are living above the poverty datum line are barely above it and probably need all the help they can get.

Creating this database and the planned use of coupons will just add another currency to the basket we already use legally or illegally. It will probably see coupons being traded in lieu of cash in some instances. The state’s own media has pointed out how barter trade has made a comeback even as people shun the worthless Zimbabwean dollar.

Instead, the government should make sure that the 80 000 tonnes of maize that millers require to supply the country’s needs are available at reasonable supply when needed.

This database system will be ruthlessly exploited by cartels and will lead to misery and starvation as those who need the system the most will probably be unable to afford mealie-meal under it.