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The economics of demonstrations

15 Aug 2019 at 12:10hrs | Views
Demonstrations are a huge mark on a nation's economy. The average man is not aware of this. Maybe after reading this piece, the common man will be able to contextualize what a political demonstration mean.

A country's economy is like its heart beat. The heart beat supplies blood laden with nutrients and other vital life essential, so does a functional economy. A demonstration brings business to a standstill, more so a violent one. This means the economy will begin to suffer starvation of certain nutrients vital to a functional economy.

I will look at a demonstration from two sides. The state's side and the demonstrator's side.
Once a demonstration is notified according to the law, -well it is lawful to stage a demonstration so longit is within the confines of the law- the state has to allocate not just time to it but manpower and financial resources otherwise useful in other areas. It doesn't end there, fuel, otherwise not budgeted for will be allocated to all public institutions that might have an interest in the demonstration.

In the above paragraph, I spoke of the state. The state also cascades down to local government structures with semi-autonomous existences. These also allocate resources towards a demo, resources that can be put to other uses to enhance the resident's welfare. Local authorities have properties and citizens to protect against potentially unruly picketers.

I will go back to central government. The government puts up a standby law-and-order force to escort the demonstrators. They will be kitted with minimal force weapons to promote law and order among the demonstrators. They will use same to protect the demonstrators against some overzealous elements that may want to stop the demonstrators from exercising their constitutional right. Yes, every demonstration has two distinct camps, one for its supporters, and another for its opponents. The demographics of these camps do not matter. What matters is that these camps exist and the possibility of them clashing if left to their means is inevitable.

Also, among the demonstrators will be motorists who may want to outcompete the marchersout of the roads claiming that they pay road taxes while pedestrians do not. If not prohibited from harassing the marchers, some overzealous drivers may drive over the marchers. The police will also set aside ambulances to evacuate casualties in the event of a stampede, so will the City Health Department. In both instances, resources otherwise deployed elsewhere will be channelled to this cause.

The fire brigade will also beef up its manpower and technologies of work. Nobody can predict what a mob does. A mob has one cumulative mind added up of various minds of varying mischiefs. What can come out of it can seldom be positive. All these institutions are funded by public money. So, in essence a demonstration is a self-inflicted wound. People fund their own demonstrations in order to squander resources collected from them! See?

From the demonstrator's perspective, he has to leave his commercial activity in order to engage in a non-rewarded activity. If self-employed, this person will find his daily financial obligations waiting for him and reminding him too that a day's void in earnings and payments is present and has to be filled by non-other than the very demonstrator who spent the whole day singing unrehearsed songs to a non-captive audience. From a government perspective, this will be a day of lost taxes.

Those formally employed who may join the demo will be absent from work and end up claiming a full salary for labour not rendered. This will disadvantage their employers. The chief planners of these demonstrations usually have firms they run somewhere. They do not want their workers to close shop to join the demo either. This means employers stand to lose through payment of wages for no work done. Therefore in the case of both the employer and the employee, a demo restricting freedom to gainful trade will be an infringement of a fundamental right due to every citizen regardless of social and political frontiers.

Given the track record of demonstrations in Zimbabwe, people otherwise not interested in the demonstration may be intimidated from going to work for fear of losing limb, life or property. Anything which people participate in out of fear is not constitutional. People have freedoms they ought to consummate during their lifetime. Any threat that negates this opportunity to an enjoyment of rights defeats the course of natural justice.

People can get injured in the course of a demonstration from activities solely related to such an event. The same people will require medication so they reclaim their good old health. This drains private purses. In the absence of personal resources, the state will be duty bound to chip in with resources that could have otherwise been deployed elsewhere so the injured person gets medical attention.

In the unfortunate event of death occasioned by the demonstration, a family would have lost a member. One death is one too many. A family may be left mourning a father, a brother, a husband, a breadwinner and a source of love. A company somewhere would have lost a worker. A landowner would have lost a tenant. Government would have lost a tax payer. Political parties would have lost a potential voter. The local council would have lost a ratepayer and a resident. All the above losses could be avoided by simply avoiding the demonstration and pursue other areas of political engagement. A wife who cannot negotiate a peaceful solution to a domestic problem with her husband within the confines of their bedroom walls cannot expect to win the same lost concessions by running the whole village nak*d at midday denouncing her husband.

Source - Chigumbu Warikandwa
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