17 February 2019

Zimbabwe: Some Points for Govt to Ponder

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What is currently happening in the motherland shows that our leadership has not learnt anything from the past. The governing party needs to introspect honestly and admit on what has gone wrong with a view to embarking on substantial structural reforms.

You cannot beat, maim, rape or kill people into submission.

During Ian Douglas Smith's regime, freedom fighters were captured, tortured and jailed. Many more were either maimed, left for dead, killed and buried in shallow graves. The Nyadzonya raid comes to mind. According to thehistorynetwork.org, "in the early hours of August 9, 1976, 84 Selous Scouts disguised as local soldiers crept across the Mozambique border into a Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) training camp on the Nyadzonya River. In the few hours that followed, four Selous Scouts were lightly wounded, however, over

1 000 Zanla recruits lay dead and twice as many were estimated as wounded. The Nyadzonya mass murder did not deter the liberators of our country."

The moral of the story is you cannot beat, maim, rape or kill people into submission. It does not work and has never achieved desired results. Despite the protracted war of liberation, Zimbabwe still achieved the independence. In 1975, just five years before Zimbabwe's independence, Smith, former Rhodesian Prime Minister, said, "I don't believe in black majority rule ever in Rhodesia -- not in a thousand years." Needless to say, history proved him wrong, for you cannot stop an idea whose time has come.

The events that took place in Zimbabwe in recent weeks are instructive. The trade unions called for a stayaway in response to the astronomical increase in the price of fuel, among other things. This was understandably so because the ordinary man is battling to keep his head above the mud level. They are already under water, but trying not to slip under the mud level. That is how tough it is. Once you slip under the mud level, you are gone and buried.

There are no jobs, companies have been shutting down everyday for the last 10 years or so and the current liquidity crisis makes the enjoyment of life nearly impossible. To ordinary folk, everyday seems like they are carrying the problems of Zimbabwe on their shoulders.

Unfortunately, the stay away was hijacked by hooligans and it degenerated into a frenzy of looting and arson. All right thinking people condemn what transpired. The looting, plunder and pillaging of shops and the like cannot be justified. Therefore, those who partook in this orgy of looting, arson and violence must meet their comeuppance in the courts of law.

Sadly, the authorities reacted to this lawlessness with their own brand of lawlessness, meting out punishment to the guilty and innocent alike. The retribution from government was vicious and collective with no regard being given to whether one was guilty or not, whether one was a teenager or toddler. Women were targeted. Rape was used as a tool of revenge and punishment.

These extra-judicial murders, rapes and brutalisation of citizens can never be justified. The authorities were behaving like the looters, losing any moral high ground they had. The authorities should simply have investigated the crimes, arrested the culprits and arraigned them before the courts of law.

Citizens want is service delivery, not regime change

Despite the relative successes of the post-colonial government during the first decade of independence, Zimbabwe still faces serious challenges of unemployment, poverty, disease and inequality. As stated earlier, the most recent protests were not about the fuel hikes only. It was also about rampant unemployment, poverty, disease, cronyism, inequality, corruption and so on. These and others, were the key factors, which culminated in citizens taking to the streets to air their dissatisfaction over the problem of a moribund economy.

For as long as the economic malaise is not addressed, discontent will not disappear, suppress it though the government might try. Discontent will continue to simmer and if there is no relief valve, one day the boiler will explode with devastating and regrettable consequences.

Every generation has got its wishes and aspirations. Every generation yearns to be independent masters and mistresses of their own destiny. There is no dignity in handouts when all the factors for self-determination are present. There is pride and personal dignity when people do not queue up for Command handouts. The citizens are meant to do things for themselves with government creating an enabling environment for them to thrive, not the other way round.

Consequently, government's failure to realise the new developmental mandate of working collaboratively with the citizens to meet their socio-economic and material needs while improving their lives could cause serious instability.

The majority of people are not political animals. They don't give a hoot about who governs them provided their needs are taken care of. Basic things like food, clothing, education of their children and a roof over their heads are critical.

So for any leader to sleep easy they must ensure that there are jobs, there are good roads, hospitals have equipment and drugs, education and food are affordable, people have roofs over their heads, communications are accessible and work, transport is affordable, cash is available in the banks and ATMs, etc.

General Franco of Spain was once asked, "What is the secret of your longevity in power?" His response was simple. "Food on the table." So if there is food on the table, one can rule till kingdom come without fear of insurrection or rebellion. There will be no need to use instruments of state coercion to compel citizens to consent to be governed.

Apolitical, MDC and non- Zanu PF persons remain Zimbabwean citizens

Sharp-minded and articulate 20-year-old Namatai Kwekweza, aptly explained this point at the Zimbabwe council of Churches National dialogue prayer meeting held early February that, we need to see ourselves as Zimbabwean people first and nothing else. She talked about how Zimbabweans struggle with diversity and with people who are different.

Kwekweza reminded us that if someone does not share the same sentiments with us, it merely means that they have a different opinion, but that opinion still matters.

Essentially, she was highlighting the fact that we must agree to disagree and even if we disagree with others, we must fight for their right to express their opinion.

This is a refreshing and progressive mindset coming from a young Zimbabwean. A persons' choice to be MDC, apolitical, Zanu PF or any other party for that matter, does not make them less Zimbabwean. It just makes their choice different from the next person's choice. It mirrors the diversity of the body politic, and I dare say, our equality lies in our diversity. These values are enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and must be respected by all.

Without visible and sincere reforms by the ruling party, Zimbabwe is all alone

Reforms are necessary not because the European Union says so, but because the reforms are good for us as a nation.

No persons in their right minds would believe the fanciful notion that ordinary citizens had the audacity to steal army and police uniforms and go on a rampage of killing, maiming, beating up innocent civilians and raping women.

If part of the reforms the governing party intends to roll out soon include a new Zimbabwean currency not backed by any reserves and without embarking on structural reforms to underpin this move, Zimbabwe will be back to square one and would have missed the opportunity, once again, to apply Economics 101.

Tight fiscal discipline and anti-inflationary monetary policies help promote a strong currency. A strong government with a well-established rule of law and a history of constructive economic policies are the type of things that attract investment and thus promote a strong currency. Relatively speaking, high interest rates help promote a strong currency, because both local and foreign investors can get a higher return by investing in Zimbabwe.

Identity politics has compromised the prosperity of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is now considered a failed state. Identity politics, in this case -- party membership or political affiliation with the ruling party pays huge dividends. Members have preference in the allocation of food aid or agricultural inputs. Members are the first to be given business licences and preferential treatment. Members can beat opposition members and the police will look the other side. Farms of opposition members are fair game in so far as they can be seized without compensation.

Identity politics is polarising and makes people entitled and feel better about themselves at the expense of productive discourse and national prosperity. Identity politics makes people close ranks with the like-minded (group think), when everyone from different persuasions ought to reach out to each other.

How does one explain why a country like Botswana with the Kalahari Desert covering most of it, becoming one of the fastest growing economies in the world, whilst other African nations, with abundant and more varied deposits of minerals, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone for example, are mired in poverty and violence?

In the book: Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, the authors Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson argue convincingly that unsuccessful nations have extractive political and economic institutions, and successful nations have inclusive political and economic institutions.

Acemoglu and Robinson conclusively show that "it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it)". One of the remarkable examples they use is that of the Koreas. North and South Korea, whilst generally homogeneous nations, the people of North Korea are among the poorest and most disadvantaged on earth whereas their family next door in South Korea are among the most advantaged and richest in the world. Acemoglu and Robinson advise that "the differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories."

Gloria Ndoro-Mkombachoto is an entrepreneur and regional enterprise development consultant. Her experience spans a period of over 25 years.

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