Zimbabwe: The Development Dilemma


As the World Economic Forum commenced in Davos, it was surprising to observe the Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani relay his judicious address at the prestigious symposium. Rouhani used the opportunity to explain Iran’s energy programme, and to invite the world to invest in Iran. A first indeed.

In Zimbabwe, local commentators recently congregated at the Mandel/Gibs Economic Outlook symposium to discuss the Zimbabwean economy and to proffer possible solutions to the prevailing liquidity crisis.

While Zimbabweans have unanimously acknowledged the urgent need to mobilize funding for all sectors in order to arrest the economic stagnation that is currently gripping the nation, there seems to be a discrepancy in terms of how this will be achieved.

Zim Asset declares that  during the period 2013 –2018 the Zimbabwean government will see to:

improved revenue collection from key sectors of the economy such as mining;  increased investment in infrastructure (power development, roads, rail, aviation, telecommunications, water and sanitation) through acceleration in the implementation of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and other private sector driven initiatives; increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

However it remains to be seen, if and how these goals will be achieved.

Nonetheless, while trying to understand the complexities around accessing multilateral funding, I came across some material that may be of interest to the Zimbabwean public.

Firstly, a work published by the World Bank entitled:  “Aid and reform in Africa: Lessons from ten case studies” is notable. In this work, the World Bank former director, James Wolfensohn, makes the argument that any development programme has to be country-owned and not owned by the donors.

In other words, in order to achieve sustained growth, development and poverty alleviation, the development programme of each country should be initiated and executed by that country. He argues that if reforms are imposed, they are sure to fail.

In the Zimbabwean context, Zim Asset is the government’s development programme, and its cornerstone is the indigenization policy.

Now, after decades of analyzing aid, development, and policy reform experiences in ten different countries in Africa (Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mali, Nigeria, and Zambia) Wolfensohn makes the following statement: “foreign aid has a strong positive effect on a country’s economic performance, if the country has undertaken certain policy reforms.


“Aid cannot buy reform; aid should be based on actual reforms, and not on promises of reform. Foreign aid can deliver critical support when the receivers are seeking reform, it cannot buy it. These lessons are of special importance to Africa, where most aid is received, and where policy reform is weakest. Further, the background studies indicated that financial aid is working in a good policy environment, there it leads to faster growth and poverty reduction.”


While I appreciate that the World Bank initiated Structural Adjustment Programmes (STPs) enacted in Zimbabwe in the 1990s had adverse economic effects and consequently made African states suspicious of Bretton Woods related institutions, I also appreciate that in this particular instance, James Wolfensohn makes the argument that any development program has to be “country-owned, not owned by the donors.”

In other words we have to create the environment that attracts foreign capital ourselves. As it stands, our indigenization policy framework seems too frigid; it must be relaxed. Looking at Iran, it seems that in recent months Iran’s relations with the international community are improving steadily, owing to a shift in policy and rhetoric towards the West.

Also, it is notable that Zambia, Zimbabwe’s northern neighbor, attracted foreign direct investment (FDI) worth US$10.1 billion in 2012; the highest ever recorded in the history of that country. This is owing to three main factors:

●The Zambia Development Agency Act offers a wide range of incentives in the form of allowances, exemptions and concessions to companies investing in Zambia
●General incentives to investors in various sectors are provided in an assortment of legislation that governs the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA)
●The Zambian Companies Act of 1994 attracts foreign investment. Although In 2012, proposed changes to the Companies Act invited the imposition of indigenization requirements ranging from zero to fifty-one percent on foreign-invested companies, those changes to the Act, remain in draft form.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director





Politics and Religion

zim-ren-3Religion is the opium of the people. At least that is what Karl Marx would like us to believe. Nonetheless, opium has a global market value that runs into hundreds of billions of dollars, and according to certain theories, it has triggered international wars such as the invasion of Afghanistan.

Yet, while western societies are generally secularizing, research reveals that here in Africa, religious practice is escalating; especially in form of Pentecostalism. This growing religiosity of Africans can arguably be attributed to the growing population and an intensifying competition for economic opportunities coupled with crisis ridden national economies. These factors collectively create contexts of social tension that are arguably alleviated by religiosity.

Social scientists contend that religion contributes positively to society in the following ways:

●religion maintains and supports the societal social order (i.e.: social norms, values, culture etc)

●religion shapes the social actions of men and women in their encounter with their social environments

●religion provides social and physical spaces that bring men and women together to participate in common activities that are understood by and are meaningful to them

●religion institutionalizes a network of social relationships

●religion is the ultimate source of cohesion and integration in society.

In fact, religion has been attributed for fuelling the work ethic and industry of the developed world.

In a classic work entitled the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, the German economist Max Weber postulates that “the magical and religious forces, and the ethical ideas based upon them, have in the past always been among the most important formative influences on the conduct of life.”

He goes further, arguing that capitalism (described as the rational pursuit of profit through rational economic enterprise) was an unintended consequence of religious (particularly protestant) doctrine which stressed ‘a calling’, that is, a special way to live and function ordained by God. This ‘calling’ referred to a lifestyle that would see people working and enterprising in such a way that led to material success. The proliferation of this doctrine, according to Weber, fuelled modern Capitalism and the industrialisation of the Western world.

Simply put, Max Weber suggests that religious values are channelled into people by means of the pulpit, where they are enveloped as religious doctrine, and consequently, these values shape the social and economic behaviour of their adherents.

Now in the Zimbabwean context, recent media reports of rape and psychological manipulation under the pretext of religion are perturbing.

Remembering that the social and economic behaviours of religious adherents are influenced by religious doctrines transmitted from various pulpits, it is worrisome to consider that certain religious leaders, be they Christian preachers, traditional religious practitioners, or Vapostori are often respondents to charges of psychological manipulation, rape, child abuse and other offences of that nature.

I mean, if such a cleric has been preaching for decades, and therefore has been extensively channelling his or her profane doctrine into a congregation, then one cannot expect constructive social or economic behaviour from that group’s members.

Here is an example: If a religious leader preaches that, he or she has the power to cure HIV/AIDS and therefore, his or her adherents who suffer from this condition should abandon all conventional medication; that will become the behaviour of those adherents. Alternatively, if a religious leader or ‘prophet’ prophecies that a man’s wife is trying to poison him, then do not be surprised when that church member stops eating at home.

Furthermore, recent media reports have exposed that some eccentric ‘Christian’ pastors can even influence their church members to eat grass.

church member eats grass
Pastor Lesego Daniel, who is based in Garankuwa, north of Pretoria, told dozens of followers to eat grass because “it will bring them closer to God”.

The point is that there is a fine line between faith and fanaticism, and while calls for the monitoring of churches and their varying doctrines are welcome in the context of protecting the public from predatory pulpit pundits, the question arises: how does the government intend to monitor religious activity? Furthermore, how will the government ensure that a monitoring exercise of religious activity will not result in the covert politicisation of religion in the country?

While the constitution states that no person can be hindered from the enjoyment of his or her freedom of religion, it also states that in the interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health the law in can limit the freedom of religion.

However, the danger of enacting a general law which allows for the infringement of religious freedom is that such a law could be used as a political tool, even to the detriment of sincere and law abiding believers as is the case currently in tumultuous Egypt.

In this light, in order to avoid the politicization of religious activity in the country, and to maintain the rift between the church and the state, the only reasonable way of monitoring religion would be through a statutory religious ombudsman consisting of respectable and impartial citizens and mandated with the twofold functions of protecting the public from pulpit predators, and keeping politics and state separate from issues of faith.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director