Zimbabwe: We cannot go left and right at the same time

 

“…..We are enveloped in the politics of hate. The amount of hate that is being preached today in this country is frightful. What Zimbabwe fought for
was peace, progress, love, respect, justice, equality, not the opposite…
No country can live by slogans, pasi [down with] this and pasi that. When you are ruling you should never say pasi to anyone. If there is something wrong with someone you must try to uplift him, not oppress him. We cannot condemn other people and then do things even worse than they did.”- Joshua Nkomo 1986….

 

I remember when land reform started in Zimbabwe in the year 2000. It was in my final year of high school when “war veterans” began invading commercial farms owned by white Zimbabweans.

 

That was a confusing time for some of us who were born into political families.

 

On the one had the political ideology surrounding land reform  seemed to make sense in the context of the country’s colonial history, yet on the other hand, it was unpleasant to watch the often violent dispossession of white farmers and their families… many of whom I went to school with at the time.

 

In that period slogans were rife.

 

Pasi this and Pasi that, were the order of the day.

 

Pasi ne Britain, and Pasi na Blair, Pasi ne MDC and so on and so on. The list was endless.

 

Ironically, in 2001 it started to become clear that Joshu Nkomo was right;  a country cannot be run by slogans.

 

In the year 2001, farm invasions intensified, and concurrently, the Zimbabwean economy started to shrink.

 

At that time I was working in my father’s butchery in Glen Veiw, and for the first time in my life I heard the words “price controls,” “shortages” and “fuel queues.”

 

Below is a newspaper excerpt from The Telegraph, published in the year 2001.

 

“Robert Mugabe’s government yesterday announced the imposition of price controls on basic foodstuffs, dealing a shattering blow to the already crippled economy and threatening widespread food shortages… Annual inflation in Zimbabwe is around 80 per cent, and unemployment is at record levels…the trade and industry minister, said an official order freezing prices at the levels of two months ago was being prepared. The economic collapse since Mr. Mugabe ordered invasions of white-owned farms 18 months ago has made Zimbabweans poorer than ever before. The costs of basics are now beyond the reach of more than half the population… Zimbabwe has no foreign currency for imports and is surviving from day to day.

 

Sound familiar? I’m sure it does.  As they say, history repeats itself.

 

To me, it’s somewhat ironic that in 2019, Zimbabwe is once again experiencing inflation near 80 per cent, and that government is once again making references to price controls on basic foodstuffs.

 

The inflationary period of 2000-2008 clearly demonstrated to all and sundry in Zimbabwe that price controls don’t work.

 

If anything, implementing price controls will simply fuel shortages in shops and lead to an increase in illicit black market trade.

 

Still, the question on everybody’s mind is this: why is it that ED and the Zimbabwean government are failing to bank-in on the international goodwill that they have received following events surrounding November 2017?

 

Our problem is that we are trying to go left and right at the same time.

 

Don’t get me wrong, the government has taken some positive steps, particularly the recent decision to compensate former farmers.

 

However, these piecemeal steps taken  so far have not attracted foreign investment. If anything, investors are leaving Zimbabwe.

 

The problem is that we speak progressively and often act regressively.

 

We try to go left and right at the same time.

 

For instance, on August 1 2018, after a relatively peaceful election that had impressed the world, we suddenly did an about turn and unleashed violence in full view of international cameras.

 

We spoke progressively before the elections and acted regressively on August 1.

 

Even recently, our finance minister Mthuli Ncube was in the USA for the IMF’s spring meetings.

 

On the sidelines of those meetings, he attended a symposium held at the Cato institute where Professor Steve Hanke was one of the speakers.

 

Steve Hanke is a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and this is what he reportedly said in the presence of finance minister Ncube:

 

“To get to a micro point, in February 2019, the Gaika Mine was invaded. This is a property rights issue… If you look at this mine, it was invaded and taken over and the looting began… then … within the past two weeks, the mine was finally sealed and the trespassers were thrown out…. But that’s not the end of the story, we have had 14 months since this particular mine in the Midlands was invaded … over 80 people killed, at least US$100 million has been looted from the mine, maybe double that….Then the mine manager’s home in Kwekwe was invaded by youth wielding machetes. The group, or shall we say the gang, is Al Shabaab and the leader of this crime syndicate is … [a] current minister….” 

 

I can only imagine the embarrassment that finance minister Ncube suffered while professor Hanke spoke those words.

 

I mean, there he was as Zimbabwe’s Finance chief, trying to convince the world that Zimbabwe has reformed and is open for business , only to have the allegations of looting by a senior government official at Gaika mine thrown in his face.

 

Again, this shows that we try to go left and right at the same time.

 

We preach progression and practice regression, and that is the major problem with Zimbabwe.

 

Even the Botswana President has joined the international community in making jokes about Zimbabwe.

 

According to reports, while recently meeting with young entrepreneurs President Masisi joked that Botswana had a sound investment climate, unlike an unnamed African country were payment to creditors and repatriation of profits to foreign countries in the currencies of their choice was impossible.

 

“We are run, not just conveniently, but very well and we work. We are open and this stability along with our addiction to the rule of law makes us attractive for spring boarding from Botswana… I will not name the other country, would you rather have your business headquarters in country X somewhere else in Africa or in Botswana? In terms of assuring yourself that what you put in the bank is yours and will be there. In terms of assuring yourself and your creditors that you will be able to pay them in whatever currency they need to be paid in, so these advantages should be utilized to the fullest.”

 

Although he didn’t mention ‘country X’ by name, the problems he pointed out in the unnamed country are very similar to those currently being experienced in Zimbabwe.

 

So what do we do as nation? How do we come out of our current mess?

 

From where I’m looking, the only way out is to have significant dialogue with the MDC-Alliance with the aim of implementing substantial political and structural reforms in Zimbabwe, in such a way that both domestic and international capital will collectively accept that we pass the credibility test.

 

While someone once said “Zanu-PF will never reform itself out of power,” my view is that this is the time to reflect on the late great Joshua Nkomo’s words, and accept that What Zimbabwe fought forwas peace, progress, love, respect, justice, equality, not the opposite.”

 

 

Put simply, Zimbabwe needs to implement far-reaching reforms that open up the political space, promote freedoms and attract investment, even is those reforms impact Zanu-PF’s power retention ambitions in 2023.

 

What’s clear today is that Zimbabwe is crawling towards the hyperinflation horrors of 2008, and no-amount of scapegoating or sloganeering will save the country from this crisis.

 

We need to focus as a country.

 

We need our  eyes and our feet to cooperatively face forward.

 

As it stands, we are trying to go left and right at the same time.

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

Email

 

zimrays@gmail.com

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Malema’s Remarks are Misplaced

 

According to reports, the forever feisty Julius Malema recently lashed out at President Mnangagwa in Johannesburg, describing him as a “sellout” for his plans to pay compensation to white farmers whose land was forcibly expropriated by Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF government led by former President Robert Mugabe nearly two decades ago.

 

Apparently addressing the media at his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Malema said Zimbabwe was still full of poverty and could not afford basic things like primary healthcare, proper education and infrastructure.

 

“It’s a sellout position taking money to people who don’t deserve it,” he said.

 

Malema apparently also warned Mnangagwa that the people of Zimbabwe would soon turn on him.

 

“Anyone who compensates them for stolen land is a sellout. Anyone who compensates for the expropriation of land is a sellout,” he charged.

 

Now to the undiscerning ear, Malema may have a point given Africa’s history of colonial oppression and land dispossession by European settlers.

 

However here is why I think Malema’s comments are inappropriate and perhaps even in bad taste.

 

Firstly Malema himself is no socialist- he is a capitalist. In fact he reportedly drives a 1.2million rand car (among many others).

 

Furthermore, it appears  that he procured his impressive fleet of vehicles through years of “tenderpreneuring” using various entities that he owns such as Segwalo Consulting Engineers CC (through which he received 10% commission on the value of each tender given to Segwalo Consulting Engineers), Ngape Mining Investment, and the infamous Ratanang family trust.

 

As a result of his effective career as a tenderpreneur, he reportedly owns these properties: a house in Flora Park; a house in Sandown worth 3.6 million rand; his Sandown home worth 8.5 million rand; and ironically two farms that he bought in 2009 and 2011 for 9million rand.

 

The point is that all and sundry need to understand that Julius Malema is a property owner- a landlord- and therefore he automatically becomes interested in the protection of his private property rights.

 

If he is interested in property rights, he automatically becomes a capitalist. He is NOT a socialist.

 

If anything, all the noise that he makes around the issue of “land expropriation without compensation” is part of a very dangerous populist political game that he is playing alongside his sponsors in the ANC.

 

Oh yes, for those who are not in the know, it has long been held that Julius Malema and the EFF are a project of Cyril Ramaphosa and the anti-Jacob Zuma faction in the ANC…but those are matters for another day.

 

The critical point I want to make here is that Zimbabwe’s economic problems since 2000 have been, and will always be centered on the issue of property rights.

 

While the populist program of “land expropriation without compensation” may seem and sound like the right path- it is in fact regressive and dangerous.

 

I know, because I am one of many who witnessed Zimbabwe’s land reform programme first hand.

 

When Robert Mugabe’s land reform began in 2000, I was in my final high school year, In the middle of which many of my white friends had their farms invaded, often violently.

 

 

At the time, Robert Mugabe’s populism around land reform sounded a lot like Julius Malema’s rants today, and as a result many landless black Zimbabweans were deceived into believing that land reform without compensation would do more good than harm for Zimbabwe.

 

Unfortunately, the opposite has proven to be true.

 

20 years down the line the writing is on the wall- Zimbabwe is desperate for a financial bailout, millions of citizens have left the country (some even to work on farms in neighboring countries), and today, in 2019 Zimbabweans  are still emigrating for economic reasons.

 

All in all the legacy of Zimbabwe’s post 2000 land reform programme comprises of a battered economy, separated families, mass-emigration and trauma.

 

While some beneficiaries of land reform have indeed managed to make good use of resettled land, it is also true that many in fact have not, and a sizeable portion of Zimbabwe’s agricultural land remains underutilized- the land audit currently underway will soon reveal this.

 

Nevertheless, I must unequivocally state that President Emmerson Mnagwagwa’s decision to compensate former farmers for the improvements on their former farms is correct and necessary.

 

The fact is that the very institutions that Zimbabwe is seeking for bailout funds from (particularly the IMF and World bank) are essentially capitalist institutions that consider the principle of protection of private property rights as pivotal, and no amount of populist politicking will change that.

 

In that light I commend President Mnangagwa for his course of action concerning compensation of former farmers. It is the right thing to do.

 

If Zimbabwe had taken the same approach in 2000 instead of the “forcible acquisitions” route, our economic condition would have been different today.

 

In short Zimbabwe’s decision to compensate former farmers for land as well as the developments thereon is 20 years overdue.

 

It is also the result of the realization that there are no free lunches in the contemporary global economy.

 

As long as Julius Malema’s EFF, the ANC and South Africa as a whole continue on the dangerous path of “land expropriation without compensation” , they too will eventually come to realize that nothing is for free… you WILL pay for what you take… even if that realization takes 20 years.

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

Email

 

zimrays@gmail.com

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