THE euphoria about the events of the past few weeks is good. It is makes for a positive, uplifting spirit. It does remind us that once in a while, a change of leadership is good. A change with the right content. In Zimbabwe, it is undeniable that that change happened to and was caused by Zanu-PF; in form and content. It is good that the opposition and the “international community” feel a sense of change, a sense of belonging as it were; that Zimbabwe is being born again under a Zanu-PF leadership.
That should give everyone a sense of proportion about the kind and form of “reform” or transformation to look forward to: an over-inflated sense of agency in what Zanu-PF chooses to do can only lead to exaggerated disappointment with the new administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. That is why from the outset we should keep uppermost in our minds that everywhere people are looking homeward for salvation: the Europeans, the Americans, the British. It is only Africans who scream “investors first”; a posture and spirit alien to any nation that hopes to develop, to excel, to be respected and to take charge of its own destiny.
But let’s deal with first things first – dating, periods and the legacy.
President Mnangagwa’s inaugural speech was solid on matters of substance: former president Robert Mugabe deserves our honour and respect, the land reform is irreversible and his economic policies will have their foundations where his predecessor left off. After all he was there when it all happened; he can only differ in the style of management.
It is therefore vital that cadres in the revolutionary Zanu-PF party don’t fall into a trap of false periodisation and dating as if history began in 1980.
Those who listen closely will note how, since the land reform programme in 2000, there has been an attempt to associate Zimbabwe’s economic challenges with Independence. That Rhodesia was the land of milk and honey spoilt by the advent of majority rule.
This narrative doesn’t mention the resources spent by the new Government on social services such as education, health and other infrastructure. Masters of this trick don’t want to hear that Africans were placed fourth in the colonial perking order: that they were excluded from Julius Nyerere’s “Jewel of Africa”, from the mainstream economy except as messengers and office clerks.
That while the new Government of prime minister Robert Mugabe was trying to provide basic, elementary human services to a majority of blacks flocking from a countryside ravaged by war into towns and cities in search of new opportunities, diehard Rhodesians who couldn’t imagine life under a black leader were sabotaging the economy by withdrawing their skills and talents and leaving for apartheid South Africa and Europe.
The narrative we are being made to listen to is that majority rule from 1980 has been a wasteland of corruption and mismanagement.
I came to Harare for the first time in 1981. For more than a year we lived in a block of flats at the corner of Baines Avenue and Mazowe Street. I witnessed Harare when it was still the Sunshine City, and know how blacks were excluded from the Jewel of Africa by “whites only” signs, and lack of money. Few blacks owned a car, very few aspired nor hoped ever to own one. That was a white privilege, if not right.
—Absolutely nothing racist intended—
I therefore feel unsettled when an African, instead of talking about economic development or growth, talks about the new President taking Zimbabwe to “its former glory”. Hello! Where and when was that nirvana?
Today the doors are open to all. We must not forget where the rain began to beat us in the euphoria of a narrative that seeks to denigrate the meaning of our Independence.
I caution about misleading dates and periodisation because I noted how, through inadvertency, President Mnangagwa’s inaugural speech referred to how Zimbabwe’s economy has deteriorated in the past two decades. Fine, so long as we differentiate in this period a decline of the white jewel and a painful but certain emergence of “a new economy” owned and controlled by Africans.
—-Black Friday, fast-track—–
So long as we don’t allow things to get mixed up.
You can bet that those opposed to the land reform enjoy this form of periodisation. Remember how they always refer to Black Friday, that November 14, 1997 when the Government paid US$2000 each to the country’s liberation war heroes!
The local currency lost 72 percent against the US dollar, in addition to what it had already lost during the IMF’s structural adjustment programme when business urged Government to devalue more steeply to spur exports that never materialised. That’s your two decades ago, and Esap eviscerated the economy more than any alleged mismanagement could have done. That’s partly how the jewel was destroyed, and that’s what comes to mind when business and the opposition talk of IMF “reform”. Beware what you embrace in the name of market economy.
The fast-track land reform programme, a matter at the heart of the liberation war itself, falls in the same period. That’s when the Rhodesian jewel lost its shine.
But deliberately and cleverly, periodisation of that economic decline doesn’t tolerate talk of the deadly intention and effect of America’s Zidera and its derivative targeting corporates, OFAC. Racist sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe in 2001 as retribution for the land reform are justified and supported as condign punishment for alleged human rights violations.
Thankfully, the President is very clear. Those sanctions helped finish off what was left of the Rhodesian jewel. They must go as a priority. They are a major factor keeping Zimbabwe on its knees, with corruption contributing its bit, but that’s an internal matter the President has started combating with an ultimatum on those who externalised money to bring it back within the next three months.
My point about sloppy periodisation is that we cannot mark our economic challenges from two decades ago without validating the intended propaganda that payment to war veterans and the fast-track land reform programme were the sole causes of Zimbabwe’s economic problems; that Africans who fought for independence cannot run a modern, white economy and that all the productive land should have been left in the ownership and control of a few white commercial farmers.
That periodisation belies the strides our black farmers have made since 2000 in tobacco production, and what we can achieve with sufficient funding given the success of Command Agriculture under then Vice President Mnangagwa.
The enclave economy of 1980 is being replaced by a new economy.
Many grave mistakes were made in the course of reclaiming our heritage but let us not throw away our legacy of radical economic transformation. Let’s build on it as we engage the international community.
We are not out to beg for alms, but to seek fair deals for our natural resources. It is convenient to dismiss Trump as mad when he talks America first. But he is only a white version of Mugabe, and we saw him in action on his recent Asian tour.
Yet for us now, and this is the real transition we need, President Mnangagwa doesn’t need Mugabe’s fiery rhetoric anymore. It’s calculated, hard negotiations and bargaining with potential investors around indigenisation and economic empowerment that will for the first time grow an African economy owned by Africans. We are not reinventing the wheel. It is Zimbabwe first.
It is a legacy and spirit nobody can take away from Zanu-PF.
The other issues for a quick economic turnaround are pretty straightforward: we don’t need a bloated Cabinet; let’s cut down on expenditure. Civil servants must earn their keep. Corruption is anathema. We have allowed it to run riot in both Government and the private sector where prices are increasing daily.
Let the hammer fall hard.