Foremost amongst the economic destroyers are activists such as the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) and the more extreme elements of Zimbabwe’s war veterans, including those constituting the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU). This has long been apparent, but has been markedly demonstrated in recent months.
Save for those deliberately obtuse, it is widely recognised that amongst the very many prerequisites for economic recovery and growth is absolute enforcement of law and order, inclusive of a total respect for property and human rights. If just, equitable enforcement of law and order, free of abuse and misuse of authority, does not exist, and if there is no respect for property and human rights, no economy can thrive. Even more, an economy teetering on the brink of the abyss of complete annihilation cannot back away from that abyss if government, its arms of law enforcement and civil society fail to have that respect, and if there is only myopic disregard for international and moral norms of law and order.
Integral with that need is that all have an unreserved observance of human rights, and unimpeachable respect for property rights. These are wholly essential economic environmental requirements if any economy is to be the recipient of substantive domestic and foreign investment, and such investment is critical for the creation of employment, stimulation of economic activity, generation of foreign exchange inflows, and maximisation of fiscal revenues. They are equally essential if an economy is to be a recipient of the international lines of credit required for a virile money market capable of providing all economic sectors with necessary working capital, and also to enable access to international developmental aid required for the recovery and revitalisation of an emaciated economy.
Government demonstrated its contemptuous disregard for these key requirements for the wellbeing of the Zimbabwean economy when it embarked upon the disastrous land reform programme, which not only substantially destroyed agriculture as the foundation of and major contributor to the economy, but “legalised” the theft of land and of the improvements thereon, of agricultural plant and equipment, livestock and crops, and the physical endangerment of thousands of farmers and their families.
Effectively, it sought to justify its actions by impliedly suggesting that “two wrongs make a right”! Compounding the government- created tragedy was that land reform could have been pursued constructively and beneficially to the populace and to the economy, but government was dogmatically oblivious of the opportunities to do so.
Incapable of learning from its mistakes, government emulated the catastrophic land reform programme with its destructive approach to achieving much needed indigenisation and economic empowerment. These are but two foremost examples of government’s innumerable ill-advised, unjust, economically-destructive policies and actions. Moreover, it has recurrently compounded the catastrophic consequences of its acts by having a complete disregard for the law enforcement necessary for the protection of property and human rights, allowing rank and file to resort to “self-service” acquisition of the property of others, all too frequently associated with violence and breach of human rights.
Particularly tragic is how government and activists and extremists within the populace continue to pursue such devastating destruction, progressively reversing the significant first steps towards economic recovery achieved in 2009. In recent months there has been an intensification of farm invasions, targetted against the very few farms still occupied by whites. These invasions have, in the main, been coordinated and led by war veterans (actual or pseudo), and actioned against farms which had not been “acquired” in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act, but merely being farms coveted by those invading them, often aided and motivated by some well-connected politically. In many instances the invasions have been violent, and the government in general, and the Zimbabwe Republic Police in particular, have not even sought to contain the invasions and the associated violence.
In the past few weeks, there has been a “spillover” into urban areas, with AAG encouraged invasions, usually by violent youths, of commercial and residential properties, especially so in central Bulawayo. Similarly, demands are being made that shares in companies now be “sold” (at notional, nominal values) to indigenous Zimbabweans, more often than not being persons holding offices in the AAG. Compounding that, the Bulawayo Metropolitan province resident minister, Cain Mathema, the Bulawayo Branch of AAG secretary, Rtd Major Malaba, and the chairman of the Bulawayo United Residents Association have publicly demanded transfer of shares in companies, having wage payment arrears to those companies’ workers. In making such demands, they have relied upon non-factual contentions of some self-appointed worker representatives, aided and supported by ZFTU and by ill-informed, sensationalistic media reports which disregard fact and realities. They further ignore that a transfer of shares is of no benefit to the workers if those workers are unable to fully capitalise the companies in order to fund viable operations.
These “invasion” actions of farms and properties, and these aggressive pursuits of business-ownership transfer to activists and to persons devoid of capital and resources, are exacerbating the reversal of the much-needed economic recovery which had been commenced in 2009. They are yet again deterring foreign investment, as well as the domestic investment required for the revitalisation and expansion of businesses. They are similarly motivating international financiers once again not to extend to Zimbabwe the lines of credit so desperately needed to assure adequacy of money supply in the money market, and from that market to commerce and Industry.
Not only do the activists need to “think again” (or, perhaps, think for the first time), but government and those in its hierarchy, the AAG, ZFTU, War Veterans, Bura and other like-minded civil society entities need to realise that they are doing Zimbabwe, its people and themselves a great disservice, and instead should be working effectively towards real economic recovery. Concurrently, compliance with law, and with preservation of human rights, must be ensured by government and by its law enforcement authorities.