The conference was predictably full of sound and fury but, as has often been the case, ended up with nothing much apart from sending a chill down the spine of investors. The call for revenge came at a time when the indigenisation policy has stirred endless problems.
It would be interesting to start by noting how Zanu PF sets the agenda for issues to be discussed and how debates are conducted.
The party, which executed a liberation war organised under the Leninist principle of democratic centralism, has failed to grow out of this organisational method which it has been abusing ever since leaving the bush in 1980.
Whereas under democratic centralism there is room for debate, it is clearly evident that at Zanu PF conferences, the presidium sets the agenda and the role of the delegates is to give it a modicum of discussion.
As such, the “revenge thesis” was informed by this flawed decision-making model which leaves many wondering what intellectual effort drove it and what the benefits for the ordinary Zimbabwean are.
If the decision to avenge the sanctions against the country by “hitting back” and taking over companies of British and American origin was not informed by deep intellectual effort, then the logical question is what is the effect of that announcement?
Zanu PF has a tendency of adopting certain policies which suit populist pretentions and the fast- track land reform and this new push fit snugly into this category. It is without doubt a policy that has been adopted with an eye firmly set on the anticipated elections next year.
What is worrisome is that there is a continued failure to distinguish between politics and the economy. This threat, if implemented, would have far-reaching consequences for the economy. This is a precipitous if not mischievous policy, as it is not rooted in the quest to better the lives of ordinary citizens. They expect those who govern them to find ways to uplift their living standards and not grab food from their mouths. Zanu PF expects this resolution to be translated into policy and the question is how would this be done given the current configuration in the inclusive government. The bureaucrats, who should implement this policy, know very well that it will not work and unlike the land reform cannot be forced down people’s throats.
Since this is a political move, investors are likely to respond in a predictable manner — hold on to their funds or move out of the country. Zanu PF thinks it has plan B in its “Look East” policy.
Zanu PF has a misplaced faith in Oriental investors but any serious analyst will tell you that if anything, Chinese investments have been a trickle and it will take a long time before they become torrents.
Not many large investors from China have come to the country despite a deliberate effort under the “Look East” policy. What the country has been receiving are the petty retailers who have transformed the country into a giant supermarket selling cheap merchandise and the result has been the death of certain small-scale industries run by Zimbabweans. The death of the textile and shoe industries can be traced to the influx of the cheap merchandise. The very mention of Chinese investors evokes images of the dragon devouring local industries.
After all, it would not make sense to replace Rio Tinto and Anglo American with Chinese companies because the Oriental countries are friendly to us. The move would not assist in the country’s industrialising efforts.
Zimbabwe’s industries, battered by a decade of economic problems, are struggling to reach the 50% capacity utilisation and the recent calls only serve to take us backwards.
It is clear that Zimbabwe’s lost decade led to massive de-industrialisation and as it stands at the moment, the country should come up with clear strategies to attract investment which would assist in re-industrialisation.
A critical analysis of the recent Zanu PF conference shows that the pronouncements made in Mutare do not in any was assist in the re-industrialisation efforts. In fact they would reverse the few gains recorded so far and it would henceforth take a short-sighted investor to throw his penny’s worth of capital into Zimbabwe’s bottomless pit.