Recent calls to bury the hatchet with the once-despised international community by high-profile government officials clearly indicates that chickens are now coming home to roost.
Sunday Opinion by Tonderai Matonho
Hard line politics and regression is now mellowing and taking a relapse and creating space and time for reengagement. Humility and meekness, whether one is holding the reigns of power or not, is a critical tool of progressive governance. It is about time to face the present crisis with humility whether one is looking east or west.
Most governments with authoritarian tendencies, at one time or another, face limitations that impose constraints on the economy and its politics. Scholars and academics note that such limitations take various shapes and forms: the economic crisis caused by an arrogant leadership and increases the erosion of national stability and legitimacy, the coming to the fore of alternative economic and political models and the persistent criticisms of the international community by a ruling elite rather than engagement.
Despite the short period of the inclusive government which had brought rays of hope, it is clear that these limitations have been prominent in the recent history of Zimbabwe, especially prevailing before the GNU in 2009. These are the issues that need to be tackled collectively, taking everyone on board. Thanks to the new voices of reason and engagement which have arisen. Zimbabwe definitely needs to move forward with all relevant parties lifting up where they stand. It is necessary to state in this light that re-engaging the international community means that it is a positive step to bring in alternatives to start developing the country.
Against the backdrop of the above limitations, it is interesting to note that whereas on the one hand government was suspicious of foreign investment, at the same time it is now seeking to attract it. In the words of political economists: ‘the juxtaposition of centralised and hard line politics and the need for investment produces the bizarre implication that foreign capital help attain a new revolution’. While there is general consensus on the need for economic reforms, there is no agreement on the form the reforms are to take in order to boost depressed investment, wipe out ghost workers and restructure government ministries accordingly and professionally to achieve growth, promote exports and create employment.
In retrospect, way back in the late eighties and early nineties, when it became apparent that the economy was not generating sufficient employment, especially in the context of depressed investment, government adopted a more market-driven reform programme called ESAP in 1991. However, civil society was not consulted in the design of ESAP and thus most resented the programme. Even within the government itself, the issue was not put to parliamentary and popular debate. ESAP and the other economic reform programmes born out of its realisation years later can still be arguably said were a complete failure. As Chinamasa and his team go out with begging bowls to the international community, they must be cognisant of this past but pertinent scenario.
Of critical importance is the failure to consult other social partners which hinder progress. The words of multilateral institutions stipulate that development programmes most developing countries adopt must demonstrate the importance of popular ownership and participation throughout the process of implementation. An open, transparent dialogue can help generate realistic expectations, reduce uncertainty, frustrations and contribute to a unified sense of national ownership for reforms.
Without a shadow of doubt, the performance of the Zimbabwean economy is at variance and at odds with the general trend in the rest of the world. Virtually, all economic indicators point to a serious downward trend, seemingly heading back to 2008. God forbid. Risk-averse investors, even from the east, have shunned and mentioned the issue of the yet unclear indigenisation policy. This policy needs to be clearly re-crafted, adjusted and well enunciated in the months to come to attract positive and serious investment in the economy.
Obviously, without such pronouncements, it will be difficult to cushion through employment creation, the more than 80 percent of Zimbabweans currently living below the poverty datum line. It is high time now more than ever, that the government policies start to address the inherited dual and enclave economy. The test of an economic and thus political transition is upon Zimbabwe as a nation. Will there be enough space to manoeuvre the transition? Only time will tell.