BY ARTHUR MUTAMBARA
The starting point in the journey to a prosperous Zimbabwe is to understand the nature and character of Zimbabwe’s problems. The country has inextricably linked, seemingly intractable, political and economic challenges. On the political side, there is a nagging political crisis of legitimacy and governance. The key problem is that of polarisation, which is a product of legitimacy issues arising from a disputed outcome of the July 2018 presidential elections. Compounding this quagmire, is the dearth of leadership and statesmanship in the country.
The economy is in free fall, debt-ridden and characterised by a shortage of electricity, a currency crisis, hyperinflation and low productivity coupled with low capacity utilisation. Further challenges include unprecedented deindustrialisation, a crippling trade deficit, lack of competitiveness, high sovereign risk undermining foreign direct investment, reckless spending by a bloated and profligate government, a shrinking tax base, and debilitating unemployment. Social services have collapsed, in particular, the healthcare sector.
With an unequivocal and robust appreciation of the political and economic nature of the beast, the next step is to develop and proffer both political and economic solutions, taking cognisance of the primacy of the political interventions. Without resolution of the political challenges, all economic efforts will be futile. Toxic politics create a disenabling environment for economics.
A prosperous Zimbabwe demands peace, security, stability and unity of purpose. Zimbabweans must find each other. It is essential to engage in genuine all-inclusive dialogue rooted in absolute clarity on the causes of the current polarisation. The agenda, format, structure and objectives of the dialogue must be clear and shared by all protagonists. Pursuit and centrality of the national interest must force all Zimbabweans to acknowledge the immortality of the case and need for an all-inclusive conversation.
There is a need for all stakeholders to agree on and implement political reforms to deepen democracy and enhance accountability in general, while specifically improving the management of election processes to ensure freeness, fairness, credibility and transparency, thus guaranteeing undisputed poll outcomes. This will address the major source of Zimbabwe’s perennial polarisation — stolen or rigged elections. Electoral reforms must be implemented to enable fair, free and credible elections, reduce disputed poll outcomes and thus prevent illegitimacy. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must be reformed as the manager of elections in Zimbabwe. It has perennially and consistently — in 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2018 — failed to deliver legitimate election results.
Beyond elections, there is a need for electoral reforms to broaden and deepen the democratic space in the country. These reforms include ensuring impartiality and independence of state institutions; a functionally independent judiciary; genuine reform of oppressive legislation which inhibit political rights and freedoms – not the charade which was witnessed with the enactment of an equally pernicious Maintanance of Peace and Order Act which replaced the Public Order and Security Act; training of law enforcement agents and institutions to ensure constitutional and measured policing; curtailment of politically motivated arrests; removal of impunity by ensuring that perpetrators of politically motivated violations are held to account; and emphasis on Parliament as source of laws and not statutory instruments or decrees. Furthermore, the state media must be professionalised to ensure non-partisan coverage. Major media reforms are required to enable independent private player participation in all forms of media, including radio and television.
While political reforms are critical, it is imperative and prudent to note that they are necessary but not sufficient for a successful journey to a prosperous Zimbabwe. With a solid foundation anchored in agreed and implemented political reforms,
Zimbabweans must then collectively develop and adopt a shared national vision and strategy with three pillars — social, political and economic. The vision framework must have overarching values and principles to underpin a new dispensation. Mega-impact projects must be identified, which will have a disproportionate impact on economic growth and gross domestic product. To complement the shared national vision, a national brand must be crafted to sharpen country competitiveness and foster country reputation management.
Implementation, planning and dogged execution must accompany all national plans, while monitoring and evaluation are dutifully applied. There is need to develop detailed economic blueprints and implementation plans for all key sectors such as agriculture, mining, infrastructure, manufacturing, health, education and tourism, with emphasis on moving up global value chains, innovation and entrepreneurship, use of high technology and climate change — proofing of all initiatives.
In addressing the prevailing debilitating economic challenges, holistic solutions targeting the underlying causes must always be sought. For example, the currency crisis is a symptom of the general economic malaise pervading the country. This must be taken cognisance of. One can introduce as many currencies or reforms as they wish, but without addressing the fundamental issues, it will all be in vain. Currency reforms must be predicated upon confidence and trust in the country and its economy by its citizens, businesses and investors. There must be enhanced productivity and production as a foundation for effective currency interventions. There must be reserves to back any new currency while fiscal consolidation, coupled with the elimination of profligacy, is instituted.
There is a need to ring-fence savings, deposits and pensions from the potential value destruction that might be occasioned by currency reforms.
Sanctions constitute a symptom of bigger problems in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans must solve these more significant and massive challenges by embracing what has been articulated above. Sanctions are not the core issue in Zimbabwe. In any case, Zimbabweans must address the reasons why the sanctions were imposed in the first place. This must be done, not to please the external players — the imposers of sanctions — but in pursuit of our national interest. For the avoidance of doubt, this does not imply reversing the land reform programme.
Not at all. Furthermore, we must address self-imposed sanctions, which are in the form of corruption, primitive accumulation, misgovernance, the rigging of elections, violation of human rights, disrespect of the rule of law, police brutality, and general subjugation of citizens.
Beyond the country, Zimbabwe must leverage continental integration and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Africans across the continent must take a vested interest approach to the resolution of Zimbabwean challenges. Why? First and foremost, all people of African descent are the same people. Ubuntu and Pan Africanism bind us together. Secondly, the economic prosperity of African countries is inextricably linked. Under globalisation our African economies will flourish or degenerate together.
The above framework will constitute the best path to a prosperous Zimbabwe.
l Arthur Mutambara is Zimbabwe’s former deputy prime minister.