Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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bridging the knowledge gap: Indigenisation, empowerment

Bridging the knowledge gap: Indigenisation, empowerment

by Mutumwa Mawere Tuesday 02 March 2010

OPINION: President Robert Mugabe celebrated his 86th birthday last week and Zimbabwe will celebrate its 30th independence anniversary in a few weeks.

Mugabe is the oldest head of state and government in Africa. He has been privileged to have a long and eventful life.

Zimbabwe does not know of any other leader than Mugabe and, therefore, it is difficult to imagine what kind of society Zimbabwe would be if it had had another leader.

Zimbabwe was born out of the womb of Rhodesia and its history, challenges, and prospects have been similar to that of other post-colonial African states.

Zimbabwe, like many of its sister African states, inherited a dualistic and distorted economic system.

Mugabe can argue convincingly as one of the founding fathers of Zimbabwe that democracy, rule of law, respect for persons and property rights were products of struggle and not a gift from the former oppressors.

After nearly 30 years of independence, Mugabe used the occasion of the celebration of his birthday to reinforce the message that the resources of  the country belonged to the people of the country by saying: “We are saying
no, no, no the land is ours, the gold is ours, the uranium and forests and the wildlife are all ours.”

He made the point that the people of Zimbabwe will fight for their resources in the same manner they fought the imperialists to be freed from the yoke of colonial bondage.

In an implicit admission that the people of Zimbabwe have squandered the opportunities to transform and grow the economy, Mugabe said that it was up to the people of Zimbabwe to organise themselves so that they can take advantage of the opportunities created by the indigenization policy.

The challenges facing Zimbabwe after 30 years of independence are not different from the challenges faced by any nation in terms of reducing the frontiers of poverty.

What kind of Zimbabwe did Mugabe and his colleagues want to see? Why has it taken 30 years to admit that the kind of outcomes envisaged have not been realised and yet the people who had the privilege of leading the charge remain in power with little or no accountability?

Whose responsibility should it have been to construct an inclusive and enabling Zimbabwe? We all many argue that it is and should have been the responsibility of the leadership to dictate the pace of change.

To the extent that after 30 years of independence under his leadership, Mugabe admitted that the long walk to freedom did not produce short walks to banks, it is important that we seize the opportunity to pause and reflect on the kind of society we want to see in Africa and what kind of citizen should be part of it.

Although the constitution of Zimbabwe confers rights and obligations on all, the premise on which the indigenization argument is being advanced is that only black people who were born before 1980 are eligible for empowerment even in the knowledge that it would be wrong to exclude the born frees.

It is being argued that even white people who chose to be Zimbabwean in the last 30 years have qualified citizenship in so far as access to shareholding in productive enterprises.

One must accept that there are many white people who came to Zimbabwe in the last 30 years and like their black born frees were blessed with wealth who now find themselves at the receiving end of a language that can make them regret why they made the choices they may have made believing that it was all in the interests of building a non-racial and inclusive post-colonial Africa.

Who should be the referee? Is it conceivable that a non-partisan, objective and impartial referee can ever be found in the business of economic power distribution? Can it be argued that the few who have done well even in the absence of the new law in Zimbabwe did so because of patronage?

Can human beings be empowered? Is it possible for the state let alone parents to socially engineer outcomes from their citizens or children?

What do we learn from experiences of progressive and prosperous nations? Do we draw the lessons that the success of citizens is a function of a benevolent state?

What is even more important in our knowledge building is to establish whether there was any causal link between white business success and state patronage? If such link existed, then it would be natural to expect that
state owned enterprises would produce better economic results that privately owned entities.

Zimbabweans are fortunate to have a leader whose views on the role of the state have been consistent. After 30 years, Zimbabweans must admit that they have failed to convince not only Mugabe but his colleagues that any future premised on state engineered processes of economic power distribution is doomed to fail in as much as the socialist experiment failed in many countries.

Socialism failed to eradicate poverty let alone provide hope to citizens. Although socialism is not a reliable partner in the poverty reduction enterprise, it is an attractive ideology in explaining why poverty exists.

Zimbabwe inherited an economy that could hardly be described as capitalist and ripe for a socialist revolution. It simply had too many poor people and the ruling party could hardly be considered at independence as having been a vanguard of the working class.

The consciousness of the working people (a small percentage of the population) was not ready to underpin the kind of changes that would have been necessary to support the revolution.

One can appreciate how lonely, for instance, Mugabe is. He is simply not aware that his own close colleagues would rather have a short walk to the bank than a long walk to freedom.

The people who are more vociferous on the indigenisation agenda are the very people who have no interest in disclosing their commercial interests to the President.

Mugabe is not alone in believing that through changes in the legal framework, desired economic outcomes can materialise.

It would be difficult for any rational person to argue that economic transformation is unnecessary. However, the real devil lies in the details.

Zimbabweans have failed to convince Mugabe, for example, that the land reform programme exposed greed than anything else.

From where he stands, he can argue that the end justifies the means. If there is no better way of redistributing wealth, it may then be argued that any road taken is better than doing nothing.

What do individual Zimbabweans want to see? If indigenisation as framed were the answer to the Zimbabwean question then one would expect a mass movement of human traffic from the diaspora in the same manner as East Germans stampeded to the West when the Berlin Wall was removed.

People need a secure future. The pioneers black entrepreneurs have been harassed and externalised and yet their progress was not driven by any legislative changes but by the determination and hard work of the actors
concerned. – ZimOnline  


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