Comment

Politics is the problem and the solution: it’s that simple

IT is salutary that government has acknowledged the pivotal role of agriculture in Zimbabwe’s economic recovery, but dismaying that President Mugabe believes such re

covery can be attained on the basis of a shortsighted selection of who to deal with in the international community.


Speaking at the opening of the second session of parliament on Tuesday, President Mugabe put agriculture at the centre of economic recovery, emphasising the need for timely delivery of inputs, security of tenure and the need for stability on the farms.


In this regard, he promised firm action against those causing havoc on newly-acquired farms by either vandalising equipment or destroying infrastructure.


These activities are no less detrimental to Zimbabwe’s food self-sufficiency than corruption is to the administration of justice and the well-being of the financial services sector.


If only there was sufficient political will to deal resolutely with corruption and malfeasance.


Mugabe observed when he addressed his party’s central committee two weeks ago that what was needed to revive agriculture were skills, money and labour. “Not everyone can be a farmer,” it finally dawned on him.


The least we can say is that a major Operation Murambatsvina is required on the farms before people can take government seriously about what needs to be done. Productivity cannot be enhanced by looking for scapegoats such as Western sanctions and transitory droughts. Time must finally come when people should tell each other some home truths. That time is now.


We fear that these good intentions cannot be achieved by a sorely divided nation. Without a comprehensive political settlement, it is hard to see how government hopes to marshal the nation’s abundant talent and resources for the common good. There can never be an outright winner in Zimbabwe’s current badly polarised political environment, not even by an over-exuberant opposition trying to tap into the groundswell of a disenchanted nation. Is this the legacy that Mugabe wants to bequeath to this country?


A quick political settlement will help us lure back the talent and skills of our sons and daughters scattered across the globe because of economic and political problems at home. Every year Zimbabwe spends billions of dollars training manpower in various skills that we lose to other countries because of bad policies. Developed nations that have more resources than ourselves save millions from the pool of cheap labour and skills that we lose.


It is the skills more than the trickle of American dollars and British pounds that we need to get this country out of this malaise. It is the goodwill of everybody that we need to get international aid, debt relief and national development. The recovery of the economies of Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in recent years demonstrates just how important foreign direct investment and debt cancellation can be to a poor country’s development.


Zimbabwe needs to harness all its resources — material and human — to produce and sell goods in the best markets across the globe. It was in this regard, we presume, that the president called on parliament to ratify the revised Cotonou agreement that regulates trade regimes between Europe and African, Caribbean and Pacific nations.


But we fail to see how this can be achieved in the face of the current political standoff between Zimbabwe and the European Union. It matters very little that we choose to call that dispute a bilateral issue between Zimbabwe and Britain. Those countries act as a bloc and consider an injury to one as an injury to all.


Similarly, we have lost a great deal in textile trade concessions under the Agoa arrangements with the United States. We don’t doubt that inroads have been made in finding new markets in the Far East. The normal tendency is for nations to work on principles of aggregates, not substitution, to expand their markets and negotiate favourable trade deals.


In this regard our “Look East” policy has been informed by bigotry as if that part of the world is eager to cut special deals with us as a nation.


Our cotton, our minerals, our tobacco and our processed products must be sold to the best bidders to the benefit of the nation. We should work to reconcile Zimbabwe to the community of nations. There is no doubt that we have more to lose by our isolation than can ever be made up for by cutting minute trade agreements in the East. Shortages of power, fuel, drugs and balance of payments support bear testimony to this dire state.


It is the holistic, all-embracing vision that we found missing from the president’s address. Piecemeal policy initiatives with no mass appeal only invite cynicism from business and other stakeholders. No leadership that is serious can afford that.