Comment

Zim’s prosperity lies in the future, not past



A”>PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has once again set the parameters under which his successor should be chosen. According to Zanu PF’s The Voice newspaper, he wants Zimbabwe’s next leader to have participated in the liberation struggle; to be “one who cherishes the principles and objectives of the ruling party”.


“We want to have a successor who will cherish …our revolutionary gains and ensure that these are a national preserve and should not be tampered with in any way by any outsider or by any of our Zimbabwean renegade fellows,” he ruled.


The advantages of such prescriptions are that within party structures it becomes easy to choose leaders who meet the stated criteria. It narrows the selection process to a few identifiable individuals.


But this assumes that we are dealing with a homogeneous party, one not severely strained by simmering divisions such as Zanu PF is at the moment. While it is easy to point out who participated in the liberation struggle, the same cannot be said of commitment to the “principles and objectives” of the ruling party. Nor are the electorate clear on who embodies the national outlook to be preserved in perpetuity.


Like many long-term incumbents, Mugabe has come to see the nation’s future as tied to his own “values”, however inappropriate for change and growth those mantras may be. But do Zimbabweans really want a replica of Mugabe as their future leader?


In any case his anti-corruption crusade has left many of those who would otherwise fit his ideological straitjacket badly exposed. Some of those identified as possible heirs have been mentioned in shady deals of one sort or another, from dealing illegally in gold, foreign currency on the black market or simple greed, that is refusing to surrender extra farms they seized at the height of the land reform programme.


Mugabe has so far not shown that he is able to take decisive measures against multiple farm owners to prove that the campaign was not orchestrated as a false sideshow designed to run parallel to Zanu PF’s fight against businessmen in the private sector who were perceived to be either pro-opposition or not actively supportive of the ruling party.


The fact that Zanu PF itself failed to uphold its own leadership code on wealth accumulation suggests that not everybody in the party is some starry-eyed idealist. Most of those who fought in the liberation war and had nothing to their name at Independence in 1980 have become rampant accumulators of capital who would have difficulty explaining the source of their wealth.


This then exposes the limitations of leadership criteria linked to a warrior past which ignore the demands of a more dynamic future society that needs sharper economic eyes than political rhetoric.


While Mugabe might cherish the accolade of retiring as Africa’s angriest old man when it comes to the West, the rest of the nation craves an opportunity for mutually beneficial interaction with the international community. This, Zanu PF cannot achieve alone. The principles and objectives of the party are simply not enough. We need to move ahead as a nation, not as a projection of Zanu PF’s bitter past.


As the president himself acknowledges in his interview with The Voice: “I look at one who will appeal to the people and who the people will have chosen naturally as having the qualities of a leader.”


That means given adequate information to make an informed choice, people will choose their leader according to the exigencies of the present, and not constantly warmed-up past glories.


Zimbabwe cannot prosper on politics alone. We have tasted the diet of hate and slogans over the past 24 years and neither Zanu PF nor the MDC has received any nourishment.


Three million people have voted with their feet to live in countries which Zanu PF daily excoriates. The time has come to look at the needs of the majority. The time has come to look for leaders who have some idea of how a modern economy should be managed. Many of those will have had experience in the business sector.


Leaders must be chosen on the basis of what they can do for the country, not because they deserve to be buried at Heroes Acre for their role in the war. The future certainly calls for new heroes who can rescue the country from the current economic quagmire. None of those in Mugabe’s inner circle can do that. What have they achieved since 2000 apart from a 30% contraction of the economy, mass unemployment and agricultural collapse? What further depredations do they propose over the next five years?


Nothing can be achieved by policies of vengeance. While it is commendable to expand the country’s export markets to the East, there is no point in losing our friends in the West. There is very little to be gained by exporting primary produce to Malaysia and China without adding value. Zimbabwe can only grow into an economic giant by rebuilding its own industries and expanding its manufacturing sector, not by flooding the country with cheap Chinese products that lead to the closure of factories and loss of jobs.


Mugabe is entitled to point out the political parameters within which leaders can be chosen from his own party. But he is wrong to overlook the economic needs of the country. What has proved disastrous over the years since Independence is politicians who pursue policies that militate against vital sectors of production.


That is a gap that needs to be narrowed — but our best economic brains have no war credentials. That is a reality that President Mugabe and his war colleagues have to accept sooner rather than later if we are to stop doing further harm to our country.