Editor’s Memo

Snoop and get it right!

By Vincent Kahiya

SOCIALISM is back!” the Zanu PF official mouthpiece, The Voice, screamed in its edition last Sunday. In an exploration of new depths of naivety, the party expects Zimbabwe

ans to celebrate the return of this denizen of yesteryear’s politics.


The Voice article does not however directly quote Mugabe announcing the return of socialism. In the story, the president lamented the demise of the Soviet Union. He said the party had been misled by the International Monetary Fund to embrace capitalism.


“…The impact of the demise of the Soviet Union, and with it, the socialist ideology it embraced, was keenly felt by our party, its outlook and foundational principles.


“We therefore lost our ideological guidelines and became a victim of rampant capitalism,” Mugabe is quoted as saying.


This is an admission that Zimbabwe never developed its own political ideology. The Zanu PF government tried to ape the communists in the early years of Independence.


By Mugabe’s admission, when Eastern Europe embarked on reform with the fall of the Soviet bloc and the Berlin Wall, the next plan available was an IMF inventory of prescriptions, which Mugabe has always said he accepted reluctantly. This was after they had failed. This was the fashionable route to go. Everyone was doing it.


Then followed a period of embarrassing confusion, characterised by a myriad economic reforms, which were neither communist nor capitalist in outlook.


The government — never shy to mimic anything in vogue — told us it was adopting policies which resulted in the almost magical revival of the Asian Tigers in the 1990s. These “eastern” policies were then put in the blender together with the fast-track land reform—at least a homegrown plan this time—to create a poisonous cocktail that neither benefited industry nor the public.


They only benefited the ruling elite which became very rich. President Mugabe and his colleagues are suddenly surprised by how wealthy they have become when all the voters are as poor as their grandparents were in the 1950s.


The imitation game has continued. The quick-fix National Economic Development Priority Programme has its roots in the Malaysian models which were designed to deal with specific issues expeditiously.


The striking out of zeros on our currency has its roots in Mozambique and South America. Now the Reserve Bank wants to establish rural banks and teams have been dispatched to West Africa to see how it is done there.


There is nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from models used by other countries. This only becomes problematic when the student snooping at a bright colleague’s script in an exam copies the wrong information. That is why the models we have tried to adopt have failed. It is commitment to the application of the policies which has been a disaster.


President Mugabe has said a committee in Zanu PF is working on defining a new policy the party should follow and this would be availed in December at the Goromonzi conference.


I hope that President Mugabe’s statement bemoaning the death of Communism is not being used to map the course for another policy disaster. I also hope that the presidential lament was just a hangover from rubbing shoulders with socialist comrades at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Communist Cuba last month.


But this could be used as a feeble excuse to refocus party ideology so that it falls in sync with those of the few remaining comrades in Havana, Caracas and Pyongyang. But for goodness’ sake, why should our leaders make it their business to frequent the ideological scrapyard to forage for what the world has discarded?


President Mugabe should look around in the region to see what is working in those countries. It is definitely not the old Soviet socialism. The countries are forward looking. They are not interested in “isms” but in attracting investment and enhancing social development. When Zambia, South Africa and Botswana are buoyant about reducing unemployment, we are busy discussing ways of accelerating our regression and ensuring that we remain the bad boys in the hood.