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Who are the ‘we’ and who are the ‘they’ in looting of land, mines?

By Charles Frizell

THERE are certain words and phrases that we should be very suspicious of whenever they are used by politicians and even more suspicious when Zimbabwea

n politicians use them.

Politicians and especially our politicians are masters of deception as we have learned to our cost. How many fine-sounding slogans have turned out to be no more than words full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? Or even worse, these fine slogans have been used to disguise actions that turned out to be the exact opposite of what we thought they meant?

A glaring example of this is of course the Bill supposedly to promote freedom of information that turned out in fact to be intended to stifle free speech. Then there was the Suppression of Foreign Terrorism Bill that was used to entrench state terrorism against the people and the opposition.

A little reflection will show that almost every law enacted was intended to achieve the exact opposite of the propaganda spin it was initially given.

What we should be particularly suspicious of now is the increasing use of the words “we” and “our” by the ruling elite.

First we had the land grab where there was much made of how “we” should seize “our” land. This was naked deception because those from whom the land was taken were the rightful and legal owners of that land and those who called themselves “we” were not. The vast majority of the real and legal owners were of course citizens of Zimbabwe. Why were these people not as much “we” as anyone else?

In this particular case, who were the “we”? And who were the “they”? It was initially given out that “we” were exclusively black nationals and “they” were white citizens.

However it soon became apparent that black and coloured farmers who did not support Zanu PF were targets as well. Many foolish things were said at the time, and continue to be said by politicians including the highest office in the land.

When the dust had settled it became obvious to all that this had been nothing but a colossal exercise in looting and vote buying. When they had served their purpose the pawns that had been used were in turn thrown off the land to make way for the chefs — which was no doubt the long-term intention anyway.

So in this case “we” turned out to be the usual suspects — a small group of well-connected people in the hierarchy. But it sounded good at the time!

Another deception of some years back was that used by the Affirmative Action Group in order to obtain shares in large companies. They assiduously pushed that this was “indigenisation” and was supposedly to “empower the indigenous people”.

Well, as we also know this did not empower anyone other than certain members of the elite who obtained large shareholdings in prosperous companies for next to nothing. Philip Chiyangwa in particular springs to mind here, though of course he was only one of many. “The people” of course did not benefit at all and in fact most of these businesses subsequently went broke and the workers lost their jobs.

What is of concern now is all the talk of how “we” should control “our” mines and “our” mineral resources. This is because agriculture and manufacturing have already been looted and destroyed and there’s now precious little left to steal (sorry — acquire in Zim-speak).

Who does anyone think the “we” is in this case? The people of Zimbabwe as a whole? You must be joking!

This “we” is exactly the same “we” as in all the other scams and that “we” comprises that small clique of ever-richer hoodlums who have systematically looted the country since Independence.

So this fine-sounding, all-inclusive “we” certainly does not mean you. You will not benefit at all, but on the contrary you will suffer when these mines close, you will lose your job and the economy will take yet another dive towards oblivion. But to the looters that does not matter at all! They do not give a damn as long as there’s money in it for them.

All this talk about how “we” should control “our” mines and minerals is already having a large negative effect because planned investment is on hold and future investment becomes even less likely. Zimbabwe (and most other impoverished small countries) does not have the capital or infrastructure to develop big mining ventures; therefore we need large foreign firms to do it for us.

It is even impossible for the country to nationalise the mines, as certain other countries foolishly did in the past. This is because the government is broke and cannot afford to legally purchase shares in any company at all.

So now of course there is an increasing volume of noise saying that “we” don’t need to legally purchase these shares because the resources are “ours” anyway. It is the disastrous land grab all over again.

The mining sector provides many jobs for Zimbabweans, and generates much foreign currency through mineral and metal exports. It also creates a great deal of money within Zimbabwe because all services such as electricity, water, salaries, wages and rates are paid locally.

The government also benefits hugely from the taxes levied. But of course it does not generate a huge amount of unearned income for a small clique of greedy individuals with connections in the corridors of power!

Perhaps even more importantly, these mines cannot be used to buy support in a corrosive web of patronage — as long as they remain in the hands of the rightful shareholders.

* Charles Frizell is a Zimbabwean based in the UK.

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