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Eric Bloch Column

Annihilation of property rights continues

NEVER-ENDINGLY, government demonstrates that it has a death wish, not only for itself, but for the Zimbabwean economy and the Zimbabwean people as well. It ceaselessly pursues policies which can yield naught but

total destruction.

That government will be the indisputable catalyst of a Zimbabwe apocalypse clearly accords it no concern, for it has so resolutely convinced itself of its omnipotence and infallibility that it cannot even momentarily contemplate that any of its policies could be counterproductive and destructive.

Concurrently, having been a pronouncedly battered victim of extreme, biggoted racial discrimination in the pre-Independence era, its deep-seated bitterness, entrenched determination for revenge, and pursuit of self-conviction that it has overcome the evil racial oppressions and now reigns supreme, myopically blinds it to the devastatingly disastrous consequences of its policies.

In part, these policies are centred upon an endless castigation of those countries which were the so-called “oppressive, murderous, racist” colonialists of days gone by, Britain being in the forefront of the recipients of ongoing Zimbabwean governmental vitriol. In addition, any possessed of wealth in Zimbabwe are automatically castigated for that wealth, provided that they are not indigenous Zimbabweans, or that they are non-resident investors in Zimbabwe and, in particular, are residents of previously colonialist countries, or of countries with blatantly more virile and successful economies than that which the government of Zimbabwe has so blatantly decimated. Not only are they recurrently attacked and abused for having attained that Zimbabwean wealth, but they are constantly berated for alleged accumulation of that wealth by stealth of Zimbabwean resources, oppression of Zimbabwean people, and diverse, equally diabolical alleged, but unfounded, allegations of grievous misdeeds.

In particular, Zimbabwe’s government seeks to right those supposed injustices by depriving the recipients of the wealth that they have accumulated, substituting therefore government’s constantly spewed-forth hatred. Wheresoever possible, those who constitute the government, or are relatives, friends, or others well-connected, seek that that wealth deprivation should be achieved by transferral of the wealth to themselves.

The first drive at these policies was the pursuit of land reform. None can credibly contest that in the pre-Independence era land ownership was governed by horrendously unjust discrimination policies, which precluded land ownership by black Zimbabweans.

The ruling party, and the government constituted by it, continuously claimed that the land had been “stolen” from their ancestors. That some of the land had been sold by King Lobengula, and that most of the remainder of the land was wholly unoccupied and unutilised, was completely, and conveniently, disregarded.

So too was the fact that much of that land which was in use had been stolen by the then “indigenous” blacks who came from both north and south of Zimbabwe’s borders, from the San people, who were driven out of the country, into Botswana, by them.

Also ignored was that much of the land had been purchased in the post Independence era by whites who had been recipients of governmental “Certificates of No Interest”, whereby government consented to the sales to those whites, declaring no interest on its part to acquire that land. With equally contemptuous disregard, government cavalierly breached may bilateral investment protection agreements, entered into between it and the countries that it now viciously condemns.

Dismissing all these factors, government continuously claimed, and still claims, that all the land had been stolen, had to be returned to the “rightful” owners, and pursued implementation of that policy without any consideration whatsoever for actual property rights, for justice and equity, and in a way that destroyed the foundation of the Zimbabwean economy.

The economy’s base was agriculture, which fed the nation, the region, provided vast employment, generated considerable foreign exchange, made major fiscal contributions, and much more.

Now the economy is derelict, the nation is starving, and Zimbabwe’s disregard for property and human rights, and for the fundamentals of law, have rendered it an international pariah.

That did not suffice to satisfy government’s arrogant, masochistic and rapacious pursuit of nation annihilation. For years it spoke of introducing legislation to achieve “indigenisation and economic empowerment”, and finally determined to convert its enunciations into action.

But the legislation that has been enacted by parliament does not seek to achieve economic development, and create a facilitation mechanism for increased participation of the people in economic development.

Instead, it seeks to apply the Robin Hood approach of taking from the rich, to give to the poor, so that the poor become temporarily rich, and the rich become permanently poor, save and except when given to the favoured rich, to make them richer. In doing so, government has frightened away almost all investment, from foreign and domestic investors alike, has deterred almost al development and expansion of existing enterprises, and gravely destroyed morale and confidence throughout the Zimbabwean business community, and emaciated the economy further.

Still government is dissatisfied. It is so masochistically intent upon self-destruction, concurrently with the destruction of Zimbabwe, its economy and its people, albeit that that is not an acknowledged objective, and the economy has been so resilient that, although tragically afflicted, it has not wholly collapsed, that government unrelentingly continues with its catastrophic pursuit of the annihilation of property rights.

It has now published a bill, to be enacted by the legislatures, obligating all mining enterprises to “gift” one-quarter of their equity to government. Not only are the mining investors being bludgeoned into donating that substantial portion of equity whilst still also confronted with the provisions of the indigenisation empowerment legislation, but they are being obliged to do so in favour of the most undesirable partner possible, being government, instead of being accorded opportunities to select their equity-holding partners. This measure will undoubtedly be a final nail in the coffin for the motivation of investment in Zimbabwe by private sector investors, be they domestic or foreign.

Government has once again shot itself in the foot, and concurrently has shot Zimbabwe and its economy, and therefore its people, in the heart!

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