Erich Bloch:Constructive Indigenisation

IT is untenable that more that four-fifths of Zimbabwe’s employable population is without formal sector employment, that a third of its adult Zimbabweans live beyond Zimbabwe’s borders in order to generate a livelihood for themselves, their families and other dependants, and that less than 1% of the population is possessed of any ownership of businesses or other economic enterprises, in whole or in part, exclusive of informal sector operations.

 

This unsatisfactory circumstance is exacerbated by the fact that Zimbabwe has very immense potential wealth. Its land was proven, over more than a century, to be extraordinarily fertile, if properly cared for and effectively worked.

So great was that fertility that Zimbabwe sustained not only its own people, but was also the breadbasket for the region. Zimbabwe was the world’s second largest producer of quality tobacco, a major exporter of prime beef, renowned for its citrus exports, a substantive supplier of diverse horticultural products to the European Union in general, and to the United Kingdom in particular.

All these were but a few of the vast array of the top-of-the-market agricultural products that Zimbabwe’s lands yielded for many decades.

But agriculture is but one of the remarkable sources of potential Zimbabwean wealth. Beneath its outstandingly fertile soils lies a plethora of very great mineral wealth, but Zimbabwe has barely resorted to exploiting that wealth reservoir. Zimbabwe could rapidly become the world’s greatest producer of quality platinum, with ore reserves markedly greater than those remaining in South Africa.

It could meet the entirety of Southern Africa’s energy needs for many, many years by viable exploitation of vast methane gas fields. It could be amongst the world’s major producers of gold, gemstone diamonds, nickel, and of many other precious, semi-precious, and base minerals and metals.

Zimbabwe has a remarkable tourism resource, ranging from the unique magnificence and splendour of Victoria Falls, the thrills and excitements of Hwange, Matusadona, Ghonerazou and other wildlife national parks, the mystic of Great Zimbabwe, the sombre and spellbinding beauty of Matopos, the scenic radiance of Lake Kariba, Nyanga, Vumba and Chimanimani, and much, much else. But the extent of exploitation of this tourism richness is minimal, as compared to the potential.

Despite the distressed economic circumstances of Zimbabwe since nevertheless Zimbabwe still has the secondmost developed industrial infrastructure in the region, albeit fast ageing, and weakened by the magnitude of the brain drain and, therefore, of the loss of the skills necessary to operate that industrialised infrastructure to best advantage, and also weakened by the rapidly collapsing state-controlled energy, water, and allied resources.

And, if all Zimbabwe’s agricultural, mining, tourism and manufacturing resources were exploited to maximum advantage, by the economic empowerment of the very many with the latent skills and abilities, then other economic sectors, including the distributive, financial and services sectors, would also develop and grow very considerably, yielding yet further many opportunities of economic empowerment for Zimbabwe’s populace.

With these circumstances, none can credibly challenge government’s espoused intent to ensure economic empowerment for the Zimbabwean people.

That intent has been declared by government recurrently since Independence in April 1980, but for much of that period not only did government do nothing to turn its declared intent into reality, but government also so destroyed and undermined the economy and its potential that instead of an economic empowerment enabling environment being created, naught but obstacles and hurdles to that empowerment were created.

Finally, in 2000, government made first moves towards indigenous economic empowerment, but did so in a devastatingly disastrous, counterproductive and damaging manner. It embarked upon an unjust, foolhardy, self-edifying and self-enriching land reform programme.

It brought to near total destruction the near-totality of agriculture, which was the very foundation of the economy, but effectively empowered very few.

In theory, Zimbabwe now has about 300 000 indigenous farmers, but over 20 million hectares of fertile lands are not worked, most of those new farmers are non-producers, and in the process Zimbabwe has not only lost its wealth of skilled agriculturalists, but it has also demonstrated to the world its disregard for property rights, and thereby demotivated potential investment into Zimbabwe, and provoked the withholding of loans and lines of credit.

It also irrefutably evidenced to the world its inability to honour its own commitments, for many of the lands that it expropriated were lands which had been purchased by farmers since Independence under governmental Certificates of No Interest.

Having failed dismally to achieve successful indigenous agricultural economic empowerment, government turned its attention to the other economic sectors.

It bulldozed through parliament and the senate, in September/October 2007, the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, although almost five months then elapsed before it received presidential assent. Then, presumably in anticipation of the forthcoming presidential run-off election, the effective date of the Act was promulgated.

All of this was accompanied by great rhetoric from the President, many of his ministers, and other Zanu PF hierarchy, that the economically unempowered would soon benefit by wealth transferral to them from those presently economically empowered in general, and from foreigners in particular.

The result has been to bring to a near total end both Foreign Direct Investment, and domestic investment, concurrently with intensified withholding of international lines of credit and loans.

None should challenge endeavours to achieve indigenous economic empowerment, provided it occurs justly and equitably, without national economic prejudice, by government and others achieving this by facilitation and enablement, but not by expropriation and economic oppression and deprivation.

Constructive indigenisation is meritorious and nationally advantageous; expropriative and enforced indigenisation will be a further nail in Zimbabwe’s economic coffin, already substantially nailed by the destruction of agriculture, the disregard for human rights, contempt for law and order, lip-service but non-adherence to fundamental principles of democracy, and alienation of most of the international community.

Government must belatedly see the light, and place national needs ahead of its own.