ALMOST all Zimbabweans await the outcome of the inter-party talks with very mixed emotions and sentiments.
Some are driven by political considerations, by bitterness and resentment, and like factors. However, foremost in the minds of most are economic issues, in anticipation that a resolution at the talks is a prerequisite for Zimbabwe to embark upon a much needed, grossly overdue, economic upturn. The magnitude of the hardships and sufferings which are borne by the vast majority of the Zimbabwean population is so great that none can focus upon anything other than the struggle for survival. In consequence, their only political thoughts are deep-seated and intensifying resentment of those who rule Zimbabwe.
Most perceive them to be the catalysts of the appalling economic ills. A minority do not go to the extent of blaming the ruling politicians for creating Zimbabweâ€™s disastrous economic circumstance, but do blame them for their total failure to address and heal the ills. As a result, all await anxiously the outcome of the talks, in recognition that only a substantive, workable agreement between the negotiating parties can create the anxiously awaited fulcrum for economic recovery.
That recovery has to address inflation which now substantially exceeds ten million percent per annum, and is sustaining geometric growth. It has to address employment creation, for more than four-fifths of the employable population are without formal sector employment. It has to address a pronounced scarcity of foreign exchange critically required to fund absolutely essential needs of agriculture, industry, commerce, and the population as a whole. It has to address the grievous scarcities of food, of medications, and of diverse other essentials. It has to address a horrendous near-total infrastructural collapse. And it must address much else if Zimbabwe and its population is not to continue to wither and die.
To an overriding extent, achieving such a Zimbabwean metamorphosis is dependent upon those engaged in the negotiations applying unreserved realism of the needs and measures necessary to attain the desperately awaited metamorphosis, and being willing to abandon long-held, self-centred policies and objectives. They have to be willing to sacrifice heretofore rigidly held stances, and place the needs of Zimbabwe ahead of all else.
It is therefore of extreme concern that many media reports intimate that although Zanu PF has agreed to engage in the negotiations, and to target at a new political framework for Zimbabwe, it has specified some allegedly entrenched preconditions for any agreement. In particular, the reports allege that Zanu PF has emphatically stated that wholly non-negotiable are the issues of Zimbabwean sovereignty and of the land reform programme. If these reports are well-founded and based upon fact, then the talks are assured of failure, and the Zimbabwean decline will not only continue, but will accelerate.
None can credibly contest Zimbabweâ€™s right to be an independent, sovereign state. However, that sovereignty must be preserved and implemented without breach of international norms of good governance, respect for human and property rights, absolute compliance with policies of international bodies such as the United Nations, and adherence to law founded wholly upon the fundamental principles of justice. Regrettably, Zanu PF appears to suffer from an intense belief that former colonial powers, and their allies, are determined upon a re-colonisation of Africa in general and of Zimbabwe in particular. This belief is ludicrous in the extreme. Not only have those colonial powers spent most of a half-century vigorously striving to divest themselves of their colonies, and of the attendant responsibilities for those colonies, but it defies all rationality to believe that they have any wish to recolonise and thereby become responsible for very immense destruction.
Those who have hallucinatorily deluded themselves into themselves into believing the re-colonisation theory base their beliefs upon contentions that the developed countries wish for unlimited access and control of primary product wealth of Africa in general, and especially of Zimbabweâ€™s vast potential resources of platinum nickel, diamonds, chrome, coal and much, much else. But the developed countries can access those resources readily by investment and collaboration, without being burdened with a responsibility for millions of under-nourished, homeless and near-destitute people.
Of as great a fixation is that the international community, and those with whom Zanu PF are negotiating, are set upon a reversal of Zimbabweâ€™s land reform programme. This fixation is also ill-conceived. None of Zimbabweâ€™s negotiating parties have called for the programme to be halted and reversed, and all are agreed that the Zimbabwean people must be accorded the opportunity of having land. What is demanded is that, on the one hand, the programme be constructively restructured so as to assure its success, in contradistinction to its current almost total failure. They seek a programme which respects property rights, honours bilateral investment protection agreements, is administered with unequivocal justice, and which is productive.
Zimbabwe has proven, over many decades, the gargantuan viability and potential of its lands. For a very extended period of time, Zimbabwe was effectively the breadbasket of the region, but now it is unable to feed its own people. Agriculture was the foundation of the economy, representing more than a third of gross domestic product, generated most of Zimbabwe foreign exchange needs, and provided employment for over 300 000, over and above being a major fuellant of the downstream economy, and a substantial direct and indirect revenue source for the fiscus. Today agriculture is an emaciated skeleton of its former substance, and this is almost entirely due to the obdurate, counterproductive manner of implementing land reform programme.
Thus, all public indications are that whilst none of the negotiating parties, and none of the international community, contend that there should not be land reform, and none are seeking total rescission of the programme which has been so disastrously pursued, nevertheless they do seek reversal of injustices and ills, and programme restructuring to meet international norms, and those
of justice and equity, and to assure restoration of a viable and successful agricultural sector.
If Zanu PF is incapable of moving inflexible positions of absolute rigidity on the issues of sovereignty and of land reform, and is unable or unwilling to address those issues with realism, then not only can the talks not succeed, but in addition the total collapse of Zimbabwe and the suffering of its people is indisputable. If it does not apply such realism, it may extend its period of national rulership, but it will be ruling the dead. Realism is a must!