Erich Bloch: Statesmen Vs Politicians

IT was the renowned French statesman, Georges Pompidou, who said: “Statesmen are there to serve the nation, politicians wish the nation to serve them.”

 

In the abysmal circumstances of Zimbabwe today, it matters not who the forthcoming government may be. What matters is whether that government will be comprised of statesmen, or of politicians. If the latter, then the ongoing emaciation and destruction of Zimbabwe will not only continue, but will accelerate to total, irretrievable destruction, but if the former, not only will Zimbabwe recover, but it will transform into a jewel of Africa, with a happy, healthy, thriving people.

Zambia recently described Zimbabwe as a blot on the face of Africa, and that it certainly is, but statesmen can bring about a metamorphosis whereby Zimbabwe will be a brilliant and radiant light on the continent, with a well-nourished, joyful populace for whom life is ongoing happiness and wellbeing.

Today Zimbabwe is a country whose economy has been decimated to levels of near extinction. It is less than two-fifths of its size of less than a decade ago. Over 85% of its employable population is without formal sector employment and that despite the fact that at least a third of the previously employable population has sought pastures new beyond Zimbabwe’s borders. It is a country wherein more than two-thirds of those that live within it struggle to survive at levels well below the Poverty Datum Line (PDL), being the minimum income needed to sustain oneself (and one’s immediate dependents) without endangering health and survival.

It is a country in which average life expectancy has fallen to less than half of former levels, and in which literacy levels are plummeting downwards as ever fewer can afford education. It is a country of broken homes and shattered families, as children have to return from urban to rural areas to maximize prospects of survival, and as evermore breadwinners depart for countries further afield, in a desperate effort to earn a livelihood for themselves and for those that depend upon them.

The independent Zimbabwe of 1980 was one of justifiably high hopes and expectations. Today it is one of misery, despondency, pessimism, negativeness, suffering and distress, wherein malnutrition abounds, few can afford healthcare (albeit that availability of that life-preserving service becomes scarcer), and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, are homeless. The Zimbabwe of 2008 is a country wherein inflation is the second highest ever to have prevailed on the earth, exceeding 20 million%, year-on-year, and rising not monthly, not daily, but hourly. It is a country whose infrastructure is teetering upon the precipice of total collapse, with energy-generation at a minimum, many suffering loss of electricity supplies for 6 to 8 hours daily. Water becomes increasingly in short supply in many urban areas. Telecommunication operations are horrendously appalling. Hospital, health clinic and other essential medical services are intensifyingly not available, due to a constantly growing insufficiency of the medically skilled, the recurrent breakdown of essential equipment and the absence of resources to effect repairs, and intense non-availability of medications and other health care requisites.

Zimbabwe is a country whose fiscus is bankrupt, with domestic debt surging endlessly upwards (in the second quarter of 2008 it rose by 7417, 5% , to $790, 6 quadrillion, not revalued,) whilst foreign debt is so massively great, and so grievously in arrear, that Zimbabwe is a pariah in international monetary markets, with neither public or private sectors able to access lines of credit. And all of these are but a few of the myriad of characteristics of the devastated Zimbabwean economy, of an economy which could have been an example to all under-developed and developing countries.

It is time that Zimbabwe has a government which does not focus its concentration, wholly and solely, upon its survival, self-edification and enrichment, but in the entirety devotes itself to halting and reversing the destruction of Zimbabwe, its economy, and its people. Much is necessary in order to do so, but the very first action is to cease the vituperatively and unceasingly striving to divert perceived culpability to others.

Instead, the government must lead transformation, and must facilitate it, by constructively and energetically addressing each and every one of Zimbabwe’s ills, as against the policies of the past of seeking absolution from blame by attributing (usually falsely) that blame to others. The measures and actions necessary are very many, but first and foremost they include (and the following is in no manner exclusive or all-embracing):

* Realisation that Zimbabwe cannot survive in isolation. It cannot “go it alone”, and it cannot flourish by interaction with only a few fair weather, self-centred friends. Zimbabwean survival and growth requires positive, reciprocal interaction with the global community. Therefore, Zimbabwe must work assiduously at restoring former harmonious relationships, at achieving reconciliation with those from whom it has grown apart. Reconciliation is a must, and that can only be if Zimbabwe is willing to comply with international norms of genuine democracy, unlimited respect for, and maintenance of, law and order, total regard for human and property rights, and mutually cooperative diplomacy, instead of never-ending recourse to vitriolic insults and, more often than not, baseless accusations.

* Good governance, including determined containment of corruption, resolute containment of State expenditure to levels within the nation’s means, with meaningful prioritisation of such expenditures as are incurred, real autonomy for the central bank, economic deregulation, a free, fair and just judicial system, assuring justice and equity for all.

* A determined drive to contain inflation, including facilitation of a transitional social contract, enhancement of productivity, restoration of a fully operational infrastructure, generation of substantively greater inflows of foreign exchange, curtailment of printing of money, and much else.

* A positive drive for, and facilitation of, investment throughout Zimbabwe’s economic sectors, by both domestic and foreign investors, reinforced by substantive, enforceable, assurances of investment security, interfaced with practical, viable, and equitable indigenous economic empowerment.

* Viable, fair and positive measures for recovery of the foundation of the Zimbabwean economy, being agriculture, with a simultaneous return of past able and skilled farmers, and the enablement and development of new ones, concurrently with belated compliance with bilateral investment protection agreements.

It doesn’t matter who may comprise the government. It matters that that government puts Zimbabwe and its people’s interests and wellbeing first and foremost. It matters that that government DOES IT, and does it right, instead of blaming others. It matters that that government be solely comprised of statesmen, not of politicians!