ADDRESSING the annual Exporterâ€™s Conference of Zimtrade last week, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Gideon Gono was extremely forthright as to the prerequisites for a metamorphosis of the Zimbabwean economy.
He stated unequivocally that all political parties must place national interests first, subordinating the interests of the parties, and of their hierarchy, to those of Zimbabwe and its people.
He emphasised that politics and the economy are inseparable, stating that: “Any countryâ€™s political environment sets the atmosphere of business expectations that, in turn, find expression in investorsâ€™ decisions, as well as production and pricing across the board.”
Driving the point home, he said that: “It is imperative, therefore, that all political formations in the country play their part in setting a positive tone for business and investment prosperity through the Zimbabwe first approach in whatever they do.”
The timing of his statement was particularly apposite, being when the extended talks being mediated by Sadc appeared to have frozen in a state of suspended animation.
Notwithstanding that the talks were conducted in excessively great secrecy and there was an intense paucity of official statements as to the progress of the talks, numerous “leaks” of an apparently authoritative nature indicated that some considerable progress had been made towards agreement of a government encompassing all the key political groupings.
Nevertheless, it was also very apparent that all were posturing for maximised advantage, with the most intense being an undoubted intent on the part of Zanu PF in general, and of the Presidency, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) and the Politburo in particular, to retain as great an extent of authority, control and power as possible. In other words, there appears to have been little genuine commitment to bring about a broad-based government operating on reciprocal co-operation to further national interests.
In consequence, there were recurrent interruptions and adjournments of talks, compounded by a statement by President Mugabe, when opening Parliament, of an intent imminently to appoint a Cabinet, but he giving no indication that the composition of that Cabinet would be consistent with the unity objectives of the inter-party, Sadc driven negotiations.
The endless “tooing and froing”, and inconclusiveness, of the talks has been a very major contributant to the on-going, accelerating, decline of the already horrendously debilitated economy. On last officially released figures, month-on-month inflation approximated 869%, and in contrast, actual month-on-month inflation is estimated currently to exceed 2 000%!
Year-on-year inflation is undoubtedly now well in excess of 20 million percent, and is rising exponentially. As a result, the majority of Zimbabweans increasingly are grievously under-nourished and suffering gross malnutrition.
This diabolical state of national misery has been exacerbated by governmentâ€™s foolhardy, self-centred, uncaring ban for several months on importation of the humanitarian aid by numerous international voluntary organisations.
Government has sought to justify that genocidal action by alleging that some of the organisations were using their aid distribution in pursuit of political objectives against the interests of government, and in breach of legislation precluding foreign funding of Zimbabwean political parties.
Not only was government paranoically deceiving itself in almost all instances, the majority of the benefactors being solely motivated by the critical humanitarian needs created by governmentâ€™s disastrous mismanagement of the economy, but in the rare instance that there may have been substance to governmentâ€™s contentions, the “culprits” were doing naught different to that which all too often government itself appears to have resorted to.
Last week, abysmally belatedly, government lifted the humanitarian aid distribution ban, but only insofar as organisations registered under the Public Voluntary Organisations Act, and hence many international humanitarian aid bodies of undoubted high principles remain barred from assisting Zimbabweans in desperate need.
Moreover, to such limited extent as government itself has sought to alleviate the national starvation, it has had to do so by recourse to imports funded from Zimbabweâ€™s horrifically sparce foreign exchange recourse.
This has been to the cost of the agricultural, mining, industrial, tourism and many other economic sectors, not only cataclysmically dependant upon foreign exchange, but who are not only unable to access that foreign exchange from the interbank market, because of governmentâ€™s rapacious expropriation of what little flows into that market, but have also found that their self-generated foreign exchange has been diverted from them.
To all intents and purposes, their lawful funds have been misappropriated! In consequence, ever more businesses are being forced into closure, others have had to curtail operations very markedly, unemployment has intensified immensely, and the economy worsened catastrophically.
Zimbabwean economic wellbeing, and that of Zimbabwean people, is primarily dependant upon a total recovery of all economic sectors, upon considerable foreign exchange generation, and vigorous exploitation of Zimbabweâ€™s very substantial potential wealth.
But achieving this is contingent, first and foremost, upon a radical change in the political environment for, as stated by Gono, politics and the economy are inseparable. He said that the hyperinflationary environment, capacity underutilisation and continued critical shortage of foreign currency for imported inputs and machinery were many of the challenges . . . but “it is imperative that as Zimbabweans we realise that now our future lies squarely in our hands, and our resolve to confront these setbacks head-on”.
While that realisation is a necessity for all Zimbabweans (instead of, as is very greatly the case, that the majority are so steeped in pessimism, doom and gloom that such a realisation is wholly suppressed by their total loss of confidence and morale), the realisation is first and foremost a requirement of Zimbabweâ€™s politicians in general, and of government in particular. They must be prepared to subordinate self-interests, ego, and hunger for power to bringing about genuine national unity, followed by rapid implementation of positive economic recovery measures. These must include, as repeatedly urged Gono, a genuine social contract.
They must also include fiscal probity, real autonomy for RBZ, reconciliation with the international community, economic deregulation, facilitation and incentivisation of investment, real agricultural recovery (based upon a constructively modified land reform programme), as well as much else.