Comment: Arrogance Stifling Implementation

THERE are disappointments across the board with the unity government and the once quick-out-of-the-gates transition cabinet team seems to have hit some bumps.


There were scores of items listed on the transition team’s to-do list under the 100-Day plan. Those ticking boxes here and abroad have more Xs than ticks on their logs. The GNU is failing to get the job done.

 

In Nyanga, at a retreat organised to assess the success of the 100-Day plan, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai read out the embarrassing report card and told us what we expected to hear: the GNU has not delivered. This is beginning to cause problems in the uneasy marriage.

Parties to the agreement have started to accuse each other of sabotaging the project. DPM Arthur Mutambara’s robust statement in Nyanga describing the elections last year as a fraud, has provided Zanu PF with a look-in in the blame game.

Mutambara gave a hostage to fortune. He is suddenly the biggest threat to the health of the government of national unity. Government propaganda was this week rolled out to fire volleys at the DPM who merely stated the obvious.

This sideshow cannot however mask the fact that there are fundamental problems, not just revolving around the power play between the principals to the agreement but to do with bureaucratic arrogance by sections of the government who believe that they can wage a war against the world and win.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa this week made some potentially damaging revelations about how our government perceives bilateral trade agreements. Commenting on the delay in the signing of the bilateral trade agreement with South Africa, Chinamasa said Zimbabwe would not sign an agreement that “impinged on the sanctity of land reform”. He said Zimbabwe was prepared to sign the agreement as long as it excluded issues to do with land reform. He said there was a section in the agreement that had the “potential to open the way for a reversal of land reform”.

Chinamasa’s subterfuge here is as hopeless in the eyes of potential investors as it is damaging to any attempts to have Zimbabwe re-admitted to the community of nations. His pronouncement is an admission that the government is not prepared to pay compensation to dispossessed South African farmers. He is also admitting that the government of Zimbabwe cannot guarantee the farmers’ business activities here. The South Africans should concentrate on mining instead, it was said.

This all amounts to the unfortunate admission that Zimbabwe cannot guarantee property rights of foreigners wanting to come to invest in farming in this country.

It also tells us a lot about government’s retrogressive view on getting basic things right in crafting a respectable investment policy. Zimbabwe requires foreign investment and technical support in all sectors of the economy including agriculture.

Investors in agriculture require state protection. Investors should be free and confident to approach the courts in the event of a dispute regarding land ownership. The executive should be prepared to respect the decisions of the courts and law enforcers should execute decisions of courts to protect property. But more importantly fair compensation, based on clearly laid down valuation standards, should be guaranteed in any bilateral agreement in the event an investor wants out.

Our rulers have however decided to take a myopic view that because the country does not have funding to compensate farmers at the moment, compensation cannot be included in a crucial bilateral agreement. This does not resonate with government’s own position on enhancing bilateral relations. In April at the launch of the 100-Day plan, Finance minister Tendai Biti had this to say about relations with other countries: “In short, what is required is to create confidence and sculpt a construction that Zimbabwe is in an irreversible paradigm shift.

“Over and above the Sadc initiatives underpinned by South Africa, there should be serious engagement with all cooperating partners, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, as well as the African Development Bank, with the objective of restoring the country’s status as a credible recipient of external financial assistance… Hence, as part of this strategy should be an aggressive programme of bilateral engagement with all the key strategic countries”.

South Africa is a key strategic partner of Zimbabwe and relations should be mutual. Chinamasa and his ilk cannot therefore hide behind the tired mantra of the “sanctity” of land reform to bend internationally-accepted investment rules. We cannot have investment policies which protect rights of miners and other industrialists while promoting chaos and arbitrage on the land.

Zanu PF’s Paul Mangwana was quoted last week as saying mistakes were made in the implementation of the land reform programme. We cannot use the same mistakes to make policies and defend the glaring aberrations which have turned this country into a pariah state.

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