I HOLD no brief for Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono but what he has been consistently saying of late about the emotive indigenisation issue strikes me as something being said by a man who genuinely wants to see an economy that is terminally ill get back on its feet again.
Powerful, thoughtful and completely convincing — that is how I would describe the important truths that Gono has told us — the kind of truths that we can only ignore at our peril.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Saviour Kasukuwere, the Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment. Kasukuwere’s demolition job on Gono in this newspaper last Friday was rather thoughtless and immature to say the least.
Once honest dissent is attacked and its attackers left unchallenged, there is no holding back the forces of reaction. Like any creative person, Gono has done a lot of wrong things in the past but that is no reason not to give credit where credit is due on a particular issue of national importance. I do not know what “relevance” Gono is currently seeking but who can quarrel with him when he says:
“There should not be and will not be farm- type Jambanja (the violent and disorderly fast track land reform) this time around as we indigenise and empower our people. We are all witnesses to what can inadvertently happen when that is allowed to take place and we cannot be a people who do not learn from yesterday’s implementation shortcomings.”
In an impassioned and thoughtful way he added: “Why don’t we, as Zimbabweans, learn to take constructive criticism from well meaning fellow Zimbabweans? Do we think that we can increase the country’s wealth and improve the welfare of our people by simply tearing apart the small cake that is in place? The answer is no.”
Kasukuwere describes this as “megaphone advice”, whatever that means. Words, just words signifying nothing! If what Gono said is not good advice, then I do not know what is. Who does not know that right from day one of the land reform programme in the agriculture sector it has been a cocktail of disaster? The once buoyant sector has been virtually destroyed. There is no Zimbabwean in his or her right mind who disagreed with the programme, but it was really the methodology that most of us took issue with. Order, order and more order is what we called for just like what Gono is emphasising in the whole indigenisation agenda.
There is nothing wrong with reflecting and questioning what we are doing as a people. This reflection and questioning is the basis for further progress as we go about reviving our economy. Zimbabwe is our country too. It belongs to all of us, not just to Kasukuwere and Zanu PF. The warnings from well-meaning Zimbabweans and non-Zimbabweans alike against the folly and consequences of government action must not fall on deaf ears.
Emotion, theatre and style will not take us anywhere. That is what Kasukuwere is doing. Zimbabweans yearn for ministers who are fastidious in their search for facts, not emotions and political rhetoric. Kasukuwere and others of like mind are demonstrating once again that in this country there is over-indulgence in personality politics and conversely under-indulgence on issues of substance and sound policy. When people describe a man who says that the struggle for empowerment must be driven by sector-specific, tailor-made and suitable interventions that recognise the timidity of capital as an “attention-seeking lame duck governor keen on scoring political points”! then I do not know where this country is heading.
We really need calm debate on this indigenisation issue. More wishful thinking than pragmatic assessment of our economic situation will not help us. Granted that the mindset of those in power is not easy to change, they must nevertheless listen to what people of this country are saying. It is indeed an irony that at a time when most countries are opening their frontiers completely, we still talk about sovereignty as if we are an island unto ourselves. Sovereignty yes, but not sovereignty for poverty — but for prosperity and development.
If, for instance an investor — local or international — is confident that he will get just returns for his investment in this country (not cede 51%), the donor trusts that his money will not be stolen or misused by the kleptomaniacs in government, and everyone else is convinced that their efforts will not be hindered by partisan exigencies, then there is no reason why the fresh flood pumped into an anorexic economy like ours cannot revive it. The solution to our economic woes can be encapsulated in three terms: confidence, trust and bipartisan support.
We are creating a monster in the so-called Indigenisation law. The law and indigenisation regulations as presently crafted are not the right medicine. We need to reflect on our experiences of the chaotic and disorderly land reform programme. We must beware of the dangers of all of us being sucked into a consensus view. Gono has obviously taken a good and hard look at the whole question of indigenisation and made a very solid case for a way to improve the lot of our people in this country, not just the tiny fraction of fat cats who are already fat anyway
Perhaps in fairness to Kasukuwere, I must say that when ideas compete in the market place for acceptance, full and free discussion exposes the false and they gain few adherents, if at all. As Edward Achorn, a columnist writing in 2000 in the Providence Journal in the United States said: “Freedom requires a certain kind of fortitude: the courage to be insulted and hurt, to put up with the propagation of deeply offensive ideas, to open one’s mind, to argue back, to trust that the best ideas emerge from the clash of opinion. This kind of openness allows facts to be discovered, truth to break free and contradictions to crumble of their own weight.”
No wonder therefore people like Gono do not lose sleep over such things while others like Kasukuwere storm out of meetings.
Bornwell Chakaodza is a political analyst and media consultant.