HomeOpinionEric Bloch: Another nail in the investment coffin

Eric Bloch: Another nail in the investment coffin

REGULARLY since the mid-1980s most of the hierarchy of Zanu PF has pursued policies which inevitably decimated the economy in general, and negated prospects of Zimbabwe attracting critically needed investment. The inevitable conclusion is that they are determined to wreck the economy totally.

Whilst it is human to make errors, it is inconceivable that those in political control of a country and its people should do so consistently for more than a quarter of a century. Their doing so is so incredibly disastrous that it must be concluded that they do so deliberately and with ulterior motives.

After Independence in 1980 the hopes and expectations of all were that Zimbabwe’s vast economic potential would be constructively realised, bringing about wellbeing to the lives of all Zimbabweans. The country had an enormous treasure of diverse mineral resources.

 

It had land which was so  fertile that it could not only feed the nation, but enabled the country to be the “breadbasket” of the region.  It had the second most developed industrial infrastructure in Africa, south of the Equator.  Its tourism resource was great and diversified.  And it had very able people who were willing to work.  For almost five years the economy developed and grew, recovering from the economic tribulations of the 15 years of pre-Independence liberation war and international trade sanctions.

As has become apparent, with the belated wisdom of hindsight, that recovery must have been anathema to the ruling political regime for whatever Machiavellian reasons, for they then embarked upon progressive stratagems of economic destruction.  That commenced with the diabolical Gukurahundi wherein the Zimbabwean military, aided and abetted by North Koreans, launched cruel attacks upon tens of thousands of Ndebele people, slaughtering many and grievously injuring and torturing many more.

Over and above the unjustified suffering inflicted upon so many, and the reinforcement of the tribal divide instead of the development of a united nation, these governmentally-motivated actions had adverse economic consequences.  The development and growth of the tourism sector was not only halted, but reversed.  Investor and business confidence was eroded, and productivity in Matabeleland markedly diminished.

In 1990, the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) was launched, but despite massive international support government was pronouncedly half-hearted in pursuing it effectively, until it very belatedly did so in 1994.

Its reticence to implement the programme further prejudiced the economy, and continued to beleaguer the impoverished economy, but once it finally pursued Esap wholeheartedly, the economy witnessed a slow upturn but that was to be short-lived. Having in 1991 enacted land acquisition legislation, in 2000 government was determined to implement it vigorously.

Land reform and equality of land usage rights were indisputably necessary, but this was pursued in the most destructive manner, with contemptuous disregard for property rights, international law, human rights, economic consequences and the wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of farm workers and their dependants.

Foreign investment was alienated and considerably diminished, much of the population rendered unemployed and impoverished, the downstream of agriculture’s economy markedly constricted, foreign exchange earnings  diminished, and there were innumerable other disastrous economic consequences.

As the economy became more and more emaciated, government pronouncedly denied culpability, resorting to intensive, false attribution of the ills to the malevolent actions of others.  Concurrently, it progressively abandoned adherence to the principles of law and order, human rights, property rights and good governance, and to any and all precepts of democracy.

Concurrently, it accorded total disregard for  the many Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements it had entered into with innumerable countries, thereby further destroying international confidence in Zimbabwe as a safe investment destination, or even as a reputable borrower of much-needed international funding.

Inevitably, the result was a decline of the economy to levels wherein an estimated 87% of the employable population was devoid of formal sector employment, and more than half of the population was struggling to survive on incomes markedly below the Poverty Datum Line.  The national debt became ever greater, millions of Zimbabweans sought livelihoods beyond Zimbabwe’s borders thereby depriving Zimbabwe of much-needed skills and grievously impairing family lives, while progressively more and more businesses had no alternative but to discontinue operations.  Concurrently, the goodwill of Zimbabwe’s traditional international friends was increasingly destroyed.

However, the resilience of Zimbabwe and its people is amazing, the country and its inhabitants battling on to survive (a luta Continua!).  This appears to be unacceptable to many of the Zanu PF hierarchy, for they have so blatantly made one economically destructive decision after another.  So, yet a further new destruction policy and action is required, and has been announced.

 

Last week the Minister of Defence, Emmerson Mnangagwa (oft forecast to be the future successor of President Robert Mugabe) reportedly stated that work on creating an anti-sanctions fund is at an advanced stage.

Foreign companies will, he said, be forced to assist in capitalising the fund. He added that the chief executives of the approximately 500 foreign companies operating in Zimbabwe will have to disclose (first to government, and thereafter on international television) whether they support, or are opposed to, international sanctions against Zimbabwe.  In the case of those that are supportive of sanctions, 90% of the shares in the companies will, he said, be taken over by government.

This statement is yet another nail in the investment coffin, for such threatened actions are a gargantuan deterrent to any possible investor. Those who apply the sanctions have no malice against Zimbabwe or its people, but only against oppressive, non-democratic policies  of those who have abysmally and disastrously misruled Zimbabwe.  Now to resort to expropriation of their companies is tantamount to piracy and theft.

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