NO one disputes the fact that we have huge potential. The only question is how we unlock that potential and exploit it for the benefit of all Zimbabweans in the long term? Perhaps we should start by outlining our potential as a country.
Our greatest asset is our people; Zimbabweans are, by nature, easy going, pleasant people who are open and welcoming. They are also hard working and innovative, that is why, despite decades of lousy government and bad policies, we have survived and resilience has to be one of our main national characteristics. We are also generally well educated and have a great deal of experience and an established knowledge of what can be done.
Then we have our resources –– we have perhaps half of the world’s readily available platinum reserves, a quarter of the world’s reserves of chrome, billions of tonnes of coal and iron ore. We are a major source of nickel and asbestos and a number of other minerals. In the field of gold and diamonds we are the sixth largest gold producer in the world and are rapidly becoming a major diamond producer. We have the immediate potential to attract many billions of dollars in foreign investment in the mining industry if the conditions are right.
In agriculture we have the land and water plus ideal growing conditions for many crops and livestock products. In the past we have been the third largest producer and exporter of flue cured tobacco, one of the largest producers of white maize in the world and a major producer of fruit, sugar, tea and cotton. At one stage we were one of the largest exporters of beef in Africa and were totally self sufficient in pig products, poultry and milk. Although the agricultural industry has been almost destroyed in the past decade, its potential remains intact.
So why are we stuck in this pothole and unable to get out and start to realise this potential? It starts with politics. So long as we have this dysfunctional government and no consensus on the way forward, the uncertainty that prevails at present will remain. The uncertainty over who will be in charge and hold power in the state is a very real issue. The business community is afraid of a return of the days when we had hyperinflation, price control and no rule of law to speak of. They are afraid that radicals such as Kasukuwere will be able to dictate policy and events and that his threats against all foreign and white-owned business will materialise.
So long as government is locked in a struggle for ascendancy and nothing else, we simply cannot make progress and that is why the Zuma road map to the next election is so critical.
We must resist the temptation to play with the macro-economic fundamentals and stay the course of fiscal and monetary reform, discipline and stability. This should not be difficult given the nasty experiences of the recent past.
We must deal with our debt overhang and bite the bullet on our parastatals and corruption in high places.
We must repair our infrastructure and energy systems as well as our educational and medical system. We must welcome home anyone who is tired of struggling in foreign countries and wants to resume their lives in Zimbabwe. We must make that possible with job growth and opportunities. We must restore and respect the rights of all who are citizens by birth or adoption.
Is that too much to ask? It seems so simple really but that is all it would take and we could then fly. Backed by a democratic system that was open and accountable and saw regular changes in leadership, Zimbabweans could then really plan for the future and instead of using their innate abilities to simply survive, they could start to build again.