Rescuing Zim from predatory economics

THE transformation of any society requires three things; the profound realisation that it must change, finding those practices that will cause the change and adopting those practices.

Vince Musewe

Conflict over political and economic institutions and the distribution of resources has been pervasive throughout the history of nations.

If we are to create a modern developmental state in Zimbabwe characterised by inclusive political and economic institutions, we must find those practices that will cause the change we want and adopt them.

I am sure most of us want a successful and prosperous country that includes all its people. Our problem will continue to construct national unity and consensus around the future we want.

Apparently, we have allegedly given mandate to craft our future to Zanu PF despite their chronic failure to move our country in the right direction for thirty five years now. Underlying this failure are deep seated predatory attitudes and behaviours that continue to arrest our progress.

The key features of our predatory state are: autocratic rule; personality politics and the use of violence, fear and repression; erosion of formal public institutions; pervasive corruption; a disregard for traditional, customary or informal institutions; rewards for key collaborators, leaders and associates who use power for personal ends and establish a predatory coalition.

We must all appreciate that countries that have extractive political regimes do not develop because inclusive economic development is not on their agenda; they actually regress as we have seen in Zimbabwe.

Extractive political institutions are those institutions that limit political and economic freedoms as a means to prolong their rule.

They create a political elite propped up by a predator coalition whose main priority is not shared inclusive economic development, but concentrated wealth accumulation for a few at the expense of social progress for many.

Predator states will always have very high levels of resistance to fundamental political or economic change by predatory elites including a high aversion to the institutional transformation.

They tend to retain and cement those practices and institutions that entrench exclusivity, divisive patronage politics, corruption and abuse of state resources and a general lack of an inclusive national vision. We have an inherent disconnect between the narrow and selfish political objectives and broad national economic imperatives.

As long as we fail to create a broad national consensus on the future we all desire, we will remain a fragile state without the necessary momentum towards creating a better future.

In other words no national consensus will exist on what Zimbabwe should look like in the future and therefore no change will come. No fundamental economic transformation or broad economic development will therefore happen.

Zimbabwe has had an estimated fourteen economic development blueprints since 1980 and 35 years later we have nothing to show for it.

Our economy is on its knees, unemployment is now common while our infrastructure continues to deteriorate and the country is effectively broke. These are the results that we are getting and we cannot expect to get better results unless we change the way we think about the future.

After recently reading the book A traveller’s guide to our next 10 years authored by Frans Cronje, the CEO of The South African Institute of Race Relations, on probable future scenarios for South Africa in the next 10 years, I am convinced that we must do the same for Zimbabwe. It is about time that we changed how we think about the kind of country we want to create beyond our lifetime.

As things stand, we are a generation with no particular direction. We are a country flying blind and hoping to land safely, somewhere or anywhere, sometime in the future. That is dangerous and is of course has been largely determined by the quality and motives of our political leadership.

We need to expand the dialogue about the future amongst all sectors of our population so that we can all imagine what our economy and society will look like and what it will be like to live in that Zimbabwe. Without that, we are bound to remain in this vicious circle of poverty and regression.

It is an open secret that our country is endowed with all the human and natural resources that we need and we can only unlock our full potential through a compelling national vision about the future that is inclusive.

We have this incessant inability to extricate ourselves from the circumstances which we have created by continually blaming exogenous factors for our economic decline. This has tended to disempower us in changing our circumstances.

In his book Frans suggests four types of futures that a country should anticipate. These are; a clear enough future where the range of possible outcomes is narrow; an alternate future when there exists a limited set of possible outcomes; a range of futures where the future is more uncertain and it’s impossible to shortlist outcomes and lastly; a truly ambiguous future where it may be difficult even to identify a range of possible outcomes.

In my opinion, as things stand now in Zimbabwe, I would argue that our country does have a range of probable futures and it is important that we contemplate about these now so that we can create the momentum necessary to avoid the worst.

These futures will, of course, be largely determined by what we choose to do about our circumstances. We can either choose to bury our heads in the sand and rely on providence to deliver a better future unto us or we can choose to be active in creating a new narrative significantly different from the status quo.

In my view, the best case scenario for transforming Zimbabwe would be the stark realisation by Zanu PF of the profound need to change now.

This change must then be led by an inclusive political process that seeks to build a new social architecture and new constructive relationship between the state and its citizens. Whether this is possible or not remains to be seen but history has shown us otherwise.

In his concept paper titled “Predatory Leaderships, Predatory Rule and Predatory States” published in 2011, Alex Bavister Gould from the Department of Politics, University of York, puts it very nicely by saying:

“Transforming predatory rule into a political order that is more developmental and that can address issues of growth, stability and poverty reduction is a challenging political process.

For the people and politics of a country under predatory rule and especially for its reform or developmental leaderships, it is not only a matter of reforming or changing government or a regime.

It will also entail a slow and intensely complex process of establishing a new political settlement and devising the local appropriate institutional arrangements that will make the settlement arrangements that will create basic conditions for stable politics in a viable effective state.”

I want believe that Zimbabwe can and should transform but this will take some hard work and continued pressure on Zanu PF for them to realise that the future is no longer what it used to be.

Zanu PF must now be forced to acknowledge that without the participation of all Zimbabweans in shaping the future regardless of race or political affiliation, our country will remain at the edge of economic disaster that must at some point in the future explode into a people’s revolution.

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare.These articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES) Email kadenge.zes@gmail.com cell +263 772 382 852