VICE-PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s remarks while visiting China last week that Zimbabwe has fallen far behind other countries in terms of development and now needs to “bite the bullet” to catch up were revealing and instructive.
Besides, Mnangagwa said government was “working on a massive reform process”, including social and legislative frameworks, “to bring Zimbabwe back to the table of nations”
“We must know that investment can only go where it makes a return so we must make sure we create an environment where investors are happy to put their money because there is a return,” Mnangagwa said in an interview with CCTV. “In fact, capital will go where it finds comfort, so we need to do that; create an ease of doing business environment.”
Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe needs to learn from China which, after the death of its communist leader Mao Zedong in 1976, picked itself up under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping to transform from being an economic backwater to a global powerhouse — now the world’s second largest economy.
“We have to see how we can create an investment environment which will attract the flow of capital,” Mnangagwa said. “These are the tasks we face and we have to look at even legislation and our social systems need to be reformed in order to catch up with current global trends. So we are looking at the reform measures that China has gone through to help us move forward.”
Naturally, Mnangagwa had to cover his back by sounding politically correct to avoid President Robert Mugabe’s wrath. Mugabe remains chained to the past — he can’t even learn from his Chinese friends.
So he spoke about the need to remain “proud as a nation and as a people”, saying “we are independent and sovereign”. With that in mind, Mnangagwa also sang the sanctions mantra to obfuscate the real reasons why Zimbabwe is in such a mess. Needless to say, this has nothing to do with sanctions as such. Sanctions only exacerbated an already calamitous situation. The root causes of the current economic problems are leadership and policy failures.
Mugabe’s ill-advised costly military adventure into the Congo war and unbudgeted payouts to war veterans, as well as scorched-earth policies on land reform and indigenisation devastated the economy which was later ravaged by hyperinflation and a resultant meltdown.
Due to the effects of mismanagement, corruption and plunder, Zimbabwe now has no local currency and thus no monetary sovereignty, the foundation of monetary policy.
As we have repeatedly said, government needs a paradigm shift — change of mindset — to move forward. This should be accompanied by fundamental structural reforms on its extractive politics, economics and institutions, besides policies to create an enabling business environment to attract investment and ensure growth.
Deng, a towering historical figure who ended China’s isolation and built its economy, said: “I don’t care if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” That’s the sort leader Zimbabwe now really needs — a progressive pragmatist.