WHOEVER invited Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to officially open the 60th Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) has a macabre sense of humour.
Candid Comment,Brezh Malaba
Of all the leaders on God’s green earth, how does President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s “new dispensation” choose to invite Museveni — at a time the whole of Africa is loudly applauding the toppling of dictators?
The Museveni blunder is not the only issue complicating Zimbabwe’s multi-faceted crisis. Against the backdrop of the ZITF and considering the unsavoury conduct of public officials in the Gaika Mine saga, the inevitable question arises: How does a serious government, in the 21st century, tacitly approve the illegal invasion of a foreign-owned gold mine? Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at the Johns Hopkins University in the United States, last week likened this behaviour to the workings of “an organised criminal syndicate”.
One of the greatest tragedies of Zanu PF’s governance culture is the failure to comprehend that every organ of the state must act within the strictures or limitations imposed by the law and by the constitution.
As you read this, the ZITF’s silver jubilee is underway. But what message are we sending to prospective investors when court orders are wantonly disregarded by untouchable thugs who openly boast that Zanu PF owns this country? There is a reason why the rule of law is important. It ensures that those who wield executive authority do not behave in an overbearing, corrupt, arbitrary, unjust and oppressive manner.
Section 56 of the constitution stipulates that everyone has the fundamental right to equal protection of the law.
No amount of “international re-engagement” by the President can undo the damage inflicted on Zimbabwe’s economic prospects by rogue characters who disregard court orders and violate property rights. This week, a video showing billionaire Strive Masiyiwa’s investment pitch in Botswana went viral. Flanked by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Masiyiwa addressed a town hall meeting attended mostly by young entrepreneurs. Masiyiwa is investing US$300 million to regain control of Mascom Wireless, Botswana’s biggest mobile network operator, a company he founded 21 years ago.
President Masisi passed a remark whose powerful message caught my attention. He said Botswana’s strategic advantage over other countries is that it is “addicted to the rule of law”. Masiyiwa, who is alive to the depredations of lawless governments, nodded in agreement as Masisi’s point hit home.
I was astounded by the irony of it all. Until a few years ago, Botswana’s justice delivery system was quite rudimentary. In fact, a number of Zimbabwean judges have played a central role in Botswana’s justice system. Zimbabwe is exporting judges to neighbouring countries who have gone on to acquit themselves exceptionally well, yet our own failure to uphold the rule of law back home has brought grief and embarrassment.
Until we come to terms with the stark reality that property rights are a key foundation of the open market economy, we will continue wondering why Botswana is not only luring more investors than Zimbabwe but also poking fun at us.