HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been warned against importing the Rwandan model of marketisation of the economy without democratisation and respect for fundamental civil and political liberties, analysts have said.
This comes after Mnangagwa this week received the chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board, Clare Akamanzi, and her deputy Emmanuel Hategeka, keen to learn from Kigali’s celebrated economic success story.
The central African nation has posted soaring growth rates in recent years mostly fuelled by business-friendly policies and strong inflows of foreign investment.
One of the fastest growing economies, Rwanda has notched up GDP growth of around eight percent per year between 2001 and now.
Paul Kagame became president in 2000 after being Rwanda’s de facto leader since the end of the country’s genocide in 1994.
He is credited with stabilising the country and promoting economic growth after the mass killings, but critics say he is an authoritarian ruler who does not tolerate opposition and he is accused of human rights abuses.
Mnangagwa has set Zimbabwe on a developmental path similar to Rwanda that includes attracting foreign investors, hence his popular mantra “Zimbabwe is open for business”.
He wants to learn from Rwanda, a country he sees as an African economic success story that Zimbabwe would do well to follow.
The Rwanda delegation in Zimbabwe is addressing Cabinet, parastatal heads, civil servants and the private sector, how — out of the ashes of a horrific genocide — Kagame managed to resuscitate the economy, curtail corruption and maintain political stability.
Piers Pigou, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said Zimbabwe’s experiences do not resonate with Rwanda and Mnangagwa is certainly not Kagame.
“Rwanda’s relative economic success continues to be clouded by discordant politics characterised by intolerance and alleged repressive tendencies. The latter is precisely the kind of politics Zimbabwe should be actively seeking to avoid.
“An authoritarian nationalist model is attractive as it is one that the West is increasingly warning up to as we see a perceptible soft pedalling around human rights and civil or political issues,” Pigou told the Daily News.
Post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Johannesburg and researcher Pedzisai Ruhanya said Rwanda went through political turmoil including genocide in 1994 before Kagame assumed power and it cooperated with the international community to address both restorative and retributive transitional justice.
Retributive justice was addressed through UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda and therefore built a clear relationship with international powers post the genocide.
“Zimbabwe does to want to substantively address past human rights violations despite a corpus of evidence suggesting that human rights trials act as deterrent against future violations and to address impunity.
“Zimbabwe wants to copy the Rwandan model of marketisation of the economy without democratisation, without respecting fundamental civil and political liberties.
“It won’t work because Zimbabwe does not have solid relations and support of great western powers like the EU bloc and the US government.
“What Zimbabwe needs to do differently from Rwanda is to have both economic and political liberalisation because the West is clearly insisting on the respect for fundamental liberties as a key demand for cooperating with Zimbabwe.
“The starting point is to prepare credible, free and fair elections where the military is advised to move out of the electoral and civilian affairs of Zimbabwe,” Ruhanya told the Daily News.
“Therefore the Rwandese model won’t work in the Zimbabwe on the basis of what the international community and the generality of Zimbabweans are demanding; opening up of democratic politics which the Zanu PF government has no appetite to implement.”
Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said Rwanda is very different from Zimbabwe.
“It is a much smaller country, where the president is intolerant of dissent and is able to use the fear of rebel armies in neighbouring DRC, and the return of genocide, to keep his people on his side. Having said that, yes, on some macro indices it is a success story.
“Its GDP has seen consistent eight percent growth per year and in the current year it should reach six percent. But 40 percent of the national budget is provided by foreign aid,” Chan told the Daily News.
“Even so, 60 percent of the population still lives on less than $1,25 a day. Zimbabwe doesn’t attract that percentage of foreign aid, and it doesn’t want a model of extremes from deep poverty to hi-tech prosperity.”
A peace and security analyst and doctoral researcher, Josphat Munetsi, told the Daily News that while Rwanda can be idolised as a model for economic success post the 1994 genocide, exporting it to other countries including Zimbabwe negates the heterogeneity of African societies.
“Of course, there are striking similarities that both presidents inherited deeply divided nations in need of political and economic reconstruction,” he said.
Munetsi said economic growth must never come at the expense of democratic fundamentals that are rooted within the 2013 Zimbabwe Constitution.
“The biggest indictment to Kagame’s rule is that economic growth and success has ‘failed’ to erase the scars of history.
“This is the major lesson that Mnangagwa has to learn and learn very fast. Zimbabwe’s history needs to be addressed in a manner that creates a new Zimbabweans identity from the ashes of a patently segregative and fundamentally skewed economic model that his predecessor followed.
“That identity must, at its axis, celebrate our diversity as a people and the equality of our varied backgrounds in participating in the country’s growth trajectory,” he said.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the Rwanda model is nothing to learn from.
“In fact it’s learning the slyness of a serpent. Economic and sustainable development scholarship is awash with evidence to the effect that economic growth not married to respect for human rights, increase civic space, equality and fair distribution of wealth is unsustainable and falls far way too short to qualify to be called development as it does not translate to improved quality of life, happiness and freedoms,” Saungweme told the Daily News.
“Improving economic indicators alone is insufficient for a country to develop or for its citizens to be happy. Kagame has morphed into a dictator jailing female opponents, shrinking civic space on the background of economic growth. For Ngwena (Mnangagwa) to try and learn from Kagame on the economy and dictatorial grip to power is like two devils understudying each other,” he said.