PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, sworn in yesterday for a new five-year term after his recent controversial re-election in what was initially billed to be a grand historic occasion, gave no hope or confidence to Zimbabweans about the future in his rather wishy-washy address.
Zimbabweans, and certainly investors, had been waiting with bated breath for his inauguration speech to ascertain whether there would be fresh ideas and a positive policy shift, as well as a new direction, after weeks of uncertainty and anxiety.
However, Mugabe’s address, which contained acres of space on history, politics, elections, anti-Western rhetoric, land, sanctions and vague promises to deal with current problems facing the nation, dampened expectations as he rigidly stuck to his stale ideas and mantras.
No fresh or progressive thinking filtered through his rambling speech.
Apart from acknowledging well-known economic and social problems and making promises to halt the tides of failure buffeting cities and towns, mainly Bulawayo, fixing social service delivery problems such as water and electricity, addressing the current food deficits and repairing collapsing infrastructure, Mugabe did not prescribe any solutions. He merely recited problems, saying they must be dealt with urgently but did not say how, suggesting he is clueless on the way forward.
As we have repeatedly said in this column, Zimbabwe needs serious policy proposals and initiatives to address issues such as strengthening fiscal management, reducing financial sector vulnerabilities, and improving the business climate to attract investment in a bid to ensure sustained and inclusive growth.
While indigenisation is important insofar as bringing the subaltern majority into the mainstream economy, on its own it would not ensure recovery or growth because it does not inspire investor confidence and bright prospects.
Zimbabwe needs a friendly business environment to attract local and foreign direct investment to help resuscitate closed companies or those operating at well below capacity utilisation.
It also needs investors to plough in new capital to create employment, boost domestic consumption and growth, while tackling poverty.
Accelerating dubious models like indigenisation, riddled with corruption, bribery and extortion, will only further damage recovery prospects. Progressive indigenisation needs to be executed in a structured and measured way, ensuring transparency and property rights, to avoid rocking the foundations of the economy. At least Mugabe now agrees there is need for flexibility on indigenisation.
Improving the business climate is critical to strengthen competitiveness, build investor confidence, and boost growth. Without stemming company closures and relocations, as well as bringing in new investment to revive production, Zimbabwe will increasingly become a giant supermarket for other countries, mainly South Africa and China.
“We are fast turning into one huge warehouse, a dumping ground for all manner of imports,” Mugabe said yesterday without realising his failed rule is actually the main cause of all that. “Our cities and towns are dying. Bulawayo, for a long time the industrial capital of Zimbabwe, has now become a sorry industrial scrapyard.”
Mugabe’s mediocre speech and his lack of ideas partly explain why the entire Zimbabwean economy is fast becoming an industrial desert.