via Peace ho, John Robertson speaks | The Herald December 17, 2013 by Joram Nyathi (Group Political Editor)
Robertson makes it clear that he is against the idea of “resource nationalism”. The world’s resources should belong to those who have the capacity to exploit them while locals provide cheap labour for slave wages. That is the implication of his lament that for thousands of years Zimbabweans had all the rights to exploit the country’s resources but did nothing.AFTER all he is the greatest economic commentator and opinion leader left in the private sector.
If you are a business reporter and don’t quote John Robertson about how doomed Zimbabwe is because of indigenisation and black economic empowerment, then you don’t know what you are doing.
So it was that I was reading an opinion by Robertson in a local weekly titled “Resources nationalism: the other side.” The newspaper was accused of “carrying editorials that repeat and apparently approve of highly questionable policies”.
“Compelling anyone to surrender assets of any kind is theft,” declared Robertson. “Resource nationalism carries no automatic ‘moral rectitude’ component.”
This is because for thousands of years Zimbabweans had all the rights they needed to exploit the country’s minerals but they did not. Indigenisation is equally wrong because what Zimbabweans need to prosper are skills for “productive work”.
“Wealth should be defined, not as money, but as the ability to make money,” says Robertson. Wealth therefore equates to “ability”. People simply need employment.
Let’s try to dissect this discourse.
First of all one gets the impression from Robertson’s comments that there are some newspapers which are expected to carry certain views and he sees nothing objectionable.
The Daily News, on the other hand, is not expected to “carry editorials that repeat and apparently approve of highly questionable policies” about the positive side of indigenisation of black economic empowerment.
Two issues can be inferred here.
There are certain editorials or views which the Daily News should not carry. In other words there are opinions which Robertson doesn’t like and he doesn’t want to see them in his preferred newspaper. On the other hand one can infer that the same editorials carried by the public media would be okay for Robertson. At least they can be dismissed with contempt as propaganda.
Robertson makes it clear that he is against the idea of “resource nationalism”.
The world’s resources should belong to those who have the capacity to exploit them while locals provide cheap labour for slave wages. That is the implication of his lament that for thousands of years Zimbabweans had all the rights to exploit the country’s resources but did nothing.
That in a way provides a legitimate justification for colonialism. Why should those who can’t exploit certain resources even claim any right to them?
That’s why resource nationalism has no “moral rectitude” component. It is as if resources which have not been exploited belonged to the wild.
Indigenisation is even more odious in Robertson’s scheme of things.
He says compelling anyone to surrender assets of any kind is theft. Let’s grant him that, but even then it has only limited validity if we give it a historical perspective shorn of racism.
Since Robertson talks of assets of any kind, we shall include land. Obviously the Loot Company must have done a lot of looting from Africans.
Robertson is definitely aware of this although he makes no reference to this important historical fact. After the land and cattle and African labour were looted, why is it so wrong to reclaim the same assets?
Why have white former commercial farmers been running around the world seeking to stop a process they started in the 19th century pursuant to the Berlin Conference? Which Africans attended that conference and invited those with “investment” to come and loot our resources?
In fact, it is possible to state that the white farmers invited the land occupations through sheer greed. They refused to share despite lies about supporting the principle. They wanted to monopolise the land resource by claiming that Government was refusing to pay “market prices”.
Who paid market prices for land which was seized when blacks were being pushed apartheid-style to go and live in the arid Tribal Trust Lands?
And what special “skills” did those first farmers possess to create wealth beside abundant fertile land and cheap African labour which went on to pay numerous taxes such as hut tax?
What history teaches is that skills can be acquired through experience. Robertson only needs to go outside Harare to see the amount of tobacco being produced using skills learnt since 2000.
Those who refuse to share the country’s mineral wealth will be rightly “compelled to surrender” it.
I don’t even know what is wrong with a 49-51 percent ratio for a finite resource. It is clear that the idea of voluntary “corporate social responsibility” has not worked.
There are companies which have been looting Zimbabwe’s mineral wealth but local communities have no roads, no schools or hospitals to talk of. When they demand a little extra from what is theirs they get the Marikana treatment.
The single area where I believe Robertson might have a point is the issue of enterprises such as banks where the owner generates the idea in their head, does personal research and tests the profitability of the enterprise.
That is why I cannot inherit Robertson’s economics qualifications but I can inherit “his farm”.
Government is aware of this; hence it has avoided what happened on the farms. Not everybody can create Econet or Kingdom Bank.
The moral thing Mr Robertson is that those who benefited from the country’s resources riding on a racial card must accept that this was wrong and be prepared to correct this.
But if the white race insists on the deception that Rolihlahla Mandela is the moral compass for all African leaders because he allowed whites to keep their loot in South Africa and Africans to forever live in squalor and poverty, then we have a dream deferred and an ideal gone horribly wrong.