via It’s not the sanctions, stupid! Part 2 – New Zimbabwe 26/09/2015
Against an ever deepening social crisis characterized by mass poverty, mass ignorance and an all-round collapse of social services, such chosen countries are apotheosized (idolized) through esoteric (obscure, abstract) markers like Ease of Doing Business, Transparency Index, Governance Index, FDI Index, etc, etc, all of which are orientated towards easy penetration of a country by prowling, predatory capital.
The paragraph above is an extract from one of the Herald’s weekly columns from a few weeks ago. To say I was shocked after reading this paragraph is quite an understatement. If confirmation was ever needed as to the general cluelessness of the current Zanu PF-led government; that statement right there sums it up perfectly. This exposes one of the fallacies of our colonially set up education system in Zimbabwe; we think using big words and having great oratory skill, speaking English better that than the English themselves, will somehow hide our ignorance.
Just look at our global ranking for the main indicators – Ease of doing business (171 out of 175), Corruption Perceptions Index (156 out of 175), Freedom of Press (161 out of 195), Ease of Paying Tax (142 out of 189), Global Competitiveness Report (131 out of 148), Global Enabling Trade Report (133 out of 148), Index of Economic Freedom (176 out of 178), International Logistics Performance (137 out of 160), Inward FDI Potential (141 out of 141), KOF Index of Globalization (111 out of 187), Management Index (116 out of 129), Network Readiness Index (113 out of 145), Open Budget Index (75 out of 100), Status Index (108 out of 129), Credit Rating (we have none).
Cognizance of the fact that these indices are directly linked to investment seems to be non-existent in the Zanu PF government. If Zanu PF is baffled by this very basic facet of economics for dummies, then God help us. How are they expected to find solutions to complex problems which arise in running a national economy? Just because Zanu PF used a thumb-suck approach to draft ZimAsset (Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustained Suffering and Employment Termination), randomly plucking figures from the air to write this wish list, they should not assume that the outside world is equally intellectually challenged.
This wanton idiocy explains why most in Zanu PF probably genuinely believe that sanctions are the root cause of our economic problems. In this installment I would like to pick up from where I left off my previous article, and tackle the issues we need to address to provide an enabling business environment for investors and financial lending institutions, both domestic and foreign.
Problem 4 – Good Governance Indicator (lower quartile)
The Good Governance Indicator is generally broken down into the following sections: Voice and Accountability; Political Stability & Absence of Violence/Terrorism; Government Effectiveness; Regulator Quality; Rule of Law; and Control of Corruption. Even without having to go into the details of this index, who in Zimbabwe would argue with our ranking on this particular indicator? We need a total paradigm shift in our own way of thinking if we are to ever to get the government we truly deserve.
You see, whether Zanu PF or MDC is in power is irrelevant. Our system of government is structurally deficient in that it concentrates power in an individual. Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai see themselves as deities or semi-gods. They both suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder and genuinely believe that they are the only options for leadership in Zimbabwe. They have the numbers, their supporters will vehemently claim. Go and form your own party and see how many votes you get, is another oft repeated phrase.
And what have these numbers in votes brought Zimbabwe may I ask, besides grinding poverty, unemployment and hopelessness? We are now officially the second poorest country on this planet with these supposed numbers. Both sets of supporters claim that if either Mugabe or Tsvangirai left their leadership positions, then their respective parties would lose votes. Really?! So if Tsvangirai stepped down, the MDC-T supporters would stop voting altogether? If Mugabe stepped down, then Zanu PF supporters would stop voting altogether?
This is what happens when politics is more about emotions than logic. It is this praise and worship politics of these little gods in Mugabe and Tsvangirai that is arresting our economic development. This blind loyalty shows that we may have the highest literacy rate in Africa, but the majority are certainly not educated, and have been brainwashed to such an extent that they cannot make rational and logical decisions for the collective good of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe’s failures are there for all to see, but could some of Tsvangirai’s most ardent supporters tell us exactly what his scope of work entailed during the GNU? What was his role, his objectives, and what tangible results did he achieve during the GNU as the Prime Minister? The results of the finance minister are there for all to see, there was double digit growth in all years leading up to the election of 2013, the same goes with the education minister where we witnessed the turnaround of the education ministry, even the tourism ministry did extremely well if we cast aside political bias for a second. Whilst some people were hard at work, what exactly was the leader of the MDC-T doing, besides sitting down to have tea with Mugabe at least once a week and becoming the legend of the seas? Can someone please enlighten me?
If we had a mature democracy with an educated electorate who understood that politics should be about policies, service delivery and accountability then we would not be where we are today. Right now the major stumbling block to setting up a grand opposition coalition will obviously be who leads this coalition. Well, let me provide the supposed “intellects” with a solution to that conundrum of who should lead the grand coalition for them to analyse and ponder.
For a start, we need to move away from the numbers game, we need a total change of government system which would ensure that each and every citizen of Zimbabwe is their own president in every sense, or self-rule and sovereignty on an individual level. My solution is to rid ourselves of this politics of little gods for once and for all by adapting an inclusive democracy government system in which the post of Executive President is removed.
In its place we install an Executive Council made up of 5 members. These 5 members would make decisions by majority consensus. Each member would take turns in being a “ceremonial” president for a year during the 5 year election term. However, this ceremonial president would not have more “powers” than his/her four other colleagues in his year of being ceremonial president.
These 5 Executive Council members would be elected from Zimbabwe’s provinces. For this to be achieved, I propose to collapse the current 10 provinces into 5 main provinces namely Matabeleland, Midlands, Masvingo, Manicaland and Mashonaland. These 5 provinces would be “mini-autonomous states” within a state. These mini-autonomous states would have control over their districts and would be able to make a range of decisions including how to allocate revenue from their natural resources and local industries, and how to use their budgetary funds.
The next arm of the government would be the legislature in the House of Assembly. At the moment, Zimbabwe is made up of a total of 1,200 wards which make up 59 districts, which in turn form our 10 provinces. For election purposes these 1,200 wards have been nonsensically divided into 210 parliamentary constituencies which then make up the House of Assembly. I propose to cut the number of the House Assembly from the current 210 to 59 to coincide with the number of districts, and do away with the Senate.
Now the inclusive democracy I’m proposing would be grassroots democracy in that it would start from ward level, where every citizen in Zimbabwe would be involved in every decision which affects the nation. What happened during our constitution making process shows that the general populace are willing to participate, have their voices heard and make their contributions. The only way for this type of direct political democracy to work is for everyone to participate in local committee meetings at ward level to discuss issues and vote on everything from building schools or hospitals, roads, bridges, community development projects, national issues or foreign treaties. The purpose of these local committee meetings at ward level would essentially be to build a broad-based national consensus.
The 59 representatives in my proposed House of Assembly would meet once a week, to pass laws based on what the people said in their local committee meetings, formulate economic and public policy as well as ratify treaties and agreements.
In an inclusive democracy, the post of ministers would be retained. However, these ministers would be CEO’s selected by an independent board. Each minister would be selected on a proven track record, competence and merit alone, and would be a proven expert or specialist in his/her respective field to which he/she would be hired as minister. There would be no deputy ministers or permanent secretaries. The number of ministries would also be streamlined to a maximum of 10 ministries namely:
- Economic; 2. Education; 3. Health; 4. Energy and Infrastructure; 5. Agriculture, Land and Environment; 6. Defence; 7. Home and Foreign Affairs; 8. Health; 9. Justice; 10. State Enterprises.
What I’m proposing above is not some George Orwell utopian hallucination, it is a government system that has been employed by Switzerland since the 1848, and explains why Switzerland is the most prosperous and politically stable state on this planet. Switzerland has a small population of 8 million, no known natural resources, yet has a GDP of US$650 billion and is the wealthiest country in the world per capita. In fact the Switzerland is the country with the largest proportion of its population in the 1% per capita, i.e. one in 10 Swiss residents – 800,000 out of 8 million – have assets worth more than US$798,000.
In Switzerland ALL citizens can partake directly in the national politics. Any citizen in Switzerland may challenge a law that has been passed by parliament. If that person is able to gather 50,000 signatures against the law within 100 days, a national vote has to be scheduled where voters decide by a simple majority of the voters whether to accept or reject the law. Also, any citizen may seek a decision on an amendment they want to make to the constitution. For such a popular initiative to be organized, the signatures of 100,000 voters must be collected within 18 months. This is inclusive democracy at work.
Where Switzerland is also quite unique is in its long tradition of direct democracy and employing frequent referendums which have had a stabilizing influence on parliament and government. For any change in the constitution, a referendum is mandatory (mandatory referendum); for any change in a law, a referendum can be requested (optional referendum). Through referenda, citizens may challenge any law voted by federal parliament and, through federal popular initiative, introduce amendments to the federal constitution. This to me is a real inclusive democracy which will solve the governance issues for once and for all. I am surprised that none of the supposed intellectuals amongst the so-called democrats has proposed such a system as a solution to the governance solution.
Problem 5 – Debt repayment
Before we can access more loans or credit we have to pay back what we owe, it’s that simple. We owe anyone and everyone from the IMF, World Bank, AfDb, DBSA, PTA Bank, China, South Africa to Zambia, you name them, we probably owe them. If we service our debts, our credit rating improves and we can access more loans at a cheaper cost. The Zimbabwean government has agreed to pay back arrears of US$1.7 billion, with a conference coming up in Lima, Peru to deal with this issue. But it is not enough to continue making empty promises on paying back the debt, they actually have to start making the wire transfers as required. Then they can negotiate from an uncompromised position.
Ken Yamamoto was right when he said that we overrate ourselves as a country. Why should Zimbabwe expect special treatment when it comes to debt repayment? Zimbabwe began to default on mandatory repayments to the IMF way back in 1998, it is unfortunate that the Zanu PF government of the time did not fully appreciate the gravity and consequences of such a blasé attitude to debt repayment. A more recent case is Greece, which was almost kicked out of the Eurozone when it almost defaulted on payments to the IMF; that’s how serious it is.
The other issue is to do with the RBZ Debt assumption bill, which sailed through parliament, adding another US$1.3 billion to our national debt. It is unfortunate that the few in Zanu PF that benefitted from this bill were dancing and ululating as though this was a cause for celebration. Their limited intellectual capacity prevents them seeing the obvious stupidity in such a bill. If it was already a lost cause to ask for debt forgiveness, lines of credit and loans due to our debt overburden, how does adding another US$1.3 billion to our national debt help this cause? This is real economic sabotage of the highest order and those responsible should be prosecuted for treason to say the least.
These same Zanu PF beneficiaries assume that just because they could “legally pass” their private debt of US$1.3 billion onto the taxpayers, they could now try to pass this debt over to international financial institutes to fund. Unfortunately for them, these international financing institutions are not your average docile, ignorant, misinformed, disempowered Zimbabwean, and of course they know that sanctions had nothing to do with the debt accumulation.
The IMF and World Bank are lending institutions that are in it to make money. The IMF and World Bank’s credit rating is affected by bad loans, and it is nonsensical to lend to high risk countries like Zimbabwe who will simply thumb their noses at them and try to divert everyone’s attention by blaming everything on sanctions. They are not stupid, they know that more than US$16 billion of illicit diamond proceeds is sitting in off-shore bank accounts, and they will not be providing any funding to the Zimbabwean government until 3 years from now, i.e. after the 2018 elections.
China recently told the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) to pay back US$1.5 billion they owed before they can access further funding. Despite the slowdown in its economy, China still has trillions of dollars in reserves to spare. The fact that they no longer want to lend to our government speaks volumes of how Zimbabwe has become a delinquent when it comes to paying back loans. This is why we cannot access more loans or credit; it has nothing to do with sanctions.
Solution: The solution is quite simple; however you cannot expect criminals to simply turn themselves in and just hand back their loot. If we had a credible government in place it would execute a detailed and transparent debt audit first, publicly announce its findings, recover those moneys that can be recovered (most debt is on the back of collateral), jail those who cannot pay back what they owe, and then implement a debt repayment plan to internal and external creditors.
Problem 6 – Culture of entitlement
The endemic culture of entitlement is a symptom of the deep-rooted corruption which has permeated the social fabric of Zimbabwe. Corruption breeds contempt for decency, which is why the government is the biggest debtor to all local authorities, parastatals and private institutions, from ZINWA to ZESA to Farmtec to BNC. Admittedly, the vicious cycle of entitlement started with poor service delivery in the first place. There was endemic corruption and mismanagement in all institutions, which led to the stealing of public funds, which subsequently led to even poorer service delivery.
The hyperinflationary period in 2008 to 2009 meant that bills were overestimated, when infrequent electricity or water supply was the norm. The general public stopped paying, some because they could not afford it, others out of protest as they did not see why they should pay corrupt officials in return for poor service.
Then came 2013, as part of their election strategy, Zanu PF announced the mad (mutually assured destructive) policy of a blanket amnesty on rates, water and electricity. This saddled already debt-ridden local municipalities and public utility companies with even more debt. Where did government think the money was going to come from to pay back these debts? Then we complain that we have no water and no electricity, well what did we expect? Now it’s a catch 22 situation, no one wants to pay their bills or rates yet they expect to receive these services, and yet something has to give.
This brings me to another issue of pre-paid water meters which has been making headlines. The MDC-T’s stance against pre-paid water meters is the height of lunacy and further highlights how they have clearly lost the political plot. They are willing to employ the same disastrous populist politics as Zanu PF to gain political mileage without realizing the further damage this will have on the same service delivery they complain about. Have all intellectuals left the MDC-T? I was actually surprised when the Herald took a break from its usual nonsensical propaganda to clearly articulate why pre-paid water meters should be implemented. See link: (http://www.herald.co.zw/editorial-comment-prepaid-water-meters-cost-effective/).
I was flabbergasted when I heard that the residents associations of most cities were able to successfully organize demonstrations against pre-paid water meters, yet they could not organize demonstrations against the ridiculous salaries, perks & allowances being paid to councillors at the expense of service delivery. It never occurred to them to protest against the rampant corruption and land barons or demonstrate for accountability through open-book budgets, which would need to be approved by residents and rate payers. They could not demonstrate against the allocation of top of the range vehicles at the expense of service delivery. Am I missing something here?
Until you understand the real problems, you cannot provide solutions. The problem here is not of pre-paid water meters, it is a problem of poor management and service delivery by local councils which should be addressed to provide affordable water and other services to the residents.
The solution to this problem requires social change, a change in mind sets and attitudes. Individual citizens need to bear their own share of social responsibility. We cannot be continuously complaining about how corrupt the central government and local authorities are, yet we engage in corrupt activities ourselves by refusing to pay for services. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We have become a part of the problem and not the solution.
When debts were forgiven prior to the 2013 elections, this was wiping the slate clean, so there can no longer be any excuses put forth for not paying bills, or opposing pre-paid water and electricity meters. You need to pay for services and hold service providers accountable. If you don’t pay don’t complain and also don’t expect to get services.
To those who insist that water is a basic right, I totally agree with you, go and dig a well, drill a borehole or practice water harvesting from rain to exercise your basic human rights to access of water. If you expect chemically treated and filtered water to be delivered through a tap to your homes, then expect to pay for it. Even the basics of keeping our cities, towns and communities clean should not be left to local councils alone.
If you look at how Kigali in Rwanda became the cleanest city in Africa you will realise that such changes can only come about through each individual citizen’s own will and social responsibility. The Rwandan government officially banned the manufacture and use of plastic bags in Rwanda, which in turn reduced plastic pollution. Admittedly, there have been many clean up initiatives in cities and towns in Zimbabwe, but these have not had much of an impact. The Rwandan clean-up initiative has been a success as President Kagame himself leads by example, by making it mandatory for all Rwandese people of able bodies to participate in community clean-up day once a month. He actually comes out in person to do it with the people. He sets the standard.
I think it was Albert Einstein who said ‘Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means”. Our leaders should be leading by example. Why does Tsvangirai think he is still entitled to a $2 million dollar mansion and state benefits, and yet claim to represent the poor and suffering?