via Zhuwao’s destructive exuberance – NewsDay October 15, 2015
There we go again. We have a new Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao, who thinks he has all the answers. Like his predecessors we have to start all over again in a ministerial portfolio that, in my opinion, is unnecessary and destructive to the economy as it adds no value whatsoever.
I was with Zhuwao, who is President Robert Mugabe’s nephew, on radio in a debate on the issue of indigenisation a couple of weeks back and I remember trying to get it into his head for him to appreciate that, although indigenisation is not necessarily a bad thing in principle, it is not a priority right now, as we need to be focusing on policies and actions that create jobs and create value.
But in the typical Zanu PF fashion, he hasn’t listened and has come out guns blazing, creating rent seeking behaviour, where companies must pay an empowerment levy. We all know what happens when this government collects levies on our behalf (e.g. Aids levy and toll gate fees).
Besides, we are once more, creating punitive measures and not incentives when companies are struggling to survive to preserve jobs. In fact, the policies of this government have created the massive unemployment that we see but, of course, if you join Zanu PF you must take an oath to blame sanctions, the whites or the British for everything.
Our problem is that Zimbabweans are lazy to innovate and create value. In my opinion, we should be focusing on creating value as a country in order to attract capital from free international markets, as opposed to wanting equity stakes in existing companies. We should rather be looking at indigenising through rapid industrialisation and infrastructure development , as this will in turn revive the economy and create jobs.
Africa is practically in the technological and industrial Stone Age of the 20th century. Our political architecture has failed to create developmental states that deliver the best socio-economic experience on the African soil. That has to change.
It is my opinion that in principle Mugabe has not been wrong in the need to empower Zimbabweans. What he has failed to do is to cast a strong enough and compelling inclusive national vision for the country that takes a scientific approach in achieving the stated objectives of the ownership of assets by Zimbabweans.
In my view, he has failed to let us craft an inclusive and productive industrial economy by limiting the pool of the talent to partisan interests and being racist and yet we have millions of Zimbabweans, black and white, with the know-how and the requisite skills to build a formidable economy.
He has dismally failed to transform Zimbabwe through building the necessary non-partisan inclusive institutional framework, but has relied on the old colonial architecture of control and command by a political centre. This has marginalised millions from contributing and created a massive brain drain and widespread poverty. Indigenisation is one of those policies contributing to the decline. We will certainly reverse that when we take over in 2018.
Anyhow, we can’t change the past but we can create a better future. That future must be the creation of a robust economy where it becomes unnecessary for us to have laws that claim or demand stakes in other people’s companies. We must and can build our own new companies as Zimbabweans. We certainly do not need government, or religion for that matter, to save us.
I also continue to question this issue of community share trusts. Zhuwao is refusing to accept in his mind that windfalls of cash to the poor do not solve our economic problems. Where the recipients of a cash windfall have taken no risk and do not stand to lose anything the funds will be spent recklessly.
I challenge Zhuwao to tell us how many sustainable jobs have been created through community share trusts? The last time I asked him live on air, he told me about a borehole that was built in some rural area — honestly. We also want to know where the funds disbursed to communities are and how they have been used to date.
Again there is nothing fundamentally wrong with community share trusts to empower communities, but they must be first be shared on non-partisan basis, must be managed professionally, (I even doubt whether our rural folk understand how they work) and they must, in the end, create sustainable livelihoods. That should be the bench mark. Zhuwao had no idea at the time I asked him since he had been in office for a mere 10 days.
My point of departure regarding indigenisation remains consistent and steadfast. Entrepreneurs and would-be investors don’t need the government to interfere and tell them what to do. They can do deals by themselves; all they need are consistent, clear and fair laws that incentivise them to do what they know best.
That is the Zimbabwe we are going to create.