HARARE – What is the true meaning of the statement “taking back the economy” which is the election campaign cry of Zanu PF in 2013?
If this cry was coming from a newly-formed party, one would understand its significance and import.
However, Zanu PF is a seasoned party that was elected into office in 1980 to lead the charge to deliver the promise of a better and prosperous life, but finds itself without a coherent message than a message that would have been more relevant for the circumstances prevailing in 1980.
President Robert Mugabe in 1980 was alive to the humanly created and inherited land ownership structure as well as the need to democratise access to land.
Notwithstanding, he must have understood the role of enterprise ?agriculture and the need to promote and protect food self-sufficiency. The land in question was always situated in the territory of Zimbabwe and, therefore, it was and will always?belong to people who live in Zimbabwe. However, at the core of the colonial model was an appreciation of the role of markets, the rule of law and respect of property rights as fundamental building blocks for a sustainable and working society.
There is a need to understand the sociological and psychological world-view that informed the colonial system and how such a system could be transformed without compromising its value add to human growth and development.
Mugabe must have understood the risks associated with an emotional approach to land reform programme.
Indeed, he accepted that Zimbabwe could only live up to its promise if all its people chose to work in perfect unison including whites.
He made the point that: “Let this be an example of us all to follow. Indeed, let this enjoin the whole of our nation to march in perfect unison from year-to-year and decade-to-decade towards its destiny. We have abundant mineral, agricultural and human resources to exploit and develop for which we need perfect peace.
Given such peace, our endeavours to transform our society and raise our standard of living are bound to succeed. Mugabe comes from a generation and background that is yet to be convinced that business can be a friend of the poor and unemployed.”
The conjunction of MDCs, white farmers, and targeted sanctions must have sown fears of untold proportions among a dwindling and threatened members of the ruling class.
Therefore, when one hears the slogan “take back the economy!” the message is truly intended for whites and anyone who is perceived to be sympathetic to their purported cause.
The anxieties expressed by Zanu PF about a changing Zimbabwe are well-founded.
Indeed, the demographics have changed and although the number of whites has diminished, the country has lost a substantial portion of its human capital and also the capacity of the economy to accommodate job seekers has been constrained not by the ghosts of the colonial era, but by bad ideas about how a working system ought to be structured and governed.
Looking back 33 years is like visiting the many lessons of what not to do but Zimbabweans have had to endure with no taste as to what an alternative could mean and provide for.
People resisted, went on numerous strikes, went into Parliament and subsequently into the inclusive government, exposed corruption in land allocations as well as in the use of State resources, exposed bad ministers, and yet nothing has gotten the attention of the Chief Magistrate who continues to think the threat to prosperity is historically determined.
State actors continue to live in the comfort zones while playing games with the lives of the ordinary people as well as their successors.
Zimbabwe has a president whose world-view will not change with the time and who has crystallised a view that whites are perpetual enemies of the majority — notwithstanding the fact that whites lost political power in 1980 and the only mechanism they can take it back is with the consent of blacks. The existence of whites in Cabinet and Parliament after 33 years of independence confirms that in the minds of some Zimbabweans the white problem has been overcome.
Although his marching order at independence was to promote national unity and peace, but it is evident that his new marching order is to do whatever it takes to bring the country to its knees.
The relationship between the people of Zimbabwe and land requires critical examination.
In the Zanu PF election manifesto, it is stated that during the past decade, the party and not the government has indigenised 12 117 000 hectares of land which was previously in the hands of 3 500 beneficiaries of colonialism and illegal and racist Rhodesian rule and has resettled 276 600 households that have created one million jobs that have become a source of livelihood with enormous trickle down effects on the economy.
It would appear that dismantling the inherited land tenure system is confused with indigenisation.
If regard is had to the fact that many African states are endowed with land but such land is yet to be productive. If whites had taken the view that land holding was a terminal objective, then the context and content of land reform would have taken a different approach.
The social and commercial equity that was embedded in the white agricultural system has yet to be measured. The white business model was not just premised on land holding but involved a whole supply chain.
What is described as a white business model is in reality a value chain model that is indifferent to race or ethnicity.
Any commercial enterprise requires a value proposition that goes beyond appropriating God’s creations including land.
The fact that the government did not create land is and must be self-evident. Accordingly, no government has a defined legal relationship with land to permit the government and its actors to play God where land is concerned. Land allocation must be sensitive to the developmental imperatives of the time.
The fact that after the allocation of land by government, the beneficiaries find themselves exposed financially is not accidental but reflects a suicidal approach to development. The inherited colonial model had its own godfathers who provided the kind of leadership and support that small farmers’ need.
Allocating land to peasants constituted a necessary but not sufficient requirement for land to deliver the expected outcomes.
For land to be productive, a lot more is required than just the mere existence of human beings on the land. It is easy to conclude that whites succeeded in agriculture simply because of their colour forgetting that they had invested in a model that involved multi-stakeholders.
Subsistence agriculture is associated with its own dynamics. It is difficult to compare subsistence agriculture with commercial agriculture.
It has been observed that in the case of cotton and tobacco, the output from the resettled farmers has been encouraging and, therefore, the land reform has succeeded.
This may very well be the case but the reality is that no government especially one that is bankrupt can be relied upon to provide the inputs required in the value chain.
In a politically charged environment, it is opportunistic to blame Tendai Biti for the failure of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors when it is known that the model is fatally flawed and unless a new model is developed that is sensitive to supply chain challenges, the short-term benefits will not be sustainable.
The transfer of rights from whites to blacks in respect of land holding as was the transfer of rights to whites using non-market forces does not produce output.
In as much as one may dislike the fact that white agriculture produced superior outcomes, one must accept that agriculture is not an easy business. Because the sector operates on a seasonal basis it has the appearance of an easy business but for the few that have ventured into commercial agriculture will tell you that it is not so easy. If it was, all the countries with a lot of land would be food self-sufficient and this is not the case.
By “taking back the economy” one can come to the wrong impression that the economy of Zimbabwe was controlled by people in outer space.
The people who had rights to land were residents and citizens of Zimbabwe in the majority and, therefore, their production was part of the national pool of resources used to feed the nation.
The ignorance inherent in the campaign slogan is exposed when regard is had to the fact that one cannot take back something that is incapable of being taken.
The users of the land in the territory of Zimbabwe will always be people situated in the country.
The crop has no memory of which hands produced it. If it is maize, for example, one harvested is incapable of being distinguishable in terms of the hands that produced it.
The people of Zimbabwe need food and it is unacceptable that staple grains now have to be imported from countries that are well known for racism like Australia and Argentina.