By Andrew Field
Zimbabwe’s ruling elite have certainly demonstrated their ability to ‘hoist with one’s own petard’! The recent legislation concerning the ‘indigenisation’ of business in Zimbabwe is so much a case of ‘cutting off one’s nose’ that one can only marvel at the sanity of its originators. Africans most certainly bore the burden of colonial subjugation, but eventually gained their freedoms and acquired well developed countries with working infrastructures in the bargain. Mr. Mugabe certainly did. The people of Zimbabwe inherited a southern African powerhouse, a land flowing with milk and honey.
One would have thought that with freedom gained, the new regimes of Africa would have treasured, nurtured and developed further their new won nations. Not so. For some reason, which remains elusive, Africans have managed to reduce their nations to proverbial dumps, created untold death and destruction, and relegated their populations to pauper status in endemic proportions. And while this, so uniquely indigenous, degradation is taking place, the ‘colonialists’ continue to take the blame. They respond by pouring in aid, while clearly looking the other way.
Zimbabwe has just suffered the worst ten years of its existence. It was the era of racist revenge and vindictive pillage during which a tiny class of people of Caucasian origins were isolated, victimized and deprived of their land and property, their homes and their livelihood. In the bargain a significant proportion of the ‘indigenous’ population were impoverished through the loss of their livelihood and homes on the farms. This inhumanity could never be and will never be justified, yet, stunningly, Africa’s often corrupt now ‘dump dog’ despots, still hold the wrongdoers in awe. The Western world conveniently looked the other way.
The knock on effect of destroying commercial agriculture, second only to mining, in wealth generation, was the near collapse of the Zimbabwe economy. The nation experienced some of the worst inflation any nation has sustained with the ultimate collapse of its currency. The Zimbabwe dollar was globally reduced to ridicule. Those who benefited from all this racist plunder were a mere handful of party faithful and useless wealth grubbing sycophants. Political patronage reared its ugly head. Yet clearly this was not enough for these artful architects of hatred.
Now, apparently, the nation is to sustain another five years of pillage and destruction which will echo around all the corridors of commerce and industry. Mugabe’s ‘men in black’ have been scheming, clearly ultra vires, to usurp even the pillars of constitutional law in the making of the Indigenisation and Empowerment Regulations. These are designed to empower black people with 51 percent stakes in all companies of reasonable wealth, basically without compensation to their owners. As heroic as that may sound, and, yes, it is already being heralded as the 4th Chimurenga, in reality, it is yet another scheme to deprive that tiny class of people of Caucasian origin of ownership.
Any Zimbabwean worth his salt, who has any aspirations towards self employment, ownership of business and contributing to the growth and well-being of his country, would have bust his back to achieve this, during the last thirty years. Many did and much wealth transferred to black Zimbabweans in the process. There is absolutely no hope though, for those who waited in anticipation, to piggy back upon the party gravy train, with lucrative endeavour, seeking unearned gains.
Business is an intricate matrix of networking and experiences, vulnerable to the sensitivities of both, and no place for those who are gutless and cannot invest their money and energy in its success. The Government of Zimbabwe has created a conduit through which many aspiring businessmen will now have false hopes of reaping where they have not sewn. The failure of land reform, and the collapse of commercial agriculture, as we knew it, should have been sufficient a deterrent to those who structured the Indigenisation and Empowerment scheme, unless they were clearly intent upon wrecking further havoc and ruin on Zimbabwe’s economy. There should be no illusions here.
What, one may ask, prevents Zimbabweans taking courage and exposing themselves to the risks of developing their own business networks, integrating with existing networks, building their own companies and getting onto the competitive platform that any existing company has had to do? Do they really lack the guts, courage and determination, so much so, that they cannot be self made men and women? Are Zimbabweans really reduced to receiving patronage for the rest of their days? We think not, so what magical formula is there in disenfranchising a small class of hard working people on the grounds purely of their race?
Zimbabweans need to tread very carefully upon this evil and perilous road of political patronage and handouts. Unwittingly, perhaps, they will be placing yet further misappropriated wealth into the hands of the same buffoons who failed them with the land reform programme. It is the same vindictive and vengeful formula, but with concrete, machinery and trading stock as the toys, rather than mealies, tobacco and livestock.
Yet, strangely, Morgan Tsvangirai believes that ‘indigenization program aims to promote broader-based economic participation, not discourage investment’. With such a thoroughly naive view, little wonder the hawks are sharpening their beaks in anticipation. White Zimbabweans are just as Zimbabwean as any black Zimbabwean, Mr Tsvangirai. There is no excuse for this blatant discrimination. Martin Luther King’s words seem appropriate here, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
By Andrew Field