ZIMBABWE’S indigenisation and empowerment law, whose present focus is on the mining sector, has been called many things: ‘destructive’, inimical to ‘property rights, devoid of justice, unconstitutional, tantamount to theft’ and certain to bring about ‘the imminent and total demise of the Zimbabwean economy.’
For a scheme that is making remarkable inroads in the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans in particular and the country’s economy in general, it’s an unduly harsh assessment.
Eric Bloch (Zimbabwe Independent columnist and Bulawayo-based economist) has insistently and often disparagingly attacked Honourable Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and so this country’s indigenisation drive in a campaign ostensibly intended to champion the selfish desires of the privileged few over the real and urgent needs of the common man. It’s a disturbing state of affairs and a sign that certain circles of this country do not care about its welfare.
Doubtless, a curious tendency is emerging in Zimbabwe today wherein people express disgruntlement only with policies that stand in conflict with their vested interests. It’s a culture that hurts the country and does nothing to improve it. It happened with the land redistribution exercise. It is shamelessly being brought to bear on the indigenisation initiative.
For a lengthy period, Zimbabweans have been made to scramble for bits and pieces, made to content with being perpetual economic subordinates and so reduced to second-rate citizens in their own country. For a country with vast deposits of resources, it bodes ill. For a nation celebrating 31 years of independence in a few days, it’s a bad sign.
Yet Bloch dares talk about justice; dares talk about property rights and theft, dares bring the constitution into all this? What does that same constitution say about rights to human dignity and equality? At least some in our midst still have their dignity intact! Do they know how it feels to have a decent qualification and to work for long hours for too little? Do they know the pain endured by those women from Mvurwi who work very hard growing tobacco and still queue for their cash with babies strapped on their backs?
The audacity of Eric! Let him condemn the police and so the government for pouncing on the poor and the vulnerable trying to make a living at Mupedzanhamo; Mbare Msika and Siyaso.
Let him denounce the municipal police for dispossessing black impoverished vendors almost daily across the country of their items and so their livelihoods. Have those people no rights? Do they not yearn for justice- for the protection of their investments? One cannot choose to be so flagrantly biased and expect to be taken seriously.
If it smells like racism, looks like racism and sounds like racism then it probably is racism. One does get sick and tired of self-serving and narrow minded people inclined not towards the ordinary man but bent on perpetuating oppression and subservience in the deceptive name of property rights. It’s a 1979 mindset with no role to play in modern day Zimbabwe.
Of course, different views can be expressed regarding the extent to which the empowerment drive will be beneficial to the common man. That is acceptable debate and can be tolerated. But insulting President Mugabe or Minister Kasukuwere will not change things. Insulting the people of this country will not change anything. It’s no use criticising great ideas, unstoppable ideas. To stop an idea, one must have a better idea- a liberating idea rather an oppressive idea.
Better to insist that Zimbabwean resources be shared out evenly, equitably and without consideration to political opinion. By the look of things, the process is in good hands. Saviour Kasukuwere is a competent and capable man of honour determined to see the plan through. He is not one to flounder at the last minute. In short, Zimbabwe could barely manage without him.
Did not Bloch know that sooner or later Zimbabwe would claim what rightly belongs to her? Of course it was an inescapable eventuality. There is more to a nation’s independence than a flag. For all its symbolism, it is inedible- the nation has to eat.
And in 21st century politics the question is never about what Eric thinks or anyone else for that matter. Self-sufficiency is the issue. Accordingly, our government’s plan to enjoy 51% control of all mining activities currently in the hands of foreign companies is a step in the right direction. By no means is it reason for Bloch to mourn. Everyone ought to rejoice.
Let’s not hear anymore talk about 51% being too much. Let’s not delve into the debate about what constitutes fair compensation because this is no time for jokes. Suffice it to say if anyone receives a cent as reparation, Zimbabwe would have demonstrated a show of considerable magnanimity. A share of 49% anywhere is a hell of a lot, let alone in a country ranked second largest producer of platinum in the world, with huge deposits of diamonds, gold, chrome among countless other costly resources.
The suggestion by Bloch and others that foreign investors will feel inhibited by the empowerment law is as mendacious as it is deceitful. None of the foreign investors in this country has expressed an intention to pack his bags and leave the Zimbabwean treasure behind. Certainly not Anglo Platinum, which has since dispatched its first load for export. And even if a few were to leave- so what? The reality is, we couldn’t care less. Always, it is important to look several years down the line, to look at the bigger picture.
Not so long ago, Bloch predicted the ‘impending resurgence’ of the 2008 fuel crisis after ZIMRA seized monies due to it from NOCZIM because the latter was in default of fuel importation levies. Wearing his economist hat, he contended that government needed to urgently liquidate NOCZIM or ‘the presently weak economy will be so massively further weakened as to be on the verge of extinction’.
Several months later, not only is NOCZIM still intact and fuel in overwhelming abundance, our country’s economy is estimated to grow by over 9% in the next financial year. It was a fake alarm by a fake economist intended, however, to cause real and further harm to the image of this country.
All told, it is becoming increasingly hard with each passing second to resist the feeling that Bloch is promoting a peculiarly nasty agenda, which agenda has deprived him of the independence required from a supposedly independent economist, writing in what should be an independent newspaper. He is a verified pessimist and a demonstrated liar who can no longer be taken seriously by anyone with a functioning mind — assuming anyone ever did.