ZANU PF has historically stood up for the underdog, but there is a much more significant reason why Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere should continue to stand up to the forces of evil currently emanating from the MDC-T establishment: if he gives in, then the very essence of the economic reform agenda will be severely undermined.
In recent weeks, Finance Minister Tendai Biti has come out very strongly against current efforts to indigenise the banking sector, calling the move ‘unfair’ and fiscally unsound. Chief amongst his reasons is the superficial argument that doing so would ‘destablise’ the banking sector.
But this behaviour is hardly new. Nor is it unexpected. It is part of a culture that sits at the very heart of what the MDC-T stands for. From the land reform, through to supposed human rights abuses, to the indigenisation of the mining sector – the MDC-T has played politics with everything even in circumstances where it has been abundantly clear that to do so would be prejudicial to the national interest.
Now it looks almost certain that the same pattern of retrogressive behaviour will be replicated in their opposition to the transformation of banks. Fortunately, though, this latest effort, like many before it, is unlikely to cause any real setback.
Whatever area you wish to mention – land reform, indigenisation, combating of corruption – the MDC-T is losing the argument.
Let’s take land reform as an example. When the idea was first mooted, the MDC-T was contemptuous, roundly describing it as an expedient and self-serving tool intended to buy votes for Zanu PF. It flatly refused to countenance the fact that land redistribution was a crucial step towards ensuring socio-economic equality.
Now, a decade later, they seem to have come to their senses. Even they now agree that land reform is essential. The only borne of contention that remains is how this can be achieved in a lawful and civilized manner.
The indigenisation story is no different. At almost every turn, they ridiculed the initiative, invariably describing it as a system of patronage or an exercise in looting.
But then came the Mhondoro-Ngezi community share ownership scheme which spoke volumes about the genuineness of the empowerment drive and the sincerity of those tasked to see it to fruition. Under the scheme, Zimplats pledged a colossal US$10 million for developmental purposes.
Not so long after that, Unki Mine followed suit and the Tongogara community share trust was similarly launched.
Just a few days ago, the birthday-boy, ‘Moses’ Gabriel Mugabe, launched yet another community scheme at Mimosa, in Zvishavane. If this is not broad-based empowerment, then what the hell is?
And Biti seriously thinks he can interrupt the free-flow of this once-in-a-life-time opportunity? Perhaps he will have to block the free-flow of fists from angry youths before he can block this one. The last time I checked, the indigenisation drive was unstoppable.
Already, Stanbic has agreed to perform part of its obligations in terms of the law and will soon be making available a staggering US$20 million just for youth empowerment programmes.
Regrettably, there are some financial institutions like Barclays and Standard Chartered whose un-cooperative gestures seem to be reflective of Biti’s stance. It’s not the kind of attitude we need right now because it undermines our efforts to make this country more economically equitable. The law is there for a reason and they can only continue to evade its precepts at their own peril.
Unless Barclays and Standard Chartered would be happy to see Zimbabweans take the law into their own hands, they would be wise to comply with the statutory instrument currently being finalised for the banking sector.
I would be remiss if I didn’t add that, right now, they are on the verge of evoking widespread retaliation particularly from the youths, who are now sick and tired of non-progressive, non-committal bastards who support political reform but scorn economic transformation.
For an unconscionable period, many banks have drafted credit requirements that are simply too rigid, too prohibitive and too unfriendly to fulfil. The result of this discriminatory situation has been that ordinary but well-meaning customers could not access possibly life-changing loans. For the first time, in a very long time, that’s about to change and this should be a matter of great national pride, not shame.
Biti can tell his ‘unfair’ and ‘disruptive’ story to those who will care to listen. Top economists have been engaged and they are of the opinion that his concerns are overblown, if not incorrect. Nor is bank reform unique to Zimbabwe. Quite the opposite. India has done it to great benefit. The EU states, including Germany, are contemplating taking a similar route, although for different reasons.
It’s clear that, by seeking to frustrate the indigenisation of the banking sector, Biti is merely doing what he knows best: being a contender not a leader. He is versed in the arts and crafts of opposition. That is his career, his culture and his way of life and he will do anything, anything at all, to keep it alive.
But here is the thing: Biti and his pseudo-democrats need to understand that, in politics, you have to do more than just criticise your opponents. You have to give the electorate enough reason to vote for you – a reason to hope and a reason to believe that under your stewardship, things will get better, not worse. Fortunately, Zanu PF is doing just that through the indigenisation drive. Unfortunately, the MDC-T is not.