THERE are very few people in Zimbabwean public life with finer qualities than Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono. I truly believe that Zimbabwe can only stand to benefit from his talents, wisdom and many years of experience both as Governor and as a businessman.
Regrettably, I do not agree with his views on the indigenisation policy particularly in so far as they seek to question the motivation and capability of Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere – a very honest and able man.
I have followed Saviour Kasukuwere’s political career for nearly a decade. I have worked with him for 20 months. I have seen his strength and determination, his style and conviction. I am absolutely convinced that he has nothing but total regard for the huge and serious task that is before him.
When the indigenisation exercise got underway, many people were sceptical; they said it was too hard, it could not be done and that Kasukuwere was not up to the task. Others embarked on a smear campaign, arguing he was out to destroy the economy and to loot on behalf of Zanu PF.
Everyone would have understood and empathised if he had quit politics. Yet Kasukuwere did not waver. Today, across the country, everyone can see that there are economic changes taking place. Over $40 million has been devoted to the Youth Fund and hundreds of thousands of young people have been empowered in very meaningful ways.
From Mhondoro-Ngezi to Gwanda, there is clear and ample evidence of how the indigenisation policy has been used, not as a means of self-enrichment, but as a way of enriching lives.
And when we talk about the four communities that have so far been empowered, this is not just a number; these are lives that have been changed, millions of them. We are talking about people who had no hope of ever improving their welfare, but people who can now start successful businesses of their own.
When we talk about the young people who have been given access to loans for the first time in their lives; again it’s not just the numbers we are talking about. We are talking about young men and women who were previously denied the chance but who can now be great entrepreneurs and who can afford to buy new property for their folks.
None of this is happening by accident; all of it is happening because Kasukuwere is implementing a very progressive law, however unpopular it may be.
Now, some people will revile him and even plot against him. That’s OK. Saviour did not come into politics to be a celebrity or thinking he would be popular with everyone. He joined politics because he wanted to change things and to get serious work done.
As far as the financial sector is concerned, I think it’s important to get one thing straight: Kasukuwere is not asking to be appointed Chief Executive Officer of Barclays, Stanbic or Standard Chartered and so the question of whether he is a fit and proper person is neither here nor there. He is merely asking that these banks comply with the law of the land, a law that duly went through parliamentary procedures and a law that must now be complied with for the good of the people. Insulting him will not change the law.
If banks cannot play their traditional role of contributing meaningfully to the economy of Zimbabwe they must be realigned to serve the best financial interests of the country. It’s not personal; it’s about getting the country to move in the right direction.
Consider this: Zimbabwe has a new crop of farmers, all of them black and all of whom benefited from President Mugabe’s land reform programme. These farmers, especially those who have ventured into tobacco farming, have done tremendously well and they could do much, much better with the right support from our banks. Yet no such support has been forthcoming.
The question is, if the same banks could fund the white commercial farmers who utilised our land prior to the land reform exercise, why can’t they act similarly with our local farmers who have demonstrated not just the enthusiasm to improve our economy but great capability as well? Instead of promoting local initiatives, they are lending money to foreign countries like Greece.
If Gono cannot see that there is something very tragic about this situation, then we have a problem, a very serious one.
The story is just as bad with some of the trust-run schools in the country which seem rather disinclined to reflect the Zimbabwean dream where everyone is treated equally despite their race or financial circumstance, where local people and institutions are given priority over alien ones.
They still prefer Cambridge exams to the Zimsec ones; their fees are just too high and white kids seem to get far much easier access than black kids. All these are things that have to be interrogated but that can only be done with cooperation from everyone concerned and without emotion.
I can understand David Coltart’s emotion (which he demonstrated a few days ago when I had a debate with him on Studio 7) because he is concerned that while Zanu PF has given shares to communities, loans to the youth and equity to thousands of employees, his own party has only been able to give bicycles to a few rural people. Everyone can understand that political emotion, but Gono’s? He and Kasukuwere belong to one political family; the struggle for economic prosperity should bring them together not alienate them.
History teaches us that when party officials fail to cooperate, when they turn away from each other, the ramifications are huge for the party and the future of our people is delayed. That’s how Zanu PF lost the 2008 election and it’s a blunder the party just cannot afford to repeat.
Let’s put it this way: even if it terribly dents their personal egos, Gono and Kasukuwere need to find each other, cut the crap and work together for the good of this country. It’s not too much to ask, it’s the least they can do for a country that has endured many years of economic deprivation.