Why Mugabe needs Tsvangirai: Zimbabwe’s way out of economic turmoil.

OPINION – Our nation Zimbabwe is hanging by a thread. Indeed, there are those out there who believe it has already collapsed. What we need in our next leader and our next government is a workable plan to turn our country around and fast.

I, like many others, fundamentally disagree with Mugabe on almost all the issues regarding the future of our country. However, differences aside, our country needs rebuilding and Mugabe is not the man. Here is why:

Media reports highlighted that the current talks between Mugabe’s ZANU (PF) and opposition leaders have reached an agreement. Some newpapers had claimed that Mugabe was threatening to form the next government without Tsvangirai and his supporters. Naturally this had raised red flags across the globe partly because the people feared another term of this ruthless and heartless regime who have trampled on every civil freedom known to man and starved the people of Zimbabwe just to stay in power. For the most part however, most people recognised that Mugabe was not the man to steer our country back to self sustainance and prosperity, to gear our health system to save lives, to spearhead education policy which will shape the future of our children and to give us the ammunition we needed to compete on all fronts in this now so global world.

The Mugabe regime would have us believe that Mugabe and his leutenants have the recipe to rebuild our country. Mugabe is largely responsible for the mess we are in right now and to think that he is going to change from what he has been doing with this country for almost 3decades is wishful thinking, and frankly, stupid! We need someone new with radical, innovative ideas for Zimbabwe who will approach gorvening our country with a different vision.

By far, the greatest challenge facing the next government is to create jobs for our citizens. In economics, input into the economy directly impacts on output of that economy. How much depends on the multiplier effect. Simply put, the more people are in work, the more they spent and the more the economy grows. For example, if the government starts improving hospitals and paying our doctors properly, they can afford to buy food at lunchtime at the small restaurant round the corner, thus giving the owner of that restaurant and his employees jobs and money in their pocket. The doctors will also want to buy houses(putting money in the construction industry) and cars (boosting our motor industry). And the cycle continues.

With unemployment levels of over 80%, our people desperately need change. Active and qualified members of society who are genuinely and seriously looking for a way to feed their families urgently need these jobs. The massive exodus of young and/or skilled workers tells the story. The most productive quota of the population now recognise that emmigration is the only logical choice for the moment. The country’s health system is down on its knees with chronic shortages of staff, equipment and medication because the government cannot pay the public service workers enough to live on. Teachers, engineers, accountants, nurses, doctors, mine workers and farmers have left the country enmass to seek better opportunities elsewhere. Every sector of our economy is suffering from the effects of this brain drain.

Linked to jobs is obviously expanding our industries. Companies are the employers therefore we need them to generate jobs for our people. We used to be quite good at that. Most regional headquarters for multinational companies operating in the region where based in Zimbabwe until recently. We had a reasonably sized manufacturing and processing industry and had every opportunity to grow it even further. Now, our motor industry, namely Willovale, is not operating at full capacity. Factories have been shut and service sector businesses like the food industry which supported those industries collapsed with them. We need to start manufacturing and processing again in Zimbabwe. We need to stop shipping away raw materials like steel and then importing the finished products back oursleves and start manufacturing and processing our resources ourselves. We need to attract those companies who need our resources to come to our shores and set up their production lines there. The mining industry has made some important discoveries the last few years and we need to tap into that potential to grow our economy.

Zimbabwe was on the right path with entreprenuers like Nigel Chanakira whose Kingdom Group was becoming a force in the world of finance and banking and Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet which is successfully operating in several african countries as we speak. We definitely have the talent to industrialize our country and create jobs for our people. If we could get a fellow country man to work at NASSA (Prof. Authur Mutambara), we surely can manufacture our own car engine in Zimbabwe.

In addition, we need to attract outside operators to feel safe to do business in our country as we used to. A stable political and socio-economic environment allows international companies to have the confidence to set up operations in our country. This is great for our working classes because our cost of labour is lower than most developed countries and we can use that to our advantage. Look at India for example. The ‘call centre boom’ is supporting their economy and providing their workers with jobs. Every company in the UK is considering shipping their customer service operations and other support services to countries where it is cheaper to operate. That could have been Zimbabwe. Afterall, we Zimbabweans do speak better english than most nationalities in the world, if not the best. That can still be achieved if we restructure our political and socio-economic terraine to accommodate international businesses.

The next government of Zimbabwe needs to build new and rebuild existing infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, water and sewerage networks, telecommunications, schools and hospitals. Mugabe and his people have neglected to invest any money towards this vital apsect of our nation. Where they have dared to invest, they have let corrupt officials squander public finances and get away scotch free. Their general policy on infrastructure can be summed up by the position they have taken on telecommunications in our country. The Mugabe regime has resisted free market economics and refused to license other independent operatos to enter the market. Would you believe that in this global age of technology, the government of Robert Mugabe put into place controls so that only three mobile phone operators can provide services in our country at any given time. These controls are responsible for artificially inflating the price of moblie phone lines and tariffs. We need a government that works in patnership with businesses to provide efficient services and value for money for the people of Zimbabwe while building vital infrastructure for our nation.

Crucially, we need to do something about our energy needs as a country to achieve energy independence. The world is beginning to accept that it is not healthy for a nation to depend on another for its energy needs. It is highly costly to the consumers and it could put our national security at risk. Right now we are depending on South Africa to keep the sunshine city alight, but how much longer can they keep supporting us? God forbid we should ever get into war with South Africa! South Africa’s energy needs are growing every day and sooner or later they are going to cut us off so they can meet their own needs. They might cut us off anyway, since we owe them tones of money for what they have given us so far. As a country we need to develop and explore alternative fuels like bio-fuels, clean coal technology, wind and solar energy and expand our hydro-electric power solutions. Responsible goverments are taking action now rather than later and the next leadership of our country cannot ignore this matter.

Our education system, once the pride of Africa is falling to pieces and the beacon of hope for our children has been extinguished as a result. The quality of education has gone down, the infrastructure dilapidated and the cost of education beyond the reach of the average man. As I sit here writing this piece, our colleges and universities have not yet opened some weeks into their regular semester because there is no money to keep them going. What a turn around from the schools, colleges and universities of the past which used to attract foreigners from across africa seeking a better education for their children. We need a leader and a government who can put hope back into our system, allow our educators to be proud again and provide a stepping stone for innovation, entreprenuership and a qualified employee base for our economy.

A malignant chronic disease has attacked our health system leaving it useless, powerless and yearning for change. The doctors and nurses on the frontline everyday are being troubled by the needless loss of life they see daily. We used to be able to go to the local polyclinic and get the best care for little or no cost. Martenity services, outpatient treatment, regular check ups and treatment of everyday trivialities like colds and chicken pox etc. Those days are a thing of the past. Now, even the great and famous Parirenyatwa hospital runs out of medicine, cannot meet patient needs and in some cases staff have to watch helplessly as patients they know they could have saved die. The health system needs money and politcal leadership to take us out of these dark days. Mugabe got us into this mess, he does not know how to fix it.

The welfare of our citizens should once again be a priority. Our culture is one of benevolence. We are brought up to take care of our poor, elderly and orphans; to watch out for our neighbours. That is both a moral and legal responsibility and any government should execute this duty in partnership with faith groups, civic organisations, businesses and even individual citizens. Under Robert Mugabe, that sense of togetherness has been lost. Everyone is focussing on number one and neglecting their duty to community and country. The next government needs to lead in changing this shameful selfishness that has become prevalent in our beloved nation.

Our agricultural policy needs a fundamental overhaul. We need to turn our country back to the days when Zimbabwe was the bread-basket of Africa. Right now, we can not even feed our own people. A combination of bad policies on investment in agriculture, shambolic land reform policies and corruption have turned our once flourishing nation into a beggar. Everyone agrees that redistribution of land in our country was inevitable and the right thing to do. However, a well thought approach that would not put our food security at risk would have served everyone better. Instead, Mugabe has used the land reform programme as a political tool, rewarding his loyal supporters with farms and farming equipment at the cost of every Zimbabwean’s food security. The Mugabe way was not equitable or geared to help the country as a whole. That politics needs to change and that change can not be achieved by Mugabe or any of his leutenants who have been his allies for the last 28years. The next government should setup a land reform commission to look into how land was redistributed and hold those who abused it to be held to account. I believe our farming industry should be and will be the first to get back on its feet once we start restoring our country.

Something needs to fundamentally change in our country to restore the rule of law, fight corruption and give power back to its rightful guardians.
We need to rebalance the power by taking it away from the service chiefs and giving it back to the elected representatives and the people. The military, the police, the prison service and all other public services should do exactly what their name clearly dictates; “serve the public”. Our country is being held to ransom by men and women who are supposed to protect and serve us, using weapons paid for by our own money and subjecting us to the will of the establishment few.

And then there is the ideological differences. I believe our country needs to adopt a social democratic philosophy of government also famously known as ‘the third way’. This is based on the ideology that we need to do all we can to support entreprenuership and innovation (i.e free market economic concepts), but as well remove injustices through state regulation. It is like taking the good parts of free market economics and pairing it up with our natural nature as Zimbabweans to care about others’ and to do all we can not just for ourselves but for our community and country. ZANU (PF) under Mugabe has been lining up the pockets of the rich and rewarding only its faithfull supporters for the last 3decades or so. We need a leader who understands that personal prosperity is important but that those less fortunate should not be neglected to drown in their poverty.

Indeed, one of the most well documented economic recoveries is that of Germany post world war. Poland also went through a similar phase. The German economy was in tatters and unemployment high. Inflation was through the roof and their currency had lost value so much that people started using cigarettes as a currency for trade. The government embarked on a massive economic recovery program spearheaded by funding massive reconstruction projects for roads, bridges, schools hospitals and other public sector entities. Once those working in the massive reconstruction started earning money, the german economy slowly kick-started again. As an added bonus, the Germans managed to build one the best transport networks in the world in the process.

Between January of 1918 and December of 1923 the value of German Marks to US dollars fell astronomically from USD1 – 5.21marks to USD1 – 4.2Billion German Marks at the end of 1923. Mainly, this was a natural market reaction to the pressures being applied on the German economy because of reparation payments that the German government had to pay to its war allies.

Also, a fall in the value of the local currency means imports are relatively more expensive thus market forces will force prices of local comodities to rise as well. If a country’s currency is competitive on the world market, it means the more expensive the local goods are, the more the consumers are forced to look for alternative suppliers elsewhere in the world. China is a perfect example of how emerging markets are putting pressure on markets like Europe and America and forcing the price of commodities in those markets down. This will not only affect individuals. In the longterm, the country’s foreign currency reserves become depleted, thus applying more pressure on the economy. This in part explains why it has become more and more expensive to purchase commodities inside Zimbabwe.

Furthermore, the higher the price of commodities, the more money you will have to have in circulation at any given time. As happened in Zimbabwe recently, the central bank was forced to introduce new notes into the money supply and keeps printing more money everyday. It is a well known economic fact that increasing the supply of money in circulation increases aggregate inflation in the economy. The next leader of our nation needs to introduce a new currency and then put in place tight controls to limit the money supply in the economy and keep us competitive on the foreign currency markets.

Our tax system is in shambles. Most people are getting away with earning money without paying any taxes at all. This is largely because a lot of our trade is being done on the parallel market with no official records. The government is not generating enough revenue to fund public services. The next leader of our nation should put in place an efficient but equitable tax system that both generates revenue for funding public services, but does not stiffle economic growth.

It is almost scary to bring up the subject of our county’s balance of payments. This the comparison of how much a nation is buying from other countries as compared to how much it is selling to other countries. Ideally, a nation should sell more and buy less from the world. Currently, we are importing everything including energy, food, medicine, cars and even building materials. On the other hand, we used to be the largest exporter of tobacco and other farming products, minerals and services like accounting and banking in Africa. Not anymore. Part of solving this problem will require us to rethink our international policy and relate better with the world. We will also have to work on the manufacturing and processing side of our economy. Short of a turn around, we are just helping rival economies grow. Mugabe neither has the ability nor the will-power to make the adjustments we need.

The country cannot afford to meet its energy needs and piped water in the once lavish capital Harare is a rarity. It is hard to imagine how things could get any worse than they are and yet everday the country sinks deeper than it was the day just past.

Economically turning around Zimbabwe is the real task that awaits the country’s next government. The rhetoric that has become common among all commentators, both experts and laymen, is that Mugabe is not the man to lead this recovery. On the other hand, his loyalists believe it is a view that has been perpetuated by western media out to gun him down and channel in a puppet who will sell back the country to former colonial master, Britain, and its allies. That said, the recent power sharing deal means we will have to entrust both Mugabe and Tsvangirai to jointly lead our nation to recovery.

To address the Zimbabwe situation, we will most likely need to creatively invent new and custom designed policies which have never been tried before. In some circumstances, we can borrow from other countries like Ukraine in the 1990s, Germany, Russia, Poland, Zambia etc, that have faced hyperinflationary economies, run-away currency exchange rates, record unemployment and all the other economic turmoils that our country is currently experiencing. Admittedly, it is impossible to find a country that has sunk as low as Zimbabwe even in the time of the great depression. Countries at war have not witnessed similar devastation. And yet, that is the daunting task facing the next government of our country. I can honestly say Mugabe should not be the man at the helm as we start this rebuilding process. He certainly cannot deliver this without the MDC, the support of the international community and above all the support of the people of Zimbabwe. However, Tsvangirai and Mugabe together face this daunting task and God only knows what they can and will achieve for Zimbabwe.

Tafadzwa Gidi is our regular writer, and some of his work can be found at http://tgidi.blogspot.com