How the Diaspora can drive the regime change agenda in Zimbabwe

OPINION – In my last article I proffered that Zimbabwe is completely in the hands of ZANU PF and that there is no hope for a free and fair election as long as the current cabal is intact.

It seems however that many who read the article found it logical to conclude that if elections would not present achange in government, then an armed conflict would be the only way to institute structural changes. I believe there is another way that could be effective, clean and constructive.

Remember I talked about an attempt by ZANU PF at creating a new State that has foundations on itsruling elite. What ZANU PF’s inner circle is primarily seeking to do is tobuild an empire that has the ability to control both the national resources andthe government. In controlling thenational resources this group will be able to freely operate and multiply its wealth. They know they will not be able to freely operate in future if they donot have security, thus they romped in the core of the military into the innercabal. What is left now is to ensure that they have the ability to influencewho gets into government and who does not. This will be easy for them in futurebut not now.

If the inner cabal which revolves around Mugabe, Munangagwa and Mujuru is left unchecked by 2020, all major companies in Zimbabwe will belong to them. Right now all productive land in Zimbabwe belongs to them. They now control the primary mode of production. They now literally control the rawresources of Zimbabwe including minerals. What they are doing now is to take controlof all other companies in the country. They talk of indigenization when theyknow that in 2008 they reduced all Zimbabweans to paupers by literally freezingall the money that they had in banks.

The plot from 2004 was to print paper money which they woulduse to buy foreign currency on the black market and stash it somewhere else.They allowed inflation to spiral because it was necessary to have all other Zimbabweans as beggars so that they would not in future pose as threats in thecompetition for resources. What we are seeing now is an attempt to clean dirty money and make it acceptable into the economy whilst asserting their influence over all other people in the country.

Indigenization demystified

The inner cabal through its banker Gideon Gono managed tocollect money though the black-market atvirtually no cost because they bought it with worthless paper. It is estimatedthat they amassed approximately US$ 2 billion over the four years. Since 2006ZANU PF through proxy companies has been mining diamonds and secretly sellingthem to the Chinese and other eastern countries. The money did not go intoState coffers but straight to ZANU PF. It is estimated that they make about$1.7 billion annually through the diamonds. That is about $6.8 billion over 4 years. What this means is that ZANU PF has about $8.8 billion stashed somewhere outside the official economy of the country. This money is dirtymoney which they can easily lose for example if for some strange reason China’spolicy towards Zimbabwe changes assuming the money is in Chinese banks.

So the next stage is now to spruce the money, make it cleanand send it into the official market as legit. They know that it will be a very tough decision for United Kingdom to impulsively freeze the operations of companies like Anglo American Corporation, Rio Tinto, Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered Bank which have their origins in that country. Zimbabwe hasabout 600 of such foreign companies. ZANU PF came up with the controversialindigenisation law which requires all foreign companies to shed 51 percent oftheir stakes to indigenous Zimbabweans.

ZANU PF knows that every other Zimbabwean who was not withinthe ZANU PF system in 2008 is now a pauper. They have $9 billion waiting to be used in thecrusade. By law, all the 600 companies will cede 51 percent to ZANU PF. Thistime they are not going to seize companies without compensation, they arelegally going to pay for the 51 percent using dirty money. If applied withspeed ZANU PF will be controlling all the land and all the companies inZimbabwe very soon.

So the concept of indigenization although very attractive topoor Zimbabweans is not meant to benefit them but to assert the authority of aninner cabal of ZANUPF. We have helped to build this empire through our sweatwhich was bought through worthless paper.

The toothless government in 2020

When the dust settles, sanctions will not make much sense.Production will grow. ZANU PF will now be able to invest in agriculture. Thiswill be simple, ZANU PF will now be controlling the chain of wealth creation.They will be able to farm tomatoes on their farms, instead of selling them at Mbare Musika , they will now be able to make rich pickings at Unilever which they would own. The tomatoes will be made into Royco which they would sell andagain make rich pickings through OK Zimbabwe which they will also own.

Eventually the issue of running around in parliament andgovernment will become too tedious and dirty for the inner cabal. They willthen be willing to shed offices of the government to other acceptableindividuals who will be screened so that they would not put the cabal’sinterests at risk. The State will then be able to pacify general Zimbabweansthrough fringe benefits associated with a reviving economy. Eventually jobswill be available as the companies grow and reinvest in other sectors.

When people begin to get food they will begin to worry aboutwho is ruling them. So the final stage will be to create another politicalparty that is again controlled by the inner cabal. This party will challengeZANU PF in elections and win. It will be acceptable because it will in otherwords be another ZANU PF although with a different name and different personalities.The net effect of development is that the inner cabal’s interests will still beprotected. Eventually we will have a bi-partisan country run and controlled bymonsters.

Building analternative to the ZANU PF State

I have gone to this length so that we can all appreciate theseriousness of ZANU PF. At face value the only way to stop ZANU PF is to takeup arms and topple them. This is not attractive neither is it feasible becauseZimbabweans are fresh from war and theyknow how destructive and painful it is. Secondly, for an alternative army to bebuilt there is need for resources. Already MDC and NGOs in Zimbabwe have milkedwestern donors since 1999 and signs of donor fatigue are showing as it becomesapparent that it is improbable for MDC to rule Zimbabwe. Lastly, there isminimal immediate gain for the West in Zimbabwe. War in Zimbabwe will be aliability to them as they would also be expected to bear the burden ofrebuilding a ravaged country. Smart regime change remains the only acceptableoption for them.

The hope for smart regime change lies in the Zimbabwe Diaspora.Zimbabwe has approximately 2 million people who are outside the country. Thisbody of people is very important economically. There hasn’t been a strategy toharness the economic power of the diaspora especially from the pro-democraticside of the political divide. The importance of Diaspora remittances inpropping up economies cannot be understated. Phillipines received about $16 billion from it Diaspora in 2008 whilstEthiopia received about $780 million in 10 months in 2010. It is this strengththat we ought to harness for us to create an alternative and rival State inZimbabwe.

There are some assumptions that we have to make beforepositing the alternative solution. Weare going to assume that of the 2 million people outside the country only 25percent are formally employed or are productive. We will also assume that onaverage only 200 000 are able to spare aminimum of $1000 which can be used for investment purposes.

What we need is a Collective Investment Trust that has theability to raise capital, engage in business, create and multiply wealth. Ifinitially 1000 people are found who are willing to invest at least $5000 eachinto the CIT over a period of a year (2012), the Trust will be able to raise $5million over that period. This moneywould be spun through short-term , high-turnover investments coupled to startupof sustainable businesses that need limited capital injection in the diaspora.

There is a lot of untapped business potential in the worldthat the Trust can exploit. A lot of brilliant business ideas are dying becausewe do not have access to capital. The Trust would act as an investment vehiclefor its beneficiaries which areprimarily the 1000 people. As the empire of the Trust grows it begins to initiateformation of other investment vehicles be it other Trusts, companies orcorporations which would be under its wings but whose drive would be to harnessthe financial power of the diaspora through providing a platform for Zimbabwe-centricinvestment opportunities. Let’s assume that 200 000 people decide to invest atleast $1000 into business entities controlled by the CIT. It means the Trustwill have access to $200 million in raw capital. We will assume this processtakes a year.

We have to remember that every human being wants a return onhis investments. So for avoidance of doubt I am not suggesting an ujamaa or acompassionate entity. I am suggesting a complete profit-making empire whoseprimary objective is to make income for its beneficiaries but aiming at takingover the economic structures in Zimbabwe.

Investment after 2014 would be two pronged in that; the externalinvestment will be solely to make maximum profit whilst internal investmentswould be aimed at starting up business along politically strategic butprofitable lines. For example, Zimbabwe does not have an efficient paymentgateway that has the capacity to support online transactions. We ought to lookat the relationship between PayPal and Ebay to get an insight. Ebay provides aplatform for people to sell and buy merchandise all over the world . PayPalprocesses the payments that happen so that if one buys something in Thailandyet resides in Uganda, he can send money easily by the click of the computerbutton. Ebay owns Paypal and most of the $2.5 billion profit made in 2010 weredriven by business done through PayPal.

Zimbabwe does not have any company that has been operatingthese services and because of sanctions Ebay and Paypal are not accessible toinland Zimbabweans. This is just one of the many fields that are awaitingexploitation. How strategic is bothEbay-like and Paypal-like business in Zimbabwe? Introduction of thesetechnologies will provide employment to a significant number of people which isa positive to our people. In terms of the overall political objective it meansa significant angle of influence will be in progressive hands.

We will need investment into all sectors that would allow usto exert an influence in future. Investment within the country will be limitedin terms of company size but expanded in terms of sector coverage. This will bedone so as to avoid loss due to the possibility of expropriation by ZANU PF.The drive will be through proxy entities that are wholly owned by Zimbabweans. We need to get insight and advicefrom business people who have managed to stay afloat in Zimbabwe despite theiropposition to the system for example Strive Masiiwa who owns Econet Wireless.

The need to have small companies scattered across sectors isto provide competition to ZANU PF where it already controls and to lay an earlyclaim to stakes in areas it has not explored. In future, we will be able toinject capital into these companies so that they can effectively compete andpossibly outwit ZANU PF owned companies in these sectors. In niche areas wewill be able to silently and covertly exert our dominance.

External investment will also be aimed at capacitating themovement in areas that may become important in future exertion of force. Theseinclude military technology, satellite technology and general advanced technology. This may not beimportant today as this thrust is none-physical and non-military. In future we may need to counter the aging ZANLA/ZIPRAinfluence through provision of substitutive military influence that wouldenable the army to move away from obsolete methods to professional and modernmethods. This will allow us to exert our military mighty on the securityapparatus in the country.

The advantage that the Diaspora has over ZANU PF is thatthey are not subject to sanctions. They have the ability to exploit the globalvillage without restrictions related to the current political situation inZimbabwe. This means that the pace of growth emanating from externalengagements will be much faster than that of ZANU PF . Assuming that the returnfrom investments is 100 percent per annum then the empire can reach a $1billion mark in 4 years.

This growth is important only if it is not coupled to agrowth on ZANU PF’s empire. So it is important to maintain the economicpressure on ZANU PF so that they do not have a chance to trade meaningfully. Politicalpressure will be piled too to foreign companies operating in Zimbabwe either toscale down or leave. It will also be important to forge an alliance with theowners of these multi-national companies so that once ZANU PF begins to releasethe dirty money into their coffers they can alert the international communityso that we can reclaim the money.

Is MDC necessary inthis

The purpose of MDC in all this is to hold fort and continue to stall ZANU PF progress. We needMDC so that we continue to have meaningful retardation of ZANU PF’s cruise tototal control. We need the MDC also to provide hope to those within the countryeven though it will be hard for it in its current form to wrestle power fromZANU PF. We will need to bring on board those within the MDC who have themental and financial aptitude to sustain the crusade. It is anticipated that ifMDC does not gain power in the next election donor fatigue will creep inmeaning that the fluidity of the party will be compromised. The MDC would beencouraged to invest in the project so that over time it will be able to derivefrom the return on investments to fund its operations. This would allow us to exerta Zimbabwe-centric agenda on the partyand to build on certain ideas that would have been unpopular with the currentparty donors. The relationship with MDC will be dependent on how open the partyis to visionary leadership otherwise we will run the risk of having theeconomic thrust being tainted by controversies that may not be neededespecially in the early years. In the event that MDC does not provide adesirable platform then an alternative vehicle will be formed that will be ableto assert its power in due course.

Who Organises theDiaspora

Organising people to initiate idea is difficult given thatnaturally human beings have a fear of being pioneers. It will take a few willing individuals to commit themselves to the initial stages. An attempt tolaunch one such Investment Trust in Botswana attracted 45 Zimbabweans in 2009.This goes to show that people are willing to commit their funds to anythingthat will generate wealth for them. Organisations that have been formed torepresent the Zimbabwean Diaspora should be approached so that they caninfluence their organized networks towards investment. These include the GlobalZimbabwe Forum and the Development Foundation for Zimbabwe (DFZ).

In conclusion

What I haveproffered here is an attempt to build a capitalist approach to toppling adictatorship. The question that many who have a leftist inclination will ask is; whatdifference exist between the state that we will seek to build and the statethat ZANU PF is building since both have no inclination towards the masses? Theanswer is simple; we will be doing this in good faith. We cannot bring allhumanity to a point where they own equally but we can create an environmentthat allows humanity to flourish. Remembering that we are targeting 200 000people initially, it is our hope that with the growth of the trust more peoplewithin the empire will be empowered to explore other business avenues therebyensuring an evolution of a ruling class from a working class. The policies ofthe emergent government will be protecting the rights of workers and all thepeople of Zimbabwe.