ARTHUR MUTAMBARA: What it will take to put Zimbabwe on the high road
The country has to embark on a multifaceted programme of reform if it is to overcome its challenges
The starting point in the journey to a prosperous Zimbabwe is to understand the nature and character of Zimbabwe’s problems. The country has inextricably linked, seemingly intractable, political and economic issues.
On the political side, the challenge is that of polarisation, which is a product of legitimacy issues arising from the disputed outcome of the July 2018 presidential elections. The economy is in free fall, debt-ridden and characterised by a shortage of electricity, a currency crisis, hyperinflation and low productivity. Social services have collapsed, health care in particular.
With a clear appreciation of the nature of the beast, the next step is to develop both political and economic solutions, taking cognisance of the primacy of the political interventions. Without resolution of the political challenges, all economic efforts will be futile.
A prosperous Zimbabwe demands peace, security, stability and unity of purpose. Zimbabweans must find each other. It is important to engage in genuine all-inclusive dialogue rooted in absolute clarity on the causes of the current polarisation. The agenda and objectives of the dialogue must be clear and shared by all protagonists.
There is a need for all stakeholders to agree on and implement political reforms to deepen democracy and enhance accountability in general, while improving the management of election processes to ensure they are free, fair, credible and transparent, thus guaranteeing undisputed poll outcomes. This will address the major source of Zimbabwe’s perennial polarisation — stolen or rigged elections.
Electoral reforms must be implemented to enable fair, free and credible elections, reduce disputed poll outcomes and thus prevent illegitimacy. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must be reformed as the manager of elections in Zimbabwe. It has perennially and consistently — in 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2018 — failed to deliver legitimate election results.
Beyond elections, there is a need for electoral reforms to broaden and deepen the democratic space in the country. These reforms include ensuring impartiality and independence of state institutions; a functionally independent judiciary; genuine reform of oppressive legislation that inhibits political rights and freedoms — not the charade as witnessed with the enactment of an equally pernicious Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill, which replaced the Public Order and Security Act; training of law enforcement agents and institutions to ensure constitutional and measured policing; curtailment of politically motivated arrests; removal of impunity by ensuring perpetrators of politically motivated violations are held to account; and an emphasis on parliament as the source of laws and not statutory instruments or decrees.
It is important that the state media is professionalised to ensure non-partisan coverage. Major media reforms are required to enable independent private player participation in all forms of media, including radio and television.
While political reforms are critical, it is imperative and prudent to note that they are necessary but not sufficient for a successful journey to a prosperous Zimbabwe. With a solid foundation anchored in agreed and implemented political reforms, Zimbabweans must then collectively develop and adopt a shared national vision and strategy with three pillars — social, political and economic.
The vision framework must have overarching values and principles to underpin a new dispensation. Mega-impact projects must be identified, which will have a disproportionate on economic growth and GDP. To complement the shared national vision, a national brand must be crafted to sharpen country competitiveness and foster country reputation management.
Implementation, planning and dogged execution must accompany all national plans, while monitoring and evaluation are dutifully applied. There is a need to develop detailed economic blueprints and implementation plans for all key sectors, including agriculture, mining, infrastructure, manufacturing, health, education and tourism, with emphasis on moving up global value chains, innovation and entrepreneurship, use of high technology and climate change-proofing of all initiatives.
Economic sanctions are a symptom of bigger problems in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans must solve these huge challenges by embracing what has been articulated above. Zimbabweans must address the reasons why the sanctions were imposed in the first place. This must be done not to please the external players — the imposers of sanctions — but in pursuit of the national interest.
For the avoidance of doubt, this does not imply reversing the land reform programme. Furthermore, we must address self-imposed sanctions, which take the form of corruption, primitive accumulation, misgovernance, the rigging of elections, violation of human rights, disrespect of the rule of law, police brutality, and general subjugation of citizens.
Beyond the country, Zimbabwe must leverage continental integration and the fourth industrial revolution. Africans across the continent must take a vested interest approach to the resolution of Zimbabwean challenges. Why? First and foremost, all people of African descent are the same people. Ubuntu and Pan Africanism bind us together. Second, the economic prosperity of African countries is inextricably linked. Under globalisation our African economies will flourish or degenerate together.
The above framework will constitute the best path to a prosperous Zimbabwe.
• Prof Mutambara is a former deputy prime minister of Zimbabwe. This article is a response to the keynote address delivered by SA international relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor at a symposium on Zimbabwe held at Unisa on November 18