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Indigenisation: Populism or sanity?

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There are a lot of activities and a lot of talk under the banner of indigenisation that get naïve people like me worried.

My major worry is whether the trail of indigenisation being pursued is guided by populism or sanity.

Populism is based on rhetoric and not reality. Populist policies deliberately mislead the masses to believe poverty can be easily reduced through the redistribution of income and wealth.

Such policies are geared towards maximising votes through unrealistic promises popular with the suffering masses.

These policies are demagogic in nature as they target fundamental fears and emotions of the people.

When public policy is based on populism, the aim is to raise false expectations among the poor and disadvantaged who are made to believe legislation can reduce or do away with poverty and injustice. It gives them the false notion that legislation can wash away their woes.

The masses are fooled into thinking that the government should relentlessly pursue redistribution until there is equity and equality in the sharing of wealth.

They would be obviously unaware of the macro-impact of such manoeuvres and how this would impact negatively on their individual lives and the lives of the future generations.

Populist policies halt investment as those with the resources fear their wealth could be appropriated through dirty political tactics. Poverty thrives when investment is hindered.

Populist policies are a treacherous lure for politicians as they provide a convenient shortcut to power.

They are based on propaganda to mobilise the suffering majority.

Those who pursue them instill an “us-against-them” attitude in the majority as they are made to believe those who oppose are enemies of development yet such policies pose a danger to human rights and tolerance as they create psychological barriers in the converted through the manipulation of stereotypes, social and economic conditions to push political agendas.

When fear and people’s emotions are manipulated, hatred can easily be the product. People’s low emotions, prejudices and stereotypes are exploited to “support the cause”.

Populism offers simple solutions to complex problems and this misleads the gullible. Mostly such solutions, based on unrealistic principles, are not practical, but they seem reasonable to the masses who swallow them wholesale. Sane voices are labelled enemies and are subjected to attack, including physical harm.

Because they target the people’s emotions, these policies are never a reflection of the fundamental problems dogging a nation.

People’s emotions are directed towards preserving what the populist would call sovereignty and national identity.

Populists intend to establish high pedestals to boost their political positions. What they eye are votes in their bag and not general development.

“The people” in such cases mean those who blindly support populist policies while “the enemy” means those who oppose them. A sense of right or wrong is established among the people to divide them, much to the benefit of populist politicians.

Paul Taggart in Populism observes that populism “represents an idealised conception of the community . . . a construction of an ideal world”.

So the populist will purport to be restoring rights and economic advantage to “the people”. The masses are not given the chance to analyse what exactly is lacking in their lives, they are perpetually directed towards some utopian goal.

The populist juxtaposes blame with demand. Hans-Georg Betz in the article “Conditions Favouring the Success and Failure of Radical Right-Wing Populist Parties in Contemporary Democracies” says there is usually “the attribution of blame and the demand for compensation of some kind”.

Blame someone for the people’s woes and take away what that someone possesses, is the name of the game.

Not that I do not support indigenisation, far from it, but just that I fear for the country’s future if the matter is not handled expertly.

If the path to indigenisation being pursued is sane and will yield long-term fruits for the nation, let us pursue it with vigour, but if it is based on populism for short-term political mileage, we must tarry a little and think twice.

The nation ought to guard against populist policies disguised as indigenisation, whose long-term effects will harm innocent citizens.

Feedback: kmudzingwa@newsday.co.zw

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