The recent threats to banks and mines have become as syndromatic as an institution faced with a drought of ideas.
Economic empowerment and perhaps economic development has been reduced to mean one thing — taking and harvesting where one never sowed.
For once, I felt pity for our beloved Reserve Bank governor as he tried to shield the banks from the raging tempest of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere.
The situation looked like that of a man who tries to defend his wife who has been told by his uncles that she is being divorced by the family. Talk of territorial encroachment.
Perhaps the question people might be asking is who is wrong or right between the two well-fed men?
The minister is being legalistic but not realistic in a fragile economic environment while the governor is being teleological — realistic and more purpose driven.
I guess the minister’s argument is based on the archaic understanding that empowerment is the transfer of the available economy, while the governor is keen on protecting the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Perhaps like many, the governor is tired of poverty perpetuation policies that have been the Achilles’ heel of our economy.
Just think of it, a few years ago the government went on an onslaught closing down several locally or rather indigenous-owned banks only to start pouncing on those perceived to be foreign-owned banks.
The recent moratorium on banks and mines, whether backed by law as the minister wants us to believe or whatever intentions demonstrates a profound dearth of imagination, innovation and creativity to the concept of economic empowerment.
The law is made by the people for the people not the other way round.
Firstly, such moratoriums scare away potential local and international investors who were beginning to believe in the current delicate stability.
Secondly, it is old fashioned to suggest that economic empowerment is only achieved through transfer of already existing wealth. Not everyone is interested in banking or mining, just as much as not everyone is a farmer.
In this day and age wealth is created through innovation and implementation of new ideas.
And for that you need to create a supportive environment, one of which is having banks to finance the projects.
There are so many young people such as Nigel Daura who are willing to explore new avenues but can not proceed due to unnecessary barriers.
I have lost count of numerous online radio stations owned by young Zimbabweans, who can’t get operating licenses in their sovereign country.
There are millions more in the Diaspora who have been frustrated by the lack of space in Zimbabwe and decide to explore their ideas elsewhere, creating employment for those countries.
This is where the government’s focus must be if they are serious about economic empowerment and the future development of the country.
Economic empowerment is about creating an environment which opens up new opportunities for your people to be creative and innovative without killing the goose that lays, the golden eggs.
For those who take Julius Malema as a role model, the remarkable Mauritius story in Moeletsi Mbeki’s latest book Advocates for Change may inspire you to do things differently.
It is a story inspired by the Mauritian people and how they managed challenges of vulnerability and how social forces were adapted to interact in wealth creation and accumulation. It’s about leadership that had their country at heart.
At independence political power shifted in Mauritius from colonial masters to the new elites, while economic power remained in the hands of the milling moguls made up of white sugar cane farmers.
The moguls controlled the sugar industry, the mainstay of the economy, while large masses of small sugar farmers were a constituency of the new ruling elite.
For purposes of developing the country, the government decided not to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs by facilitating a working relationship between the small-scale farmers with white-owned milling companies.
The white moguls continued with wealth creation and accumulation and the government levied their exports at a high rate of 22% which was used to invest in other developmental projects.
The moguls paid the high levies as they continued to benefit from wealth accumulation, while the mass population had access to a market at reduced tax rates.
The result was a rise of a middle class farming elite, now the core of the economy.
The goose was kept happy; more eggs were laid and more captured by the state for the benefit of other stakeholders.
The large-scale commercial farmers were the key base for fuelling investment.
Today, Mauritius has the highest per capita income of
US$11 400 in Africa ranks the 71st in global gross domestic product.
This has enabled the country to transform economic growth into poverty reduction.
The country provides free primary and secondary education, free health care, free bus transport for school children and elderly children.
Almost 84% of the population boast home ownership while the literacy rate for 15 to 24 year age group stands at 94%. Only 1% of Mauritians live below one US dollar a day.
Mauritius has achieved what almost no other sub-Saharan African countries have been able to attain since independence. It has travelled a long way in its 43 years of independence.
We can only boast of 100% economic empowerment but on the campaign posters, Africa’s highest literacy rates at over 90% but sitting on an above 70% unemployment rate and a record of eight elections in just less than ten years.
I guess that is economic empowerment redefined.