HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsEconomic empowerment: Is majority really benefiting?

Economic empowerment: Is majority really benefiting?

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Zimbabwe will turn 33 on Thursday, April 18 2013. I am one of the lucky ones to have witnessed the journey from Independence that offered hope to many so it is only appropriate to use this week to reflect on whether indeed the post-colonial experience has delivered peace, prosperity and economic empowerment of the majority that independence promised.

Report by Mutumwa Mawere

What we do know is that a 33-year-old Zimbabwean has no memory of what it was like before independence and yet this born-free generation has used the time to put a positive mark on the Zimbabwean brand.

Some are professionals of note while others have chosen different stages to play their part in the drama called life.

Zimbabwe is a peaceful nation, but was not at peace prior to independence allowing a few State actors the privilege to claim credit for the peace that independence brought and the post-colonial experience has sustained.

No country can develop without peace and, therefore, there is a cause to celebrate the existence of the commodity called peace in Zimbabwe after 33 years of independence.

One cannot take for granted the existence of peace for many countries have found the commodity elusive during the post-colonial era.

When we are all gone, there is no doubt that generations that will come after us will reflect on why the choice of the theme for this year’s Independence Day celebrations has the focus on peace, prosperity and economic empowerment.

Some will say the focus was opportunistic given that this is an election year, while others will say cynically that it is hypocritical for any rational person to use prosperity and economic empowerment as appropriate words to describe the objective conditions prevailing in Zimbabwe.

Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere said: “The 33rd Independence Day offered the country an opportunity to take stock of the successes recorded on the indigenisation front and the theme captured the mood and direction the country is taking. We are witnessing a broader realisation by Zimbabweans that they must take control of their resources, which will, in turn, afford them the opportunity to shape their destiny. Through the indigenisation programme, we have seen a transfer of the means of production from the previously advantaged to the disadvantaged and a subsequent decimation of an ownership structure that was skewed against the majority. As we celebrate independence, it is encouraging to see that the momentum is building among Zimbabweans who are embracing the programme.

“Among the many beneficiaries of the programme we can count the youth, women and the previously-neglected communities as well. We are beginning to see and have hope that if we have control of our resources we can transform the livelihoods and destiny of our people as well.”

If the above words were said in 1980, one would have to take them seriously. I have no doubt that Kasukuwere, in the quietness of his time, knows better about what matters in building inclusive, cohesive, prosperous and progressive societies.

In our generation, we have seen States move from poverty to prosperity without borrowing State powers to engineer desirable social and economic outcomes.

Former US President Abraham Lincoln, credited with bringing about the emancipation of slaves, said: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he does wrong. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.”

Kasukuwere forgot to mention that the Independence Day also offers an opportunity to take stock of the failures and squandered opportunities of the last 33 years on the indigenisation front.

There is no doubt that he will agree that the State was indigenised successfully by ensuring the hegemony of indigenous actors irrespective of any value add to the process of building a nation that works for all.

The failure to democratise the State indigenisation drive to the rest of the economy cannot be solely attributed to the inherited class and racial relations.

There is a lot that could have been done, but could not be done because the common sense that informed Lincoln’s words above has not been common in the minds of many post-colonial State actors.

Lincoln knew that winning the war or elections was not everything, but the truth was more important than success at all costs.

What then is the truth? The truth is that the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality have now become a permanent feature of the Zimbabwean narrative.

It would be simplistic and naïve to suggest that these challenges can be addressed through the indigenisation programme that Kasukuwere is implementing.

Kasukuwere would like the Zimbabwean public to believe that the indigenisation programmes as implemented have in truth and fact led to a transfer of the means of production to the majority.

It is one thing to take people for granted and another to believe one’s rhetoric. All that Lincoln asked for was the truth and not propaganda.

Surely Kasukuwere knows that the deals that he has helped put in place involve vendor financing on a deferred basis and, therefore, the control and management of the indigenised companies remain vested with the former custodians leaving the previously disadvantaged persons outside the control room and more importantly in the basement of the value chain.

Kasukuwere must know better that shareholders have no real legal claim on earnings that are generated by companies in which they have a shareholding interest.

In fact, control and management of companies is vested with the board of directors and not shareholders. Accordingly, it must be self-evident that initiatives that focus on shareholding are doomed to fail.

President Robert Mugabe is not a young man, but deserves to know the truth. He is after all a well-read and travelled man to allow him to know better and yet he is surrounded by not only praise singers, but people who are now experts in creating fabricated reality that is good for television and not to be relied upon in the enterprise of nation building.

Kasukuwere, whose worldview is at variance with President Mugabe’s on the question of resources and their ownership, clearly would like his model to be adopted as the national standard while he is fully aware that his chosen model will not decimate the so-called undesirable skewed ownership structure.

He then concludes by saying that the momentum is building among Zimbabweans who are embracing the programme. What momentum is building?

There is no doubt that Kasukuwere knows better of the cardinal fact that any momentum founded on transferring shares from one party to another will not create wealth. It is important to learn from the born-free generation whose lives have changed dramatically when choices were made to secure a better life in foreign lands where God-given resources where not in the picture.

Some went to invest in knowledge and chose to live and work in the adopted homes and the quality of their lives has improved.

The question tht remains is:Will indigenisation programmes secure a prosperous life for the majority? I have no doubt that even Jonathan Moyo knows better, but for political expediency he would choose to support the proposition advanced by Kasukuwere.

The time of telling the truth is now for the future is best secured when people are given the space to make their choices in the knowledge that they alone have the best answers to the challenges of the day.

Mutumwa Mawere is a businessman based in South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.

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