HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnists2013 elections: Relevant but arid

2013 elections: Relevant but arid

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The signing of the new Constitution has ushered in a new sense of anxiety among many sectors of the Zimbabwe society.

Develop me with Tapiwa Gomo

Interestingly, the voice of the business community calling for the announcement of the election date seems to be louder this time than any other time since the country’s independence.

Perhaps they are right. The signing of the new Constitution has created anxiety and uncertainty.

According to Finance minister Tendai Biti, the business community has adopted a wait-and-see approach resulting in low liquidity, business activity and low confidence. “There is clear evidence of economic decline and the elephant in the living room, self-evidently remains the issue of elections,” he said.

Whether this is the right call to make remains to be seen as in the past, businesses which were presumed to be on the other side of the political divide suffered during and after elections with some even closing shop.

Bernard Mpofu, a NewsDay colleague posed a very pertinent question. “But the question that many businesses seem oblivious to is, will the poll bring finality to the country’s fierce political contestation?”

The Zimbabwe situation has been in suspense since the beginning of the political turmoil somewhere in 2000. The birth of the Government of National Unity was the only time, in over a decade when the country experienced relative stability. But it is worth cautioning that there are still very high chances of another government of national unity and therefore the business community needs to get used to that and cosy themselves to that reality.

Obviously, the business community know what they want hence the calls for clarity on election dates, but what awaits an ordinary Zimbabwe after the elections?

Reading through the policies of the two major parties makes this question hard to answer, but of course the broad answer is people want a better Zimbabwe. Can any of the two major parties deliver a better Zimbabwe where everyone benefits? Again, it is another challenging question.

That minister Biti is amplifying the voices of the business community is no coincidence. Central to the implementation of the MDC’s economic policy (JUICE) is a private sector-led economic growth model skewed toward foreign investment.

It is a model which requires them, if they become government, to create favourable conditions for foreign investors drawing from the neo-liberal thinking where wealth accumulation by few is believed to have knock-on and trickle-down effect on the majority.

Their promise of a million jobs in five years is attached to the assumption that when more businesses invest in the country, they will absorb people to supply labour.
This language chimes very well with the young electorate especially if they have been starved of jobs for a long time, but the fact remains that private sector-led economic growth model does not always translate to development or employment creation.

We can learn a few valuable lessons from Zambia, where after implementing the structural adjustment programme, the country experienced a boom in economic growth.
But this economic growth was fallacious and extremely exclusionary as it didn’t create new jobs for the majority as initially thought sliding millions of people into poverty.

Today Zambia is re-adjusting their development programme adopting a broad-based approach to development where the government creates an enabling environment for every citizen to actively create wealth than wait for foreign investment.

Malawi too offers interesting lessons, where the country has made development strides empowering citizens to be productive in the agriculture sector even when their private sector-led economic growth model has remained stagnant. It is an example of how a government-led development programme can turn fortunes around and also attract enemies in the process.

For Zanu PF, it is not easy to see if they are going to offer anything new both in terms of ideas and leadership. They are likely to remain the same Zanu PF that we have known for the past 33 years.

And in that case the situation may not change as the business community could be hoping for. The land question has drained Zanu PF of all the political energy and rhetoric.

Indigenisation policy is just a face-saver and perhaps the last and yet arid item they can meaningfully place on their agenda. Other than that, it is now just a nationalist if not religious institution that survives on claiming sole ownership of the gospel of liberation struggle even when the majority of the people feel otherwise.

But that does not mean they do not have their loyal followers who are either used to voting for them, or fear the re-colonisation threats that comes with voting MDC or losing what they benefited from the party’s recent policies.

Whichever way one looks at it, the future lies in another unity government. Perhaps it is high time the business community raised their voice even louder as they have more to lose and gain out of whatever outcome of elections.

Or perhaps it is also time we stopped thinking of unity governments as temporary arrangements but as the way to go. That way we will be able to forge a national driven economic and development plan which is not political party oriented.

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