“Government caught napping on power crisis”, was a self explanatory title of a story on October 8, 2015 in a business weekly. The interesting bit, however, was the “crisis” has over the past decade or two been in evolution, but government was caught napping all the same.
Painona Tapiwa Nyandoro
Lack of forward planning, if not also the abuse of resources, has been blamed for failure to add and replace electricity generating capacity in time. Priorities usually go to vanity projects such as winning elections by all means, airports, conference centres, excess purchases of commercial jets to fly the flag and a bloated public funded sector.
The napping malaise also afflicts other areas of government responsibility, not least agriculture. For over 10 long and hungry years, government has failed to draft a simple bankable land lease agreement. Government is also always caught napping by frequent droughts and grain shortages. The season of hunger, October to March of the following year, has repeated yearly for some time. In this season of hunger an appeal has gone out to United Nations (UN) agencies, among others, for food aid. It is SOS time again, as it will be next year.
Over the years, the Western donor agencies such as USAID, DFID, Danida and WFP have responded to government’s pleas in cash and kind, allowing the government to go back to its favourite pastime for another 12 months: napping. But the west and its donor agencies are getting tired.
Donor fatigue is setting in. NewsDay on October 9, 2015 reported that Denmark will close its missions in Zimbabwe and Mozambique as it reduces spending on developmental co-operation.
However, the paper noted, Danish aid to Africa will be increased going forward with future priority countries identified. A study of the list shows that priority is targeted at those countries in dire need of humanitarian help, such as Palestine and Somalia, and those like Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya where good economic governance has taken root.
According to a news report on October 8, 2015, the United States, whose USAID has funneled more than $1 billion into humanitarian and health-related assistance over the last decade to Zimbabwe, and is currently providing $27 million to meet immediate food security needs of hundreds of thousands of rural Zimbabweans, has also signalled a change of direction.
The agency is of the opinion that the donors need to “address the root cause of poverty and hunger” in Zimbabwe, so as to adopt lasting solutions to the problem. The lasting solutions involve “promoting investment in agriculture and improved livelihoods opportunities”. The World Food Programme (WFP) is in agreement, and on behalf of donors was finalising Zimbabwe’s donors’ “strategic plan (2016-2020) to shift focus from transactional arrangements (donations) to more transformational relationships, where WFP and partners bring complementary resources to address food insecurity and contribute towards resilience building”.
Moving more to the point in a US Senate hearing of his pending appointment if confirmed, American Ambassador-designate to Zimbabwe, Harry Thomas Jnr had this to say: “We need, however, to prepare to move beyond a relationship defined by aid. Zimbabweans are fully capable of feeding themselves, meeting the nation’s health and educational needs, building a dynamic political system, and restoring what was once one of the strongest economies in Africa”.
The Ambassador-designate felt that the Zimbabwean–US relationship should move beyond aid to the realm of investment and development.
As for the root cause of the poverty and hunger that afflicts ordinary Zimbabweans, poor public governance sticks out like a sore thumb. It is the cause of financial and food insecurity as it retards investment, creation of formal jobs and productivity gains. The timid application of the rule of law is a significant handicap. A poor regulatory framework is exemplified by the likes of the unbankable 99-year land leases while the lack of government effectiveness is amply demonstrated by the fact that for over 10 years, government has failed to draft a simple bankable land lease agreement. Finally, of the poor governance parameters, corruption also rears its ugly head.
Structural corruption has bankrupted key State-owned enterprises such as GMB, Zesa, NRZ and the CSC. Private companies such as fertiliser companies and banks have not been spared either. The need to persist in immoral and structurally corrupt ways, while hiding behind fake self-serving nationalistic sentiments, is actually the reason government is “failing” to draft bankable land lease agreement.
Ironically, Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora is said to be unhappy over the protracted discussions with financial institutions on the (lack of) bankability of the government’s 99-year-leases (to date non-performing). Mombeshora must also consider land titling as an option, and I am sure contract lawyers can cobble up a bankable lease agreement to the satisfaction of bankers in less than a week.
It remains to be seen how government’s development partners will uproot this. Institutional strengthening could be one way. Investing in Village ZimAsset could be the other way. For profit chasing enterprises just investment will do the trick by creating secure and formal jobs.
The theory is sound. Villagers, industrial and commercial workers who are financially and food secure are less easily cowed by politicians. Instead they increasingly become assertive, demanding good governance and holding politicians to account. It is a virtuous cycle.
The Africa Barack Obama administration strategy in the “realm of investment and development” is sustainable. It is also a win-win one as it encourages trade, unlike overt regime change.
And isn’t it the same one that the West applied so successfully to China over the past three decades?