It’s the economy, stupid!

Zimbabwe has known only one Head of State since attaining its independence from Britain in 1980. So, much focus by opposition political parties has been primarily based on removing President Robert Mugabe from power, which they have tried for many years without success.

OPINION: Joseph Ndondo

Several opposition parties have been formed along the way, some have suffered stillbirths, some premature deaths, and some are still limping on, whereas others appear to be gathering momentum.

Despite what seems to be some difference between the parties, what I would call “surface differences”, these parties are the same.

They all seem to be obsessed with removing Mugabe from power, while neglecting planning what they would do instead if he (Mugabe) is ultimately removed as they wish. Rarely do they discuss economics, save for just highlighting the daily toils and struggles, which are known by any common man on the street.

Not any one opposition party has convincingly clarified its economic plan in the post-Mugabe era. I have a strong belief that many such parties are merely banking on promises of donors, who have pledged to inject huge amounts of investments.

Surely, investment and donor money is critical in the resuscitation of this once-great nation, however, many of these financial injections are not freebies or gifts.

My first economic lesson at school was “Business is done/created for profit”. Investors come to Africa for profit, the rest is secondary. Their financial injections come with a number of conditions, which I am afraid, my desperate Zimbabwe is more likely to accept than reject.

Being a Zambian-based Zimbabwean, working in the pharmaceutical sector of our neighbouring country, I have witnessed how our northern neighbour is being milked in broad daylight by the so-called investors, many of whom are Indian and Chinese.

I have seen exploitation of labour to the fullest, I have witnessed people earning “peanuts” while they work like donkeys, I have witnessed how investors can get around laws and regulations by bribing officials and dangling a carrot.

As a Zimbabwean, as much as I would want new jobs for our youths, it would be folly to achieve that through an open-door policy. As Zimbabweans, it is wise that we avoid jumping from the frying pan into the blazing fire. The “$15 billion saga” is just but a warning bell to every one of us, lest we will create even a “$15 trillion saga ourselves” if we are not very careful, by letting desperation dominate our decisions.

What we need is an economic plan. It is high-time a think-tank is set up, composed of experts in economics and politics to draft an economic plan. The time to do it was yesterday, but we still have a chance to do it now before Mugabe goes.

We need to plan how we will deal with agriculture, external debts, the health system, education, tourism and industry.

I have been an ardent follower of United States political debates since 2008, when President Barack Obama assumed power. I enjoy and admire these debates not because Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump shame each other and dig into each other’s faults, but mainly because these debates feature more substance than rhetoric.

They enable viewers to clearly see differences in the candidates. The candidates air out their policy plans, economic plans, foreign policy, home affairs, immigration and other various plans. Candidates spellout their plans on interest rates, health and educational policy. They then leave the electorate to judge for themselves.

As Zimbabweans, we should now start thinking beyond Mugabe. We should be thinking of how we are going to service our foreign debts, how we are going to introduce our own currency and implement mechanisms to regulate and safeguard it against the abuse we witnessed in the former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor. Gideon Gono era.

We should be planning on how we are going to fund our education, particularly our tertiary institutions, which have been reduced to “degree-printing institutions”, with little and substandard scientific research being done by them.
We need to plan how we are going to resuscitate our health system, our infrastructure, tourism and more importantly our agriculture, which was a backbone of the country. We need to plan how we will restore the “middle class”, which was erased from the map by the Mugabe-era.

Joseph Ndondo is the Young Africa Leaders Initiative (Yali) alumni. He is also a quality control officer at NRB Pharma Zambia Ltd

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