ZIMBAWEAN leaders have penchant to pursue the populist things. In a week that could have been used for better things, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his entourage were in Davos, Switzerland, hobnobbing with the world rich and famous yet no tangible things came out of it.
This sounds too harsh on the regime that came to be via a coup in November 2017. It attends jamborees that gives it a sense of whitewashing the horrible things they are accused of doing back home and gives them photo opportunities to show to the lumpen proletariat voters ahead of crucial 2023 general elections.
To the uninitiated, World Economic Forum (Wef), is “an international non-governmental and lobbying organisation based in Cologny, canton of Geneva, Switzerland. It was founded on 24 January 1971 by German engineer and economist Klaus Schwabannual,” according to the organisation’s website.
The organisation has been in existence for over half a century, 51 years to be exact.
What is an international non-governmental organisation? What is lobbying?
An international non-governmental organisation is an organisation which is independent of government involvement and extends the concept of a non-governmental organisation to an international scope according to
The purpose of international non-governmental organisation is primarily to “defend or promote a specific cause”. In this instance, Wef is a business grouping and they generally lobby for better working or operating environments. In their jargon this means low taxes, tax holidays, privatisation of state-owned companies and deregulation of forex exchange. We will come back to what this means to developing countries like Zimbabwe.
We still have another word to define — lobbying. According to the Oxford dictionary it means, “ seek to influence (a legislator) on an issue.”
In simple terms, lobbyists seek to rule from behind the scenes. They make elected representative forgo their election manifestos and instead do their bidding in exchange of providing thriving economies (big profits for capital).
This is the event that Mnangagwa is attending for the third time since he came to power. The fruits of the sojourns can be easily seen. The accelerated privatisation of State mines (Kuvimba), privatisation of health facilities (Sakunda), proposed privatisation of Air Zimbabwe and National Railways of Zimbabwe, privatisation of energy production and privatisation of roads (concessions). Oh, I had forgotten the privatisation of Cold Storage Commission, the former largest meat processor in sub-Saharan Africa.
The government is on privatisation steroids.
Mnangagwa is busy selling the family silver. Soon everything will be in private hands and Zimbabweans will be in a feudal State.
The Wef speaks in euphemisms to confuse the public. On its website it says: “The annual meeting 2022 will embody the World Economic Forum’s philosophy of collaborative, multi-stakeholder impact, providing a unique collaborative environment in which to reconnect, share insights, gain fresh perspectives, and build problem-solving communities and initiatives. Against a backdrop of deepening global frictions and fractures, it will be starting point for a new era of global responsibility and cooperation.”
To prove how futile this enterprise is, one does not have look beyond the calibre of global leaders who attended. Russia and China two of the biggest world players be it in politics or economics did not send their leaders.
Interestingly, these are the countries at the core of what is termed “deepening global frictions and fractures”. So, one can ask, how do we build a “new era of global responsibility and cooperation” without these two?
It may look simple and commonsensical to most but not Mnangagwa, that attending WEF is an exercise in futility. It will not cause the European Union and the US to remove economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.
On a global scale, how is hobnobbing with the West at WEF interpreted in the diplomatic world considering most of the investments into Zimbabwe came from China and Russia in the past decade?
It points to one thing, Zimbabwe is confused in its foreign policy at worst and a jelly foreign post at worst. And this does not bode well for Zimbabwe.
To further hone on this point, the US last week passed a legislation that will monitor which countries are having friendly relations with Russia. This came not as a surprise, but was a culmination of a bloody nose the US came out of the United Nations General Assembly during votes it sponsored against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Mnangagwa has to stop this nonsense of attending any summit or conference because there are big names present. He has to weigh what are the benefits of attending such meeting for Zimbabwe.
In the week he hired a private jet to Davos with a bloated entourage and hired supporters to welcome him, next door in South Africa they were rolling the red carpet for German chancellor Olaf Scholz. This was a coup of some sort for Cyril Ramaphosa. Germany is the biggest economy in the EU.
Without belabouring the point, Ramaphosa knows what role German investors have in South Africa’s motor industry. Does Mnangagwa not see this and the need to talk to our large investors? After all, the West has for the last two decades thrown all types of spanners to make sure Zimbabwe’s economy screams — and it is screaming indeed.
One more point, if Mnangagwa thinks it worthwhile to fly tens of thousands of kilometres to meet international NGOs and lobbyists, why does he snub local NGOs that may also have local solutions to the local problems? I guess charity begins at home.
Mnangagwa should come back and urgently tackle spiralling inflation, the fast depreciating local currency against the greenback, reduce fuel taxes and increase taxes for the large corporates that are making super-profits during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Zimbabwe cannot afford to fly rudderless, neither can it sub-contract its management to private capital. Something has to give before the social unrest looms. Mnangagwa and his ilk need to stop everything, including flying out till they have solved domestic problems.