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Sanctions and the economy

Editorial Comment
THE rallying call during the skirmishes of the protracted agrarian war of the year 2000 was “the land is the economy and the economy is the land”.

THE rallying call during the skirmishes of the protracted agrarian war of the year 2000 was “the land is the economy and the economy is the land”.

Masola wa Dabudabu

Participants in this war took part in the understanding that once they owned the land they would automatically become stinking rich. Thirteen years later, the agrarian revolution appears to have created an uncomfortable two-tier agronomic class structure consisting of poor peasant farmers and very few super-rich farmers.

We have in our midst a very few select who have reaped the rewards of the land reform process. This ultra-successful minority in the vicinities of the struggling majority is plain mockery of the ideals of the struggle.

Most of the ordinary people got miserly plots that were meant to pacify them into being avid admirers of their benefactors. The peasants were shocked in the realisation that their swathes of land did not translate to instant riches.

In the newly-acquired farms, plots and allotments, the barest minimum in terms of agricultural activities took place due to the peasant mentality which is preferred by the system.

The government’s failure to provide technical support for the new farmers continues to worsen the untenable state of affairs.

Most of the new farmers strive to feed their families and do not spare a second thought to venture into cash crops. This then demands that every Zimbabwean be a subsistence farmer in order for everyone to be properly fed.

This need to feed the self is leading to a continued demand for land as if it were an infinite resource.

The nation is hungry and it has had to put up with lame excuses for this embarrassing situation. Ministers and Zanu PF apologists have found solace in blaming the sanctions that were selectively imposed upon some individuals and some organisations by the West.

Not a soul is taking responsibility for the chaotic handling of the land expropriations, the party guided redistributions and the subsequent lack of agricultural extension services.

Thirteen years after the initial salvos were fired to herald the agrarian revolution, the country has never had a year when staple foods were not imported. Of course, there have been droughts and floods that reduced the quantity and quality of harvests.

In between the droughts and floods, there have been good seasons. In the eyes of Zanu PF, however, sanctions provide a constant factor in explaining the debilitating and perennial shortfalls in food production.

The so-called selective sanctions imposed by the West offer Zanu PF a ready-made answer to all their inefficiency. If the truth be told in its wholesomeness, Zanu PF has never been good with the economy even when the country had unfettered access to all the international markets and financial institutions.

Since independence, each year that passed with Zanu PF in power saw a decline in the nation’s economic output. Ivory towers were constructed for the bigwigs while matchbox-sized hovels mushroomed in most townships.

Those who would have been mature enough in the early to mid ’80s would recall how the country reeled from poor economic performance. Notable during those days were petrol queues. This state of affairs has been replayed over and over.

In the mid ’80s the explanation given was that Renamo was interfering with the supply lines for the Feruka Refinery in Mutare. The truth is that Zanu PF had dreadfully failed in ensuring the nation’s supply of oil.

In the ’80s there was a time when people used to buy most basic requirements from Botswana and South Africa. There was nothing in Zimbabwe’s supermarkets. Soap, toothpaste, sugar and other goods were very scarce.

The imaginative people on the streets were slow in apportioning blame to the government’s inefficiency, but very quick in adapting to the situation. When sugar became one of the scarcest commodities, Zimbabweans had to improvise to continue satisfying the demands of their acquired sweet tooth. There were no sanctions then.

Cars were in short supply in the mid ’80s. Poor economic management and not sanctions made this possible. The world was awash with car manufacturers and Willowvale Motors had a few knocked-down kits to assemble. Some ministers and other important party functionaries took advantage of the bottleneck in the supply of new cars.

Politicians queued to get Toyota Cressidas, Mazda 929s and Mazda F1300s at regulated prices and then flogged them at exorbitant prices. The ministers took advantage of a situation they had created. There were no economic sanctions.

Sadly, the colourful Maurice Nyagumbo sought peace from the embarrassing situation by committing suicide. The Willowvale Scandal produced a number of high-ranking victims such as Callistus Ndlovu, Dzingai Mutumbuka, Enos Nkala, Frederick Shava and others.

The cited incidents of economic malaise show that Zanu PF is using the current targeted sanctions to soothe the effects of bad economic policies.

It is not a matter of sanctions really biting. People in control of Zimbabwe’s political landscape hide behind sanctions so as to practise corruption and embezzlement.

Soon we shall be hearing that President Robert Mugabe will rule forever because of sanctions. Certainly the sanctions card is being overplayed.  Masola wa Dabudabu is a social commentator