Economy struggles

Politics weighs down Zim’s economy

The Zimbabwe Independent – in opinion by Noel T Ngangira Financial consultant

6 November 2015

Zimbabweans in the country and others spread across the globe have quite often taken time to contribute ideas and solutions through various fora to what has become a perennial economic tragedy besetting our country.

Unfortunately, nothing or little has changed as the economy remains in dire straits. No special skills are required to realise that it’s no longer a case of lack of advice or solutions, but it’s the politicians in government and their brand of politics that are standing in the way of economic progress.

Therefore, any contribution in any space that purports to provide solutions to our economic problems has to attempt to deal with the devil of our retrogressive and archaic politics first if it is to serve any useful purpose. We have to start poking holes in the armour of our politics for the message of the need to fix the economy to get through. What confronts us is our own political wall of Jericho.

The current focus on succession politics within the ruling Zanu PF party is clearly a step backwards. Succession fights do not provide us with electricity, investment, jobs or better infrastructure.

Partakers of this futile exercise are only attempting to divert people’s attention away from the failing economy. The point they are missing is that the economy will be in a far worse condition by the time the succession battle is over. And the victors are likely to face an even more daunting task of trying to bring the economy to life as the populace becomes more restless. Mass unrests are not limited to places across our borders or far-flung territories. Everything has a beginning.

This jostling and tussling for power in Zanu PF and government paints a picture of groups that are more interested in enhancing and securing their vantage positions at the feeding trough more than anything else. Despite the rhetoric and familiar headlines, reality is that there is little focus and progress on rescuing the sinking economy.

In all this, nobody seems to be preaching any credible gospel that resonates with the economic aspirations of the populace. This only gives credence to the belief that perhaps the new leader we shall inevitably have is, as of now, beneath the radar and not among the familiar crew that’s given to the vampire politics of corruption, greed and worse.

For every minute that is wasted on unproductive politics, the country slides further backwards. With more pressing issues of, for example, a manufacturing sector threatened with extinction with capacity utilisation at a mere 34%, dwindling power generation capacity and massive unemployment, it is ridiculous to see political rivals being pre-occupied with succession cat fights.

What some people fail to realise is that liberation war credentials record is now, as it will be in future, irrelevant in determining who can competently lead this country to better fortunes. Thus, anyone who touts liberation war credentials as a licence to silence others in a race to lead this country is a poverty-monger whose views should be dismissed or ignored.

We run the risk of supporting people who want to assume power for the wrong reasons. The only message that resonates with the people is the implementation of viable solutions to our severe economic problems. These include aligning domestic policies with goals of attracting investments that create employment, building power plants (solar, hydro and thermal), and trimming the top-heavy government administration by, for example, reducing the number of government ministers. The bloated administration comprising about 70 cabinet ministers, their deputies and provincial ministers has not delivered and the continued deterioration of the economy says it all.

We must question politicians’ opaque acquisitions of massive personal wealth typically paraded in the form of hotel-like mansions on hilltops and the latest and most expensive luxury cars to roll out of overseas showrooms.

The leader of the largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity, President Xi Jinping of China once warned his fellow citizens not to go into public service with the intention of becoming wealthy. As the anti-corruption campaign to clean up his party rolled into full swing, never has such a high number of senior officials been fired and arrested since Mao Zedong’s reign. This has reportedly pleased the young generation in China and Xi is the country’s most popular leader since Deng Xiaoping (a Chinese revolutionary and statesman; Deng was paramount leader of China from 1978-1992).

The message from Xi is clear — those bent on amassing wealth or with ambitions to appear on the Forbes list of the richest people must simply join the private sector and stay clear of public funds.

That said, what our leadership should be excited about is efficiently implementing economic plans and ideas as laid out in current economic blueprints to realise the long-known benefits thereof. Our desperation for a fully functional industry with its employment creating opportunities and better infrastructure (roads, rail, power plants, and port) requires leadership with a legacy mindset.

Government’s approval of Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote’s investments is commendable.

However, the country still needs much, much more investments than this, the Chinese-funded infrastructure investments and the Russians’ platinum mining deals all put together.

A recent accident involving two goods trains which collided head-on at Melfort near Marondera is a stern reminder of the need for investments of talent, equipment and money in our railway system. To employ the best skills in state-owned enterprises, there is need to offer attractive packages as well as drastically curtailing political interference in management of these entities.

Commodities are currently in a cyclical downturn and the resources sector is therefore subdued as investors wait on the sidelines for an upturn in commodity prices. However, the long-term view suggests that this is the time to restructure key resource assets in order to fully reap the benefits of an upside. Chiadzwa diamond mining companies should be shaping up for a meaningful and transparent contribution to Treasury.

This should include exploring for better quality diamonds that may be in the deeper Kimberlite pipes. Significant investments are required for the extraction of such diamonds; therefore, the proposed merger of the diamond mining companies should be speeded up and restructuring completed to better position the merged company to attract investments for a more serious and beneficial mining business to take place.

A lot has been said about the importance of innovation to an economy but little has been said of the kind of innovation required given the prevailing economic factors. With research and development budgets being only a minuscule or even unheard of in many of our public and private entities, how we can then create new things becomes an unfathomable mission for now. This lack of research and development funding therefore negatively affects our chances of success at science and engineering-based innovation. Perhaps our best hope lies in efficiency-driven and customer-focused innovation. Applying world-class technology in process improvements to increase productivity as well as crafting new business models that offer better customer experiences to local and regional markets are critical.

Since the dawn of time, every major breakthrough and success in human development has been achieved through positive disruptive thinking and action, and not a business-as-usual approach. Metaphorically, time is now ripe to discard the analogue type of old politics and go for the digital one which entails:

·         Fostering a legacy mindset, good governance and strong institutions;

·         Uplifting livelihoods through relentless economic advancement that raises standards of living for all; and

Respect for the rule of law, peaceful co-existence and fear of God.

We seek a leadership that believes and acts in creating a strong foundation for a better Zimbabwe which will benefit future generations. We say no to any leadership predisposed to devouring anything of value in sight for selfish and myopic reasons.

Ngangira writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted at