He went, he saw, he listened

He went, he saw he listened

by Luke Tamborinyoka

In the rainy and dour sunset, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai and his convoy deftly negotiated the acute, calamitous curves near Kamativi mine, easing into the depths of the Zambezi valley, as they headed towards the forgotten people of Binga.

It is always a grim journey to this desolate and neglected land, the valley itself a literal and sonorous testament of the plumbing depths to which the lives of the people here have sunk due to decades of abandonment.

The last time we were here, Tsvangirai was still the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and we opened several health and education facilities and donated books and medicines.

The people of Binga still remember with nostalgia the respite that Tsvangirai’s short stint in government gave them — the hope that he delivered to their desolate and bleak lives. As we drove into Binga last week, I remembered a similar journey in 2010 during the era of the inclusive government and the disturbing sight of a desolate, grass-thatched school that greeted us during our tour.

A grass-thatched school in this day and age was a disquieting sight. We had thought such schools were history, given how Zanu PF pontificates about having delivered optimum standards of education to the nation over the years.

The then Prime Minister ordered that we stop, as he wanted to have a chat with the headmaster. Near the gate was an unkempt man, without any shoes, whom we all thought could assist and direct us to the headmaster’s house. After exchanging greetings and pleasantries, we asked whether he could direct us to the headmaster’s house, to which the man replied, “I am the one”.

It was a school that we later upgraded, and to which we donated books and other educational material. However, last week, Tsvangirai was on a different mission in the three provinces of Matabeleland.

He was beginning a nationwide tour to consult the people, soliciting their views on key national issues, among them the kind of society they want the new government to create after the 2018 general elections.

He also wants the people to input into the proposed alliance of opposition political parties in which the mooted plan is to pit President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF against the rest of the country.

Before coming to Binga, Tsvangirai had been to Beitbridge, to Mtshabezi and to Gwanda all in Matabeleland South. The script of marginalisation ran high in the three provinces, but it is always louder in this forgotten Zambezi valley. The people here had only been remembered by government during Tsvangirai’s stint on the levers of the State.

Their Tonga language was being taught to their children by non-Tonga people, such as the Shona and the Ndebele.

Last week, they told the MDC-T leader they wanted a university and they also yearn for their own province, KaZambezi, stretching from Victoria Falls to Chirundu, that vast desolate valley encapsulating the Tonga culture and ethos. Indeed, it was a sombre, pitiful snivel to a political leader by a forgotten people!

In his 10 days in the three Matabeleland provinces, Tsvangirai met an angry people that felt they were not part of the country. He met the Kalanga, the Ndebele, and the Tonga and spent a whole day with Nambya chiefs and headmen in Hwange, conversing with people of all shades and ethnic colours.

All he heard were grim stories of a forgotten people, who expected better treatment by the new government that will be ushered in by the watershed elections of 2018.

And Tsvangirai was warned of some of his lieutenants, who may want to fight the alliance, not for any objective reason, but for subjective motivations driven by selfish and personal interests to do with positions.

The people, during this tour, all expected better days ahead and gave the thumbs up to the opposition alliance, saying the kaleidoscopic political colours would provide a new impetus and give them reason to hope again.

There was overwhelming consensus that the new society, post-Mugabe in 2018, must be inclusive and must not leave anyone behind. They wanted closure on the atrocities of Gukurahundi, with their proposed solutions ranging from reparations to devolution as the ultimate panacea.

Mugabe may have conveniently dismissed the atrocities as a “moment of madness”, but evidence on the ground shows it was more and the effects have been monumental.

It was indeed an enlightening tour. The words that have continued to linger in Tsvangirai’s mind after his 10-day sojourn to the troubled region are the words of one Tonga chief, who pleaded with him in a strained and emotional voice: “When we vote you into government in 2018, Tsvangirai, please don’t follow in Mugabe’s footsteps.”

Indeed, it was a worthwhile warning by a traditional leader to the incoming leadership after the watershed poll of 2018.

The MDC-T’s national council, the party’s supreme decision-making body between congresses, consistent with a congress resolution on the need for a big tent, has already adopted principles that will guide the alliance-building process. The party’s executive organs have tasked Tsvangirai with the responsibility of negotiating with other parties.

What he sought to do through this consultation process was not to seek endorsement, because alliance building has already been affirmed by both congress and the national council.

All he sought to do was to further enrich and enhance the negotiation process so that when he sits at the table with other principals, he would be guided by the feelings of the people on the ground. Indeed, public participation has been the missing link in our politics. As a firm believer in the mass-line, it was no surprise that it would be Tsvangirai who would involve the people in this delicate process.

Alliance building cannot be an elitist discourse in boardrooms and it was only Tsvangirai, who could take this debate to the villages and the town-halls. That is his nature.

This coming Sunday, Tsvangirai continues with his listening tour in the provinces, starting with Midlands North province and then the rest of the country. It only takes a man, who values people and after this tour, he can only be wiser and can be able to transact the people’s business well aware of their true feelings on the various issues.

That is the boss I have had the privilege to serve; a man who truly values people and who makes them the central currency in his politics.

I can only promise one thing to the people of Zimbabwe. Never mind the sceptics — and there are many of them around — Mugabe will contest against a united opposition in 2018.

Yes, the people are speaking and we are listening.

Future generations will not forgive us if we let slip this chance to consign mis-governance to the dustbins history. Indeed, our children will curse and spit on our graves.

Luke Tamborinyoka is the presidential spokesperson and director of communications in the MDC-T. He writes in his official capacity. You can interact with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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The need for a new paradigm shift in Zimbabwe

The need for a paradigm shift in Zimbabwe

For any economy to grow and develop, it has to invariably balance the uneasy macro-economic triangle. This triangle is made up of the macro-economic trinity of fiscal balance, monetary stability and external balance (which includes the trade balance and the net debt position). Although this uneasy triangle is important for the reinforcement of growth, it does not necessarily substitute other growth enabling policies and programs such as infrastructural development and investment promotion. Zimbabwe’s perennial problems of macro-economic stability primarily stem from the failure by authorities to balance the uneasy triangle.

To drive my point home let me start by unpacking the financial sector. In 2009, bank deposits barely stood at USD800 million. By the end of 2013, bank deposits had risen to USD5billion. This was a phenomenal growth in the financial sector reflecting the growth in the real sector which averaged 7% per annum. Financial sector stability improved and during this period loans in the amount of USD 3.5 billion were disbursed to the private sector. Inflation remained in the negative. Most banks’ liquidity positions improved and so did capitalization. Of course there were still bad apples that suffered from bad loans and poor corporate governance. These banks eventually collapsed – although some still think they were forced to collapse. This debate is for another day.

My point is that financial stability is good for macro-economic stability and growth. The custodian of monetary policy is the Reserve Bank. The Reserve bank tried to maintain financial and monetary stability post 2009 although its hands were tied by dollarization. Under dollarization, the RBZ lost some of its most important core functions. One of the most critical functional tools lost to dollarization was the exchange rate. Previously, the exchange rate had been used to devalue the Zim dollar and boost exports.

The RBZ lost its powers to set interest rates because it was no longer the bank of last resort. A host of other money market operations were also lost. But the RBZ still retained its general supervisory and regulatory functions. After 2013, economic growth faltered gradually. In 2016, the economy grew by 1.6% and the financial sector suffered the consequences. Bank deposits declined to USD3 billion by end of 2016. The situation was made worse by the panicky withdrawals and the run on deposits that characterized the greater part of 2016 leading to an unprecedented cash crsisis.and the subsequent introduction of bond notes. Thus, the financial crisis mirrored the crisis in the real sector of the economy. This point is important because there are some analysts who miss the point and think that the Reserve bank can stimulate growth per se. All in all, the financial sector was abused by the issuance of Treasury bills. In 2016 alone, it is thought that government issued TBs in the amount of $4billion. The majority of these TBs have not been redeemed. Pension funds, mutual funds and building societies were badly exposed to these TBs. To this day, one of the building societies has not recovered from the exposure.

In regard to fiscal stability I think the budget plays the most critical role. Between 2009 and 2013, government ran a cash budget and balanced its books. By the end of 2013, the budget deficit only crept to USD 50 million. Between 2013 and 2016 the budget deficit rose to USD1.2 billion. Fiscal prudence was thrown out of the window and government recurrent expenditure rose dramatically. Yet revenue performance declined over this period from USD4billion per annum to USD 3.6 billion by end of 2016. Expenditure ballooned from USD 3.8 to USD 4.8 billion. The takeover of the RBZ debt and other parastatal debts compounded the fiscal position. The unexplained increase in employment costs did not help the situation. Clearly, without fiscal balance there is no macroeconomic balance. The fiscal deficit has sparked a deep fiscal crisis in Zimbabwe. This fiscal crisis has had contagion effects on the monetary sector and the external sector.

I now come to the external sector. The external sector is comprised of the current account and the capital account. The current account has always been in the red since the Rhodesian days and the government of Zimbabwe has failed to break this vicious cycle. In relation to trade, Zimbabwe imports goods and services worth USD 6 billion every year but only exports goods and services worth USD 2.9 billion. This leaves a trade deficit of nearly $3billion per annum. The situation has slightly improved by default since the introduction of bond notes and the drop in Nostro account balances.

I say by default because export levels are still depressed. Linked to the external sector is the question of the debt crisis and its resolution. In 2015, the government of Zimbabwe arrived at an agreement with our main creditors to service debt arrears then to the tune of $1.8 billion. The arrears were jointly and severally owed to the World Bank ($1.2 billion), IMF (150 million) and IBRD ($600 million). To date government has cleared IMF arrears using its SDRs. The remaining balance is yet to be paid. At present, Treasury does not have the capacity to raise funds to repay. The other leg of the external balance is the capital account which is populated by foreign direct investments, portfolio investments, Diaspora remittances, and NGO and embassy funds. The capital account is sensitive to the political environment and policy inconsistencies. In terms of inflows, the capital account receives about $2billion annually.

Having analyzed the uneasy triangle of fiscal, monetary and external sectors and how important it is, I now wish to say that for macro-economic stability to be achieved, the three sectors have to register favorable balances. In other words, the balances have to be in the ball park. The range of the ball park is debatable but for the fiscal deficit it must be 5% of GDP and the deficit must be a productive deficit not a recurrent one. But to achieve macro-economic balance, the economy has to produce and grow. The uneasy triangle will not improve unless there is production and growth in the real sectors of the economy. At present, the Zimbabwean economy is anchored by tobacco which rakes in about $800 million dollars per annum; gold which rakes in about $650 million per annum; platinum ($700 million); dispora remittances ($1billion) and NGO/embassy funds ($600 million per annum). Unfortunately the diamond sector is the missing link here.

As you can see, I have the economy in the palm of my hand and clearly given the chance, I would do things differently. If I were the Minister of Finance I would set my eyes on the ball and pursue the following goals. First and foremost I would pursue production, inclusive growth, and infrastructural development, boost exports through trade facilitation and promote domestic and foreign investment. Secondly I would dismantle the indigenization policy and improve the ease of doing business by repealing or amending all archaic laws that hinder investment (and they are many). I would engage business and labor and develop a codified social contract. I would do away with ghost workers, reduce foreign travels by government bureaucrats and stamp out corruption. I would ensure that diamond revenues go to the treasury. I would also direct all revenues collected by government departments including the police, registrar general, zinara funds, and all funds collected by a battery of constitutional funds dotted around ministries to be handed over to Treasury.

I must emphasize that I would deal with corruption at all levels from border posts to the corridors of power. No one would be spared. I would aim to rum a $20 billion annual budget funded by domestic resources and external support. In regard to the debt crisis, I would immediateltly seek debt relief via the hipic route. It is a fact that Zimbabwe qualifies for debt relief under hipic. For starters, our debt to GDP ratio is over 90% and the hipic threshold is 80%. I would open parastatals to foreign and domestic investors. I have in mind such parastatals such as NRZ, Cold Storgae Commission, Zisco Steel, ZUPCO, GMB and others. In agriculture I would insist on productivity and efficient use of the land, including the enforcement of maximum farm sizes and access to agro-finance; more resources would be channeled towards mining, tourism and the manufacturing industry.

The overall thrust would be production, inclusive growth, job creation. Once government is right sized, civil servants, army, police, intelligence and prison services would be paid handsomely.

Issues of redistribution are very important. Once growth is evident and revenues improve, I would put more funds in health for procuring drugs and equipment in public hospitals. More money in education and social security. Finally I would invest in infrastructure across the board and ensure that development is engendered. The economy would register green growth and adopt clean energy. Government would prioritize access to clean water in rural and urban areas. A new housing development model would be introduced for rural areas and incentives given to individual and corporate citizens who invest back into the community, especially in the provision of decent rural housing and rural infrastructure.

I would seek to raise the level of economic activity in the informal sector and promote lawful cross border trade and vending at designated places. Keeping the environment clean would be on top of my priority list. Civil society would play an important role in the economic governance of the country.

But all these things can only be achieved under a peaceful and democratic political environment. At present, our politics is toxic and it affects economic recovery. In conclusion, it is my humble opinion that Zimbabwe has great potential to balance the uneasy triangle of fiscal, monetary and external sector balance provided we adopt growth oriented policies under a peaceful, orderly and democratic political environment.


Tapiwa Mashakada, MP HATFIELD , former Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion and MDC Secretary for Finance and Economic Affairs Add a comment

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