By Nevanji Munyaradzi Chiondegwa
Last month President Emmerson Mnangagwa took the National Cleanup Campaign to Banket in Mashonaland West. There he said the following words; “We are a developing country but we should not cry that we have sanctions imposed on us. We should look at what God has given us and develop our country.”
There is no doubt that sanctions have had a devastating effect on our economy and continue to retard growth of our economy. We have truly allowed them to control how we progress as a nation and we have also used them as an excuse to cover our severe incompetence and deficiency.
So in line with the Presidential wishes, I would like to offer basic ideas of how I see us rebuilding our economy.
Perhaps, I should start by offering a disclaimer: I am not an Economist or a Financial Analyst, I am a peasant farmer who got luck and accessed a smartphone.
I will talk about the Nevanji Way to Economic Recovery. Nothing original about it but I will just put it in words that I understand and that most peasants or lumpen proletariat like me can understand and kindly note that I will not follow a certain pattern.
Our trade deficit
We have a trade deficit. We import more than we export. We have little or no foreign currency reserves. We have minerals, a large consumer base, a large informal sector with an impossibly large amount of money swilling in it.
We also have a large Diaspora that admittedly remits more than a billion dollars yearly. This simply means the ability to raise money within our country and from without our country but through our people are there.
All it requires is the correct incentives. Even if our country has a bad credit rating, we have sons and daughters who do not have bad credit rating and may be used to help raise money for our country and bust sanctions.
All we are lacking as a country is focus. We are also lacking the ability to make hard decisions, decisions which will be frowned upon by many but that will force our industrialists and inventors and those in power to start thinking.
Innovativeness is dead in us simply because nobody has created a necessity for it. We simply import or buy what we need and damn the consequences. We don’t even think about import substitution, no, we simply look for where we can go and buy if one market is closed. We look for east, west, south and north but never home, never within.
He wants to make America great again
Please don’t tell me about globalization or that we cannot be insular, even Donald Trump who knows more about globalization than I think anybody else( his words not mine) is focusing on making America great again.
And remember, I said I m not an Economist or an International Relations expert. I am a peasant farmer from Chivi so I will talk about Zimbabwe and if possible zone in on Chivi which I know better.
How do we get our industries functional again? Simple, we close our borders to imports of items like soap, washing powder, toothpaste, matches, toothpicks, ear buds, cooking oil, used cars and all food items. Even fertilisers and some chemicals which can easily be made here like water chemicals.
We have car assembly plants in Harare and Mutare that are now idle because we are busy importing cheap Japanese cars, cars that would have been discarded in Japan and condemned as too old.
We export precious foreign currency that should be used to boost our own car manufacturing industry bringing second hand products that will not even last two years here considering they were never made for our conditions.
How does Willowvale and Quest compete with that? We give our MPs, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Principal Directors, Directors and even Chiefs imported cars. Why on God’s good earth do we do that?
Boost for Zimbabwean agriculture
We need to boost our Agriculture, yes and do value addition but here is the question: how do we boost our Agriculture when we are importing things like mealie-meal, sugar, flour, cooking oil, baked beans and so on and so forth?
How does Cashel Valley compete with Koo and Rhodes’ when we insist on organic products and those companies grown GMOs? ZZ2 uses carbon dioxide for advanced growth of tomatoes and they use GMO seed as well as cheap Zimbabwean labour (yes, our people are the once picking tomatoes over there).
Those companies are heavily subsidized too whereas here we would rather subsidize the finished product. Is that smart?
How do we encourage a sunflower, groundnuts and soya bean farmer to grow these products when we import cooking oil, margarine and soap from Mozambique and South Africa?
These products even though I am no scientist or production engineer, I do know from my O’ Level Science that they are made from oils which are a by-product of the above crops. Our grain farmers are failing due to a number of factors which government is turning a blind ear to.
Not only are inputs way too expensive, but the market is absent and worse when available buys at prices to drive the farmer into poverty and penury. Why not make regulations imposing strict quotas on what foreign made products retailers can sell?
Do not even say, “But Nevanji, that will lead to shortages!” No, no it will not, it will create necessity and we all know that is the mother of all inventions.
A whole cotton industry buried in nothingness
Cotton farmers are affected by the same issues. A whole industry we are letting die because we prefer not to open our eyes and face reality. A whole cotton growing region buried into nothingness because we are afraid to make decisions that are important.
Yes, the price of cotton is poor but here in Zimbabwe, are we producing any cloth material? We are not consuming even our produce. Forget mazitye that we all are wearing; how many vapositori need white cloth? Where are they getting it from? David Whitehead? I do not think so.
We import chicken even when we have very capable farmers who can provide all the food retailers with chicken. I mean, for crying out loud, we import road runners? The same our grandmothers have been raising ever since we were born?
Which rural home doesn’t have traditional chickens? But no, we would rather export all the foreign currency which we will have received to buy chickens so that Chicken Inn, Chicken Slice and Nandos may make 2- piecer and sell in foreign currency in Zimbabwe to Zimbabweans! How silly can we get?
Ministers and other government officials need to learn their priorities and get them right. Civil servants must know that they are there to serve not to reap benefits.
I am going to put my head on the block and say: sanctions are very bad for the economy but corruption is a killer for the already sickened economy. We can bust sanctions in very simple ways that have been known by Mbuya Vachipa in Muzvidziwa Village, Madamombe, grow local, focus local and tend to the grassroots.
How can we be buying SUVs and those fancy Mercedes Benz cars for fat cats who are not actually doing anything to deserve such creature comforts except show off, get girls and impregnate our young daughters?
We need to know where we are going wrong before we even point fingers at the EU and US for the sanctions. Let us grow flowers and produce milk and beef, pigs, chickens and goats and see if they will not buy.
Our problem is mourning when we have nothing to offer. I come from an area bordering Mashava which has stone sculptors who use stones from where I come from to make stone carvings. They sell these for maybe less than $20 to retailers who sell these for around R10000 in Cape Town after polishing them.
Who exactly is killing the Zimbabwean child here? We have gold in our area, why not offer artisanal miners free prospecting license and then we demand that they sell only to Fidelity Printers, of course at competitive prices not rip-offs.
Thinking inside a box
We have a problem of wanting to think within a box. To think according to what the books say. Some things do not require books. My grandfather that grand old man of the village, the late Chief Madamombe, an equivalent to a Duke where we in England or Europe always used to say to me: “what we, the elders see sitting on our stools, you will never see even when you are standing on top of a mountain.”
It did not make sense then but as I grew up, I began to have a clearer picture; we are too bookish so we miss the obvious. We have a boxed mentality.
Solutions are plenty within our people but we first need to remove the box completely and start thinking afresh. Let us make it easy for our people to engage in and to start businesses. Let us stop following a script written for us by others. This is perhaps why we are failing to overcome sanctions, we have no local script.
Self sufficiency and sustenance cannot and must not be controlled by sanctions please! Let us get rid of the beggar mentality and apply our so called intellect and literacy which we pride ourselves in. How can we be failures of doing that which our forefathers have been doing without even reading a single Economics book or journal?
Does it not tell you we should go back to our roots and start from there?
My people perish for lack of knowledge! Don’t run to Egypt or Assyria, simply look within and see what God endowed upon you.
Homeland or death!
Chiondegwa is a freelance writer. He writes for Zimbabwe Digital News in his personal capacity. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Zimbabwe Digital News.
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