By Takura Zhangazha*
There are questions that a number of those that are perceived by family, friends and acquaintances as well informed or knowledgeable have to occasionally answer. On matters that at basics are about national political, economic and social issues. All as they emerge in convivial and now regularly partisan discourse.
Key conversations or questions that emerge are generally the same. And they are somewhat like this:
‘Do you think the economy will improve with these guys (Zanu Pf) in charge?’
“What do you think the international community (read as global north governments) will say about their policies?’
‘Will investors (also read as global private capital, as long as it is not Chinese) come to a country like ours and create jobs?”
And finally the big one, ‘Will we (still) get access to United States dollars and what will happen to the bond notes in our bank accounts/ that we had saved/ that we hope to get?’
These are questions that thanks to the personal experiences of many during the hyper-inflationary period of the first decade of the 2000s, cut across class, geographical location and generational perspectives on what is or was better.
I generally have no straightforward answers to the first three questions. On the fourth, I tend to pause a bit and make a statement that brings great opprobrium. This being the broad and patently unpopular assertion that we do not own the United States dollar (US$).
Nor do we trust the bond notes brought about by the Zanu Pf government.
But we most certainly need our own monetary currency as it reflects our global economic value. In competition to how others perceive the same. Somehow.
Even if a majority still do not trust the economic, let alone monetary policy intentions of Mnangagwa’s five year tenure government (for now).
It is against such political and very public skepticism that the current Minister of Finance, Professor Mthuli Ncube is presenting his projected state (not private) capital budget for 2019.
And obviously the media, elite/educated/wannabe middle class (by way of lifestyle) will be closely watching his presentation before Parliament on Thursday 22 November 2018. (Keeping in mind trickle down not only consciousness but also assumptions of materialism)
Not to also mention the crass opportunists, who will, in keeping with the mantra of the ‘ease of doing business’ take thorough advantage of those who do not even begin to understand what the concept means. Ideologically and technically. So long they get a triple dollar and dime on the return of investment that comes with taking a gamble on things that they never intended to understand. Let alone support (that’s contemporary global capitalism, in Africa, for you)
The government of Zimbabwe is (happily) aware of this. Hence its Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP, 2018-2020) that seeks among other things to ‘ring-fence’ private capital. Not only as a precursor to its 2019 national budget presentation before Parliament but also as a performance measurement guarantee to its more important ‘client’, private global capital.
Hence a week before the budget is presented, Mnangagwa argues in a local weekly, that there is a financial ‘cost’ to negative reporting on the Zimbabwean situation. This is a perspective I personally disagree with but I will respectfully leave to experts on media freedom and assumptions of its democratic ‘cost’ to those that know better on the same matter to argue it out with the state/government.
While the latter remains Mnangagwa’s highly politicized opinion, it is not enough to either limit free expression on his planned investment policies let alone the capacity of his government to deliver on his electoral policies.
Even where he argues, as he recently did in the Financial Times of the United Kingdom, that his economic reform trajectory is Thatcherite and therefore correct. All without application to domestic economic context and organic leftist linkages to a liberation struggle/movement in which he claims he played a significant political role in or at least justified as a reason why he took over the helm of the ruling Zanu Pf party. All as dramatically as he did in November 2017.
What we know is that the Zimbabwean government intends on a private sector led economy in its annual budget for 2019. Almost like a second version, in a generation, of a World Bank/ International Monetary Fund (IMF), Breton Woods supported and ‘sponsored’ economic structural adjustment programme (ESAP). Or as some unionists and occasional economist refer to it, ‘ESAP 2.0’.
At the fault of sounding repetitive (in previous personal blogs) we have been here before. As individuals and as a country. It all came to naught. Instead of getting jobs, we lost them. Instead of getting more affordable health, education, transport and/or other welfare support, we lost it. What we will however most certainly get is a 3-tier commodity pricing system. In 3 different 'currencies'. (If you haven't already experienced the same, wait a bit.)
Mthuli Ncube in his budget presentation (as definitely approved by Cabinet) needs to understand that history is not as abstract as his principal(s) would have us believe. Nor is the 'free market' , as contemporarily given, a panacea to Zimbabwe’s challenges.
He should argue better on behalf of a people entered political economy. But then again, we may not be able to say it as easily as we should, Mnangagwa’s government while having won a disputed electoral victory in July 2018, does not espouse people centered economic policy reform. Nor does it intend to. It is firmly pro-business/private capital and does not worry about the questions we have attempt to answer, badly so, when we are assumed to be people in the know of the goings on in our country, Zimbabwe.
So back to the same queries I and probably you as a reader (in your assumed expertise) of this blog occasionally have to respond to in real-time or online.
“Will this government with its tenure of five years be able to deliver on the economic expectations of a majority of Zimbabweans?”
My basic answer is, “No it will not’. Not with its current neo-liberal economic model that panders to private capital by selling off state capital at limited socio-economic justice return to the people of Zimbabwe. Or at least not without its own authentic, trusted national currency of exchange.
But as will be the case with (Finance Minister) Ncube’s ‘state capital’ budgetary statement of intent, the ‘political state’ is persuaded it can get away with a proverbial ‘murder’. Warts and all. And regrettably, on behalf of private capital. But then again, you hear what you prefer to hear, see what you prefer to see, touch what you prefer to touch and speak what keeps your limited capital 'safe'.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)