What Is To Be Done

After both the article by the regime`s President in the Financial Times and the national budget statement by the regime`s Minister of Finance and Economic Development, a lot of Zimbabweans have made their comments on these two issue. It is against this background that as a young person and a Social Democrat I also put across my views to further stimulate intellectual debate on such matters of ideological and national importance.

The Financial Times article by the regime s President is a clear indication to all sundry that the present government`s ideological dispossession is neo-liberal free market economics designed specifically in the boardrooms of London and Washington and imposed on the downtrodden and economically underprivileged Zimbabweans. The infamous budget statement ironically dubbed “Austerity for Prosperity” by the regime s Finance and Economic Development Minister should be viewed with the same ideological lens.

But what does a neo-liberal economic model mean for Zimbabwe s economic revitalisation and broader development aspirations (TSP, Vision 2030, Zimbabwe is Open for Business blah blah blah)? I would argue and as would all progressives, that the standard menu of neo-liberalism includes budget cuts especially on social services, lowering of import tariffs, financial liberalisation (especially withdrawal of exchange controls), deregulation of local business activities, privatisation or corporatisation of State Enterprises, imposition of cost recovery provisions for social services, massive increases in foreign borrowing and other market-oriented strategies that aim mainly for increased exports and fewer market-distorting subsidies.

Now this is terrible. Why? Because lowered import tariffs as an example, generate massive de-industrialisation. To most Zimbabweans this brings back sad memories of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP). Neo-liberal economics through ESAP between 1991-95 and ZIMPREST of 1996-98 pathologised the country with heaps of social, political and economic illness. But the regime still finds sense in an economic model that plunged this country into the present economic mess. At such moments some of us begin to question the regime s decency, ability and craft competence not only to transform and lead this country on a clear developmental pathway, but to simply learn from history.

What both the regime s leader and Finance Minister are failing to learn from history is that-the history of industrial capitalism itself, has demonstrated the market`s unsuitability as an allocative agency of those resources essential to the experiencing of a full and complete life by the ordinary men and women at the periphery of the economic, political and social matrix of the State. To understand this one doesn’t have to play to the gallery of global capital by writing in the Financial Times and praising Margaret Thatcher a political figure whose economic legacies in Britain does not elicit good memories. Neither does this require a poetic national budget statement wherein philosophers like Immanuel Kant are quoted out of context. It simply requires one to visit Mabvuku, Malipati, Sizinda, Sakubva, Mhangura, Mkoba, Mbare, Mufakaose, Mashava Mine, Mutare Board and Paper Mills, Kondozi Farm, Chiendambuya, Chiredzi and other parts of Zimbabwe to see the devastating economic havoc and mess that Breton Woods Institutions backed austerity measures has left since the introduction of ESAP in the late 90s to the present.

But what is to be done remains the critical question that most Zimbabweans are grappling with.

In all honesty and truth, what is needed is a shift towards a participatory economic model and a willingness to introduce wide-ranging redistributive mechanisms. This would involve a DEVELOPMENTAL STATE, progressive taxation, a war on corporate sector tax evasion, plugging the holes that allow illicit financial flows, collective and State OWNERSHIP of strategic resources and the equitable distribution of land and access to services. The honest truth however, is that the regime is incapable of taking heed of this advice. It’s a terrible situation of calling for reforms without reformers.

Reforms must be endogenously generated and grounded in the struggle and demands of the people for them to take a successful trajectory. Moreover, the question to ask is what kind of reforms, in whose interest are they conceived and who will implement them? What would be the role of the State in the alternative model to neo-liberalism? What would be the role of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum in building a sustainable alternative economic model?

This now comes to the political question.

Now since his assumption of State authority (the regime s leader), via a military coup, Zimbabwe has witnessed the emergence of authoritarian politics of catastrophic proportions. That we are in a “new dispensation” and citizens are arrested by an undemocratic law that criminalises citizen`s freedom of expression as witnessed by cruel arrests of Zimbabweans on the grounds that they have insulted the Office of the President by simply putting across the President`s omissions and commissions is a clear indication that the more things are purported to have changed the more they sadly remain the same! That a whole deputy of the regime s leader at some rally in impoverished Murombedzi undemocratically declares Zimbabwe a de facto one party State contrary to the dictates of the national Constitution and the hungry looking folks clad in oversized regime regalia ululate, rejoice and clap their hands is indeed proof that genuine change is yet to be witnessesd in this country!

This means in order for progressives on the democratic Left to have their economic model see the light of day, they have to organize and take governmental/state power.

The political redistributive agenda must be pushed by young intellectuals and young people in general, who do not only possess the demographic strength, but are the biggest losers from the current neo-liberal economic system and who have much to gain by keeping the growing inequalities to the fore of the political agenda. We are taking about a youth led REVOLUTION, which is peaceful but armed with IDEAS!

It is the struggle for democracy that I am talking about here which needs to be re-energised, re-strategised and re-invigorated. For the struggle for democracy is ultimately rooted in the life-conditions of the people. Young Zimbabweans in particular must be the agents and drivers of ORGANIC change.

Lastly, it is clear that the regime s economic policy framework enshrines, promotes and celebrates the anti-developmental tenets of neo-liberalism. The policies entrench the economic principles that privatize essential services, socialize the costs and spreads poverty. These policies must be vociferously rejected by all progressives on the Left and an alternative Social Democratic Developmental Welfare State should be championed for in our life time! The Nordic development model shows it’s possible to have strong democratic governance, a strong private sector, strong unions and an empowered, engaged and strong citizenry at the same time. That`s the essence of a Democratic Developmental Welfare State.

Nqobazitha Mlambo
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Nqobazitha Mlambo

Graduate of the University of Zimbabwe in Sociology and an alumnus of the FES leadership program. Marxist and activist for social justice
Nqobazitha Mlambo
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