Mugabe continues to show the way
The Zimbabwean leader, who made history by embarking on an audacious land reform programme six years ago that saw him repossess white-held farms and redistribute them to black peasants and communal farmers, promised to spread the empowerment drive into the mining sector. Mugabe said that any investor in Zimbabwe’s mining industry should always take cognisance of the Government’s policy of empowerment. “It should be clearly stated, however, that foreign investment should take cognisance of the indigenisation and empowerment policy and programmes under which the equity balances. Those who hold shares are not just balancing in favour of the investor but also in favour of Zimbabwe, and, therefore, we shall be bringing up policy and regulatory measures, laws, to effect this balance that we would want to see.” He said Government or Zimbabweans should own at least 50 percent of shareholding in any investment in the mining sector. Mugabe said his Government would no longer compromise on non-renewable resources, but would ensure that both the investor and Zimbabwe benefit with the scales tipped in favour of Zimbabweans. Over the past few years, Zimbabwe has been losing a lot of minerals through smuggling and revenue through repatriation of profits by foreign holders of Zimbabwean mines. Mugabe’s radical approach gave Zimbabweans every reason to celebrate, because in spite of Western attempts to subvert his government, he has remained unflinching in pursuit of economic independence for his people. Zimbabwe is evidently a success story in Africa, and in spite of sustained attacks from all fronts by Westerners opposed to the land reform programme, the country has not gone under, and, in fact, appears poised to weather the storm to emerge triumphant against all neo-colonial machinations. The country’s leadership has likened the ongoing challenges to the pangs of transformation akin to the ones Zimbabwe went through prior to 1980. The fact that the economy, which has been under protracted attack from detractors for the past six years, is still resilient is enough testimony of the strength of the foundation the government laid during the first 20 years of independence and that it continues to fortify today. Though Zimbabwe’s inflation is currently pegged at 916 percent and disposable incomes have dwindled to the lowest they have ever been in 26 years of nationhood, economic analysts said the inflation figures are not a true reflection of the state of the nation’s economy. They argued that the indices that are used to calculate it have since changed with changing consumption patterns in Zimbabwe that saw families revising their monthly baskets. More so, they added, Zimbabwe has an agro-based economy and the current figures were a reflection of the lean drought years the country was emerging from. It is hoped that once the crop from the just ended season begins to come into the economy, inflation will begin plummeting again as various stakeholders are working day and night to ensure that the economic sabotage perpetrated by detractors is defeated once and for all. On Independence Day, Zimbabwe also celebrated the finalisation of the Third Chimurenga, the radical land reform programme that reversed colonial inequities by redistributing land to the previously disadvantaged black majority. This was done by the promulgation of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 17) Act that confirmed the acquisition of land for resettlement purposes pursuant to the land reform programme that began in 2000 and also provides for the acquisition, in future, of land for resettlement and other purposes. This was accomplished by the insertion of a new section into the Zimbabwean Constitution ‘ 16B ‘ that deals with “agricultural land acquired for resettlement and other purposes”. This amendment empowers the government to deal with legal bottlenecks that arose in the implementation of the land reform programme as white former commercial farmers were delaying the process by appealing to the courts. Under the Act, Zimbabwean courts were barred from hearing appeals on land acquisition with aggrieved persons restricted to seeking recourse in the courts only for the purpose of determining issues related to compensation for improvements on the acquired farms. Zimbabwe’s land reform programme has, however, been a success as far as resettling people, but a lot still needs to be done to ensure maximum productivity. The fact that some farms are producing less than they did under white former commercial farmers does not mean that the programme is a failure. This is because the white farmers had over a century of farming experience to get to where they were, while the newly resettled farmers have only had five seasons, four of which were drought years. All indications are that as the seasons begin improving, Zimbabwe will reclaim its breadbasket status in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region. Zimbabweans also celebrated 26 years of independence after making huge strides towards the consolidation of their economic independence and sovereignty having cleared all arrears under the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s critical General Resources Account (GRA). Zimbabwe managed to pay US$193 million in 13 months to clear its outstanding debt in the GRA though the country still has arrears in the PRGF-ESF (Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility-Exogenous Shocks Facility) Trust amounting to some 83 million special drawing rights. What is important to note, however, is that this money is not owed directly to the IMF like the GRA funds, but to some member states. The clearing of the debt was important because forces opposed to the country’s land reform programme were ganging up to use the IMF to pursue their illegal regime change agenda by trying to force the government to compromise its principles on the altar of political expediency. It is providential that the IMF was subsequently arm-twisted by Western nations to deny Zimbabwe financial assistance as this will enable the nation to use its own initiatives and resources rather than continue courting trouble from the Bretton Woods institution. The 26th anniversary celebrations also came at a time Zimbabwe has strengthened its relations with allies in the East, through the Look East policy. East European and Asian countries were instrumental in the decolonisation process in Zimbabwe and they are still playing key roles in fending off the ever-looming threat of neo-colonialism in its various guises. Zimbabweans also celebrated their democratic tradition that has seen them hold nine nationwide suffrages and one referendum in 26 years. Elections have been held whenever they were due with the leaders putting themselves up for acceptance or rejection every five years. This has enabled the country to enjoy unparalleled peace and tranquillity. Zimbabwe marked its 26 years of independence in a vastly improved electoral environment after the electoral reforms that were effected in line with the Sadc Guidelines on the Conduct of Free and Fair Elections. These reforms saw the introduction of an independent electoral body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, that is in charge of conducting all elections and referendums in Zimbabwe and the passing of the Electoral Act that provides for the setting-up of the Electoral Court to deal with all poll disputes, among other things. The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 17) Act also provided for the re-introduction of a bicameral legislature that strengthened parliamentary representation and ensured that legislation is thoroughly scrutinised before it is sent to the President for his consideration. Zimbabweans also celebrated their national unity that has remained intact in spite of spirited campaigns by Westerners and their acolytes to foster disunity. Today countless online publications and four pirate radio stations broadcast hate speech to Zimbabwe daily in an attempt to stir acrimony between the country’s two major ethnic groups. All these attempts, however, have come unstuck in a nation that knows all too well the value of peace. The government also invested a lot in the social services sector which is why today Zimbabwe has the highest adult literacy rate in Africa pegged at 91 percent, and 98 percent among the 15 to 24-year olds ‘ the school-going age group (United Nations Human Development Report 2003). According to the same report, “by the mid-1990s, Zimbabwe had achieved near universal primary education for all. In 1994, the net enrolment ratio was 81.9 percent, improving to 93 percent in 2002. Consequently, literacy rates for 15-24 year olds rose from 95 to 98 percent between 1992 and 1999″. Graduates of the country’s education system are in demand throughout the world though a lot still needs to be done to ensure that the export of the human resources benefits the nation. Though like all other sectors in the country, Zimbabwe’s health sector is facing a lot of challenges due to the effects of the illegal Western sanctions, it is still one of the best in Africa. Since independence, the government accelerated the construction of hospitals and clinics in all the country”s districts, as well as the provision of primary health care in the rural areas. This foundation multiplied rural health centres threefold, and effectively reduced the walking distance to clinics to an average of 5km. Over the past 26 years, Zimbabwe also distinguished itself by defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other African states. Zimbabwe defence and security forces played crucial roles in defending the territories of Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea. They have also acquitted themselves well in United Nations peacekeeping missions throughout the world. Watching the thousands of people who thronged the 60 000-seat National Sports Stadium, and other centres in the country’s 10 provinces, it was evident that Zimbabweans know fully well the nature of their present challenges as they gave their esteemed leader the thumbs-up.