Zim’s Indigenisation Act: A view through the Canadian political lens

 

With the Zimbabwean government trying to implement its Zimbabwe Indigenization Act, understanding the tight balancing act that Zimbabwean diplomats will have to play on the international arena is very important in trying to bring foreign investment back to Zimbabwe.

Although the United States passed the Zimbabwe Development and Recovery Act (ZDERA) and it continually hangs as an albatross on Zimbabwe’s recovery, what many people fail to realise is the huge role Canada plays behind the scenes when it comes to global agendas.

Having Canada in your corner is usually one step further to gaining leverage in negotiations at the bargaining table whether or not you desire trade with Canada, the former Governor for the Bank of Canada is currently the Governor of the Bank of England and the chair of the G20’s Financial stability board for example. Canadians permeate within all houses of power globally, thus understanding Canada’s domestic politics is essential in understanding its foreign agenda, especially for Zimbabwe.

For the Zimbabwe government therein lies the problem, Canada has currently been going through an ideological change within its institutions mainly due to the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. 

Although the Canadian public is still relatively liberal; the institutions and government bureaucracy has now become distinctly conservative. 

The lens in which the Canadian government pursues foreign policy has now been altered.

 Polices on immigration, trade and social justice have changed dramatically; portfolios and agendas are now seen from an economic lens with humanitarian issues being back benched, and used more for photo opportunities for political campaigns.

The values espoused by Canadian liberals which are diametrically opposite from Stephen Harper have been slowly eroded by the conservatives. 

The age of dealing with global issues from a humanitarian standpoint are now long gone. Stephen Harper and his administration have ushered in an era based on the tenets of trade and rule of law, human rights being a far side issue.

This is where the Zimbabwe Indigenization Act will be seen as troubling from a Canadian view. Stephen Harper loves trade and is pro-business, even the constituency that he represents in parliament depends on the Canadian mining industry for the economic sustenance of its provinces’ GDP. Currently, he is trying to get an oil pipeline into the United States from his home province.

Furthermore, he led Canada in being the first Western country to abandon the Kyoto Protocol, dismissing the whole process as unrealistic. Having recently clinched a huge trade agreement with the European Union through (CEUTA); he has now positioned himself to be a big thorn in Zimbabwe’s back, if the government messes around with the Canadian mining companies within the nation and is seen as being against capitalism.

According to the Canadian International Development Platform (CIDP), Canada is a leading player in mining within Africa with copper and gold being the leading minerals they pursue. “Of the US$10.3 billion in equity raised for mining on the TSX and the TSXV in 2012, US$1.9 billion or 18.5 percent was for projects in Latin America while another US$1.7 billion or 16.5 percent was for projects in Africa.”

With the Canadian mining industry having made a revenue yield of US$12.2b in Africa for 2012, Zimbabwean diplomats will have to be much nuanced when trying to negotiate investment for Zimbabwe.

To understand the change in Canadian policy, one has to understand the political philosophy of Stephen Harper. Prime Minister Harper is a mixture of Fredrick Hayek, believing in fiscal conservatism and a student of Thomas Hobbes fomenting his belief in the rule of law and order. 

Therefore, lack of any stability or guaranteed property rights for foreign Canadian investors within Zimbabwe regardless of who is in power would be considered a cardinal sin within his administration.

Pan-Africanist viewpoints will simply be dismissed or repackaged as totalitarian shenanigans. Harper a pro-business Prime Minister will only use the current social issues and domestic disputes within Zimbabwe as tools to leverage the negotiation table when the time for trade agreements and loans begin. 

Canadian foreign business people are the proxies of the Canadian government and their views carry more weight in Ottawa than anything the Zimbabwean political opposition says.

The geopolitical landscape of Canada has dramatically changed these past years. 

The manufacturing industry once considered the driving engine behind the economy is in a decline within central Canada. Quebec which used to be the hub of liberal viewpoints and the provider of the last three Canadian Prime Ministers; has seen its power waning. 

The rise of oil-rich western-Canada has ushered in; a conservatism that does not believe in dwelling within the gray area of diplomacy but prefers to define agendas as black and white.

It is not a coincidence that Canadian humanitarian organisations such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) or KAIROS have seen their funding slashed or completely shut down. Neither is it strange that Canada failed to get a seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2010 due to Arab nations voting against them due to their rigid views. 

Also quickly disappearing is the compromising Canadian diplomat; from years gone by. 

This in itself is very telling for a nation, which has been currently featured and lauded in movies such as ‘Argo’ or ‘12 Years as a Slave’, for having a moral compass, but has now turned its back on its liberal history for a more dogma driven agenda.

Hopefully, the strategists within Zimbabwe’s think-tanks have been warned that Stephen Harper is a George Bush reincarnate with brains. He strongly believes in his principles and fights his battles with policy and economic trade agreements, negotiating anything from Canada will need wily diplomats and keen policy wonks. 

Zimbabwe prodding this Canadian administration by scaring their mining interests or not allowing the furthering of international trade expansion; will result with an uphill task for any Zimbabwean diplomat; when sitting at a negotiating table within the international community.

Canada still has that residual influence of goodwill and moral justice within the backrooms of power in which they can wield enormous persuasion. 

Canadian companies such as New Dawn Mining based in Zimbabwe, according to their management information circular cite the indigenisation process as the reason of failing to raise capital in order to turn a profit within their operations. 

They state that “the corporation believes that the costs that would be incurred on continuing to meet the ongoing legal and regulatory obligations (within Zimbabwe) cannot be justified in view of the corporation’s present financial circumstances”.

The problem with statements such as this; is that individuals such as former Canadian CEO Graham R Clow or directors Jon W North and Phillip G MacDonnell, are examples of people sought after by the Canadian administration when it is formulating its strategy and policy regarding Zimbabwe. 

By the time Zimbabwe diplomats get to the negotiating table all they get are usually a list of demands, with humanitarian needs usually just window dressing for the photo-op and image. 

Stephen Harper has surrounded himself with a cadre of likeminded smart people such as Jason Kenney, Peter MacKay and Lawrence Cannon who will pick up the baton of conservatism and continue it way after he is gone. Stephen Harper is not concerned with who is in charge of the policy and political playbook, his main drive and only concern is writing the rules within the playbook. ‑ Countercurrents

• Tsungai Chipato is a Journalist and blogger within Toronto Canada Contact @: mugaradzakasungwa@gmail.com

January 2014
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