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The tough challenges of rebuilding Zimbabwe post-Mugabe

By Tendai Kwari

We are approaching a crossroad; a reality check moment in our entire history in Zimbabwe. There is no doubt that the Mugabe era will finally reach its end-game. The “I am a war veteran and liberation fighter” mantra will finally get outdated and irrelevant to the younger generation.

Tendai Kwari
Tendai Kwari

A new generation of young Zimbabweans will take over control of their motherland. It is up to individuals to describe Mugabe a legend or villain. Some may lament and bemoan the end of pan-africanism; others will celebrate the end of a dictator.

Even yesterday, while others were calling Mandela a hero, others were calling him a sell out and traitor. Mugabe is no exception. It is beyond doubt that Mugabe is a man who divides opinion and stimulates so much debate. I will leave that for posterity. It is a time to look ahead and visualize a new Zimbabwe without Mugabe.

Meanwhile, as the circus goes on, we must start to think of the new Zimbabwe we are going to inherit, repair and rebuild post –Mugabe.

The exit of Mugabe is not going to usher in a golden era without our sweating. Things can get worse if we fail to come up with a legitimate leader and a capable government. We will need to work harder and together as a nation. We must start to envisage a sustained economic growth in new Zimbabwe.

What do we have to do in order to realise this economic growth? The few pre-requisite pointers I am going to discuss here are not exhaustive. A lot more has to be done. It will take many years to repair and rebuild the damage done in the last twenty years, but we can do it.

Having a stable state is a precondition for intensive economic growth. A civil war or interstate conflict has very negative consequences for growth. At all costs, we must avoid civil strife and bloodshed. There is a large literature linking good governance to economic growth.

Some school of thought has maintained that good governance is endogenous: it is the product of economic growth rather than a cause of it. For instance, one of the reasons why there is so much corruption in Zimbabwe is that our government is not paying our civil servants adequate salaries to feed their families, so they are inclined to take bribes.

The rule of law is also a prerequisite to economic growth. The key aspects of rule of law that are linked to growth are property rights and contract enforcement. Unfortunately, as in most African states, stable property rights exist only for a certain elites, this is not sufficient enough to produce long term economic growth. The way the land issue was mishandled in Zimbabwe still scares investors, albeit the genuine reasons behind it.

Our judiciary, which has been adulterated by the current corrupt system, needs cleansing. In fact, the judiciary should protect the rights of the citizens first. This will promote the rule of law, which in turn will buttress a strong democratic state.

The state should not have overwhelming powers to ignore individual property rights. Investors will simply flee. Our judiciary should be strong enough to keep the state on check and point it to the rule of law book.

Some school of thought also believes that there is a strong correlation linking development to democracy. However, the relationship between growth and democracy may not be linear – that is, more growth does not necessarily always produce more democracy.

Growth appears to favour stable democracy, the reversal causal connection between democracy and growth is much less clear. In a nutshell, while having a coherent state and reasonably good governance is a condition for growth, it is not clear that democracy plays same positive role.

There has been a large body of democratic theory arguing that modern liberal democracy cannot exist without a vigorous civil society. The mobilization of social groups allows weak individuals to pool their interests and enter the political system; even when social groups do not seek political objectives, voluntary associations have spill over effects in fostering the ability of individuals to work with one another in novel situations – what is termed social capital.

Unfortunately, in our present system, any social group that seeks to pool its resources together is deemed a political threat, even if its members do not seek political objectives. Some rogue elements in Zimbabwe will make sure that any social group seen as a threat to the current status quo is quickly nullified.

A case in point is the abduction of pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara, leader of Occupy Africa Unit Square. The group is now in disarray and moribund since the abduction of its charismatic leader.

Fukuyama, in his The Origins of Political Order noted that the correlation noted above linking economic growth to stable liberal democracy presumably comes about via the channel of social mobilization: growth entails the emergence of new social actors who then demand representation in a more open political system and press for a democratic transition.

When the political system is well institutionalized and can accommodate these new actors, then there is a successful transition to full democracy.

However, as a caution, we must be aware of the fact that, also, a highly developed civil society can also pose dangers for democracy and can even lead to political decay. Groups based on ethnic or racial chauvinism spread intolerance; interest groups can invest effort in zero-sum rent seeking, excessive politicization of economic and social conflicts can paralyse societies and undermine the legitimacy of democratic institutions.

The recent utterance by Mugabe that Kalangas are an uneducated lot is quite unfortunate and should be disdained in its strongest terms. It is un-statesmanlike, divisive and ill advised.

Economic growth can also create legitimacy for the government that succeed in fostering it; however, legitimacy also rests on the distribution of the benefits of growth. Growth that goes to a small oligarchy at the top of the society without being broadly shared often mobilizes social groups against the political system.

For instance, the revenue from our diamond fields in Zimbabwe does not seem to be benefiting the majority of the poverty stricken villagers in the areas.

Finally, for economic growth to be realized, a country must have a modern political system which consists of a strong state, a rule of law, and accountability. As mentioned above, one day, the circus will pass town, and normalcy will return, leaving us with a lot of work to do.

Tendai Kwari @tendaikwari