Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Hopewell Chin’ono: Zimbabwe: A political crisis manifesting itself through economics

By Hopewell Chin’ono

Good day folks, you only need to take one visit to the hospitals and hear those painful wailing cries, someone’s mother has died, to understand why this crisis must be interrogated beyond the doctor’s strike.

In this file picture, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa speaks to Sister-in-Charge Beauty Gurajena while Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo (left) looks on during a visit to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare. - (Picture by Innocent Makawa)
In this file picture, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa speaks to Sister-in-Charge Beauty Gurajena while Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo (left) looks on during a visit to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare. – (Picture by Innocent Makawa)

This is essentially a political problem underpinned through an economic crisis manifesting in different ways, Strikes, Delta, Teachers, School Fees et cetera.

The solution to this crisis is doing what is good for this economy and for our country and not just economic patch work with the hope that things will stabilize on their own accord.

Even if the doctor’s crisis is resolved today, it will be a mere exercise of kicking the can down the road and not coming up with a long term solution to our economic problems.

We need to start producing as a country in order to earn foreign exchange and we need to stop being South Africa’s Supermarket, importing ridiculous things like tooth pick.

We should start looking at what went wrong and how it can be fixed instead of focusing on the narrow issues.

Zimbabwe prospered as an Agriculture economy until that sector collapsed post 2000 not because of land reform, but because of how it was done.

So we need to kick out unproductive farmers off the land and give those farms to people who have the skills, capital and desire to farm in order to earn the country foreign exchange.

They are there, they don’t even need Command Agriculture help, the government simply needs to do the right thing.

There are people who have never farmed since being gifted with those farms through the land reform program, they collected inputs year in and year out, and sold them on the black market for a song and simply continued to renting out those farms up to this very day.

That is where we are shooting ourselves in the foot, we know what the problem is but we are refusing to attend to it focusing on sideshows.

We are importing green beans from Malawian peasants, that is an embarrassment and indictment on our country, that a once prosperous breadbasket of the region has been reduced to a basket case.

We now have our Chief Executives flying to Malawi to negotiate with village peasant farmers and yet we have huge tracts of un-utilized productive land

Secondly we need to get our industries going, we are producing nothing for export as we used to, we can’t even service our own local needs.

Whatever we are producing is expensive because we are still using old technology that is expensive to run unlike our neighbors and competitors who have loved with the changing times.

We can’t expect to save any foreign exchange when we are not producing goods locally for our people’s consumption and for the export market.

Our forebearers in the Munhumutapa Empire understood this in the 11th century, they traded gold all the way to India, those were their exports.

Today in the 21st century we have been reduced to doing the same thing that our ancestors did over a thousand years ago, trading gold instead of being innovative, look at Rwanda.

Any country that imports toothpick with so much forest in it is a joke, and that is what we have reduced ourselves to being, a big joke in the region and beyond.

We need to beneficiate our raw materials and not simply send them out and get a very small return on them.

What we are doing is NO different to the Munhumutapa era where they simply shipped everything in its raw form.

A good example is the massive Kapenta Fish in Kariba, we can turn it into an export economic zone and make Kariba the nutrition capital for Africa by exporting Kapenta fish.

It is cheap to buy and we have it in abundance, all we need is to mechanize the operations and mass produce.

Thirdly, we need money to get our industries going, we can’t access cheap money when we are refusing to do reforms, there is no other way out of this.

Unlike other countries in our dire economic situation, we have a pathway to normalcy through ZIDERA, we know what we need to do to access that money unlike DRC or South Sudan.

There is that land issue in ZIDERA, but we are now using it as a convenient tool to avoiding reforms, if we do all the other reforms that we signed up to, no sensible country will want to be part to punishing us because we can’t pay the former white farmers yet.

An arrangement can be made, we need people with a wide-angle view to life, people who can identify solutions and not only look for obstacles.

As I illustrated in my ZBC article three days ago, I had to think beyond the Local to see how I could help the minister, and all those big broadcasters and the donors including the World Bank bought into my idea because I made my case beyond the ordinary presentations they always get.

They have never done that for any country before, but they agreed to do it for Zimbabwe because I refused to be limited to what others said can’t be done.

We can do that with land and even with the current doctor’s strike, we need to be a bit more reflective and less belligerent and confrontational when engaging with each other.

The government must allow citizens with ideas to come forward and help through using their many years of international experience gained through our career and individual endevours.

If you want to know what to do about eyes and innovate that area of medicine, you go to Solomon Guramatunhu and not to some government bureaucrat.

The same applies to land, reforms, International Finance, agriculture, trade and commerce et cetera.

Mthuli Ncube is a professor of economics from the University of Oxford, but he has no capacity in his ministry, he can’t do it alone, No Man is an Island.

There are countries that are turning the tide and relying on citizen knowledge, I have attached a video of how I reported from Nigeria on their drive to revolutionize their agriculture sector going beyond the obvious plant and grow agriculture.

They are allowing their young people to thrive and have space in that sector by not blocking them as we are systematically doing here, the young and brilliant minds come up with ideas and the politicians facilitate.

Here we have a lot of young and extremely educated people with no access to the land, and a lot of uninspiring land grabbers who have no skills or will to farm.

This country can only be pulled out of the economic doldrums by allowing everyone with something to offer to prove themselves and not through make shift solutions that ignore market forces by dishing out the little foreign exchange at a pegged rate.

It is unsustainable and you don’t need to be a prophet to smell more trouble ahead, it is just good old common sense.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.
He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.

Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim. It was nominated last week for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France.

You can watch the documentary trailer below.

Hopewell can be contacted at hopewell2@post.harvard.edu or on Twitter @daddyhope