By Hopewell Chin’ono
It is important to understand what is at stake for our battered and yet still beautiful country, Zimbabwe.
The trip by our President to Eastern Europe will amount to nothing in regards to anything meaningful that would benefit the ordinary citizen.
As you have seen this past weekend, the deals signed in Moscow included extradition treaties, documents that could have been signed at the Russian embassy in Harare.
We have seen these so called Mega deals before and we know that they have always amounted to nothing at all.
Last week on Sunday I wrote an article in which I advised the President’s people not to let him personally go to Davos, and I laid out the reasons why he shouldn’t go there at this point in time.
I am glad that reason eventually prevailed and that he chose to do as other leaders facing domestic crises did by not going to the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Going to the World Economic Forum would have been both unwise and tone deaf at this critical stage for our country.
How could he go to Davos when citizens were stuck in long fuel queues, doctors and civil servants striking for better working conditions, no money in the banks, no forex for industry, citizens being butchered and killed by his military and a sense of fear and intimidation prevailing in the whole country?
However that said, I support the trip to Davos by the Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and his team of diplomats and technocrats.
He is the one who should have gone in the first place, and not the failed attempt to let the President go when the country is burning and when no reforms have been done yet.
Fellow compatriots, the Davos trip by the Finance Minister must be fully supported because it will assist in retaining open the window of conversation with the players that matter in international finance and investment capital.
It will allow the government through the Finance Minister’s team to hear the painful inconvenient truths coming from bonafide investors, that Zimbabwe so badly needs and has never had for two decades.
It will counter the opaque and futile engagement with Eastern Europe, efforts that will not be transparent at all for obvious reasons.
The President in one of his George Charamba’s penned Opeds, wrote in the Sunday Mail at the end of last year that reengagement would continue but focusing primarily on traditionally friendly countries.
This was clearly a code for entrenching relationships with the usual suspects, such as those he visited in Eastern Europe last week.
It was a tacit admission that our government is divided, it has progressives who want to disengage with the Robert Mugabe era and it has hawks that thrive in chaos.
It was also an open admission that they have NO appetite for any meaningful reforms that would help Zimbabwe be welcomed again into the family of nations and international finance institutions.
In my view, focusing primarily on Eastern Europe and related countries would be a huge mistake, a terrible foreign policy disaster for the country.
It would lead to a dangerous attempt to re-mortgage the country at a huge cost that will suffocate future generations to come.
That Eastern Europe option is so attractive to the side in government that has no appetite for reforming the economic and political landscape in our country as demanded by international financial institutions.
That side in government also hates transparency, for instance we need to know what our government has signed us up to, instead of being fed with propaganda about Mega deals that are a euphemism for group interests that are being pursued using the state at the expense of the citizen.
Attempts to get the West to isolate Zimbabwe are a catastrophic mistake because they will allow the side of government that does not want scrutiny and transparency to prevail over the progressives.
This is not just about the West, even our neighbor South Africa refused to give us a billion dollar loan in December because it knows that we do not have the capacity to repay that money until reforms are done, according to my source in that government.
At Davos, Mthuli Ncube will face the kind of hard questions and scrutiny that the President’s delegation will not have faced in Eastern Europe.
These hard questions centering on reform will be inescapable at the World Economic Forum and are important in getting our country to be the breadbasket of the region that it was two decades ago.
So I urge those of us who write and have influence within our society to be responsible when we propose suggestions to our government and the international community.
A cornered Emmerson Mnangagwa government will be welcomed into the arms of mafia style regimes that will make life unbearably difficult for our people and will punish our grandchildren and their kids with an unsustainable groaning debt.
There is a concerted effort by certain individuals in government to deliberately make Zimbabwe a pariah state resulting in a major disconnect with the West and its institutions.
This plan will stop our readmission into organizations like the Commonwealth, institutions that have peer review mechanisms that help countries like ours to stay on a dignified course.
We as citizens should avoid indirectly aiding and abetting that isolation plan, it will punish us more because as taxpayers, we will bear the brunt of a disorganized government and mismanaged economy.
No government in Africa has ever been removed from power by its people because it is broke, instead we will be subjected to the kind of terror that we have seen in the past days.
The Deputy Chief Secretary for Communications in the Presidency, George Charamba, promised the world that the military response was a taste of things to come, that is not the language of a senior civil servant who wants to see a prosperous Zimbabwe.
That language was supposed to have been consigned in the bin in November of 2017, but clearly not everyone is on the same page with the promises and proposals that were made by the President to the rest of the world.
At Davos the President was one of six African heads of state participating at the World Economic Forum.
He had meetings lined up with heads of G20 governments, international multinationals, and international organizations.
It was going to be a unique opportunity to further reengagement and receive honest comprehensive feedback from global influencers and decision makers.
But this all fell flat on the floor because of other agendas that have NO appetite for taking the transparent route into the world of nations.
The President must now make a choice whether he wants to be another Robert Mugabe or he wants to genuinely transform the lives of his people!
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 recently nominated for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France. You can watch the documentary trailer below.