By Hopewell Chin’ono
I have often argued before that we are imposing economic sanctions against our very own economic interests and intended success through corruption, incompetence and nepotism.
We can do something about this right now if we are genuine in our endeavours to build Zimbabwe by simply stopping these three evils instead of moaning about American sanctions without doing anything about them all.
Writing daily about US sanctions and yet having zero appetite for reforms and without providing solutions is a total waste of people’s time.
Zimbabwe needs consummate thinkers and not perennial moaners devoid of ideas or masters of spin doctoring lies.
We all saw the Manicaland coffee and avacado estate that is a target of a certain R. Mbudzana, a person that we now know to be Remembrance Gwaradzimba.
Remembrance is the son of the Manicaland Resident Minister Ellen Gwaradzimba.
This farming estate that Remembrance wants is owned and run by retired Swiss Banker, Richard Le Vieux and has been exporting coffee, avocados and macadamia nuts for the past 30 years to Europe, the US and beyond.
This is no longer just a virgin piece of land, it is now a business with a factory for coffee, avocados and macadamia nuts packaging.
So whoever gets it as part of land reform is essentially being given an industrialized farming business for free and the taxpayer will pay for the obvious improvements on the land.
In most cases the taxpayer will be paying for equipment that would have been sold or ruined by the new farm owner because ownership was never about competences and ability, but about whom you know within the political elite circles as seen in this case.
There are loads of farms lying idle around this specific farm in Mount Selinda on the boarder with Mozambique, there is even one with a dam, something that La Vieux’s farm doesn’t have according to a local doctor.
Now the corruption bit is in that the mother of the prospective farm owner is the Manicaland Resident Minister where the farm is domiciled.
The local police was used to try and effect eviction of a successful farming business in what is essentially a civil matter in order to hand over the business to her son, Remembrance Gwaradzimba.
The nepotism is in that it is a mother and son operation and the incompetence is in the failure to see how this will terribly hurt Zimbabwe’s economy in pursuit of this corrupt and nepotistic desired outcome.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called on the world to come and invest in Zimbabwe and he also said that there wont be any land seizures anymore especially on successful farms, “…we are open for business” he bellowed repeatedly to huge applauses from home and abroad.
The behavior we saw in the videos circulated over the weekend is worse than sanctions imposed by the US because it stops Foreign Direct Investment coming into Zimbabwe and finding its way into agriculture.
Agriculture has always been Zimbabwe’s economic bedrock and as we speak, the whole country is waiting for the tobacco selling season to kick start in order to get respite on the massive foreign currency shortages.
How then do we expect foreign investment in this major sector of our economy when the people who are already heavily invested in it can easily lose their business properties on the stroke of a political pen?
The American sanctions stop us from accessing World Bank and IMF loans if and when we pay our debts, loans that amount to very little in comparison to international investment capital that can help fix our economy.
Global hedge funds managers control trillions of US Dollars that Zimbabwe can access through global investment outflows making the Bretton Woods assistance pale in comparison.
Zimbabwe needs trade and investment and not donor funding that makes a mockery of the mineral resource endowments that this country is blessed with.
The other set of US sanctions stop certain Zimbabwean entities from trading with American companies and banks, but is America the only economy in the World?
Today we cant even access loans from our all weather friends such as China or India because we are failing to tame our corruption and incompetence resulting in failure to repay what we already owe to them.
This has nothing to do with American sanctions but our failure to manage our economy logically and our propensity to destroy the little businesses that are still working within Zimbabwe like Farfell Estates.
The Mount Selinda farm is not just your ordinary maize producer, it exports its Farfell brand of coffee, avocados and macadamia nuts to the rest of the world and its world-class coffee was even featured in the Hollywood film Borat.
We know how global markets operate, they have agreements with the current farmer and businessman, when he loses the land that he is farming on, that is the end of his business in its current form.
The new farm owner will not be able to sign the same agreements with the same global entities even if he farmed to the same standard, something that has been a rarity according to Agrarian scholars who have studied our land reform program.
Farming is a business and not a hobby and as such, it requires to be taken seriously by both the state and its citizens.
Now in a normal world, this Gwaradzimba guy would have taken ownership of a nearby farm because there are many such farms lying idle and ready for use.
He would have asked for assistance from Richard Le Vieux and could both farm and use Le Vieux’s existing global network and sale his produce or open new markets using Le Vieux’s contacts.
Now if this takeover goes ahead, that will be the end of Farfell as a global brand and that will also cease the continuous flow of foreign exchange that Farfell estate brings into Zimbabwe.
It will scare away agriculture investors and foreign capital because by its very nature, foreign capital is a coward and will not go where there is economic chaos and lack of common sense unless you are dealing with briefcase buccaneer business people.
What was the need of sending a police team to intimidate the farmer if it was not about abuse of power by the minister in aid of her son?
What was the need for sending thugs led by Ashiwai Mtirikwi Mawere if the land takeover was above board and without any of the corrupt and nepotistic elements that are self-evident?
Why do we ignore such self-serving and damaging economic decisions and yet still claim that we are open for business, what sort of business are we open for?
Is it now our goal to simply drive off all the white farmers off the farmland regardless of what their businesses represent to our economy and local communities?
I ask this because a local doctor has told me that this particular farming business has been at the forefront of re-equipping the local hospital with surgical equipment for operations and the surgery theatres.
It is petty to hide behind black empowerment and all manner of silly racial isms when we are destroying the very industries that are bringing in foreign exchange into Zimbabwe.
Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping famously said that it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice.
This is not about the white farmer or the land grabber, this is about the survival of Zimbabwe as a country and the importance of making decisions that are in national interest of the country and all who live in it not just individual powerful families.
Now if the President wants to know who is putting sand in the food, he should look no further than his own appointee.
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.
The recently departed music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi wrote the sound track for State of Mind.
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.