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Why Zimbabwe has failed

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READING the book Why Nations Fail by authors Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson further confirmed observations which I have been sharing with my readers for some time.

The challenge we face in Zimbabwe is that unless we transform our political culture, we will continue to see the economics of oppression and poverty.

In the book, the authors’ observations are that nations fail not because of geography, culture or ignorance, but because of the existence of extractive political systems that in turn create extractive economic systems if they are to remain in control.

Politicians must create extractive economic institutions in order to buttress their political power and that is the challenge we face in Zimbabwe.

An extractive political culture is essentially a dictatorship or a plutocracy that seeks to retain political control at all costs and uses an extractive as opposed to an inclusive economy to entrench the interests of an elite; in our case a liberation struggle elite.

The interesting observation of the authors is that the politicians deliberately pursue economic policies that meet their political interest and not the needs of the people. They are not ignorant of the correct policies, but deliberately ignore them because the correct economic policies would result in an inclusive economy; something which they fear most.

We have seen since independence in 1980 that there is always strong resistance by Zanu PF to the emergence of an empowered middle class and a strong black national bourgeoisie that is apolitical. We have seen how this political culture has created an uncompetitive economy underpinned by patronage and corruption.

The resistance to change and progress in Zimbabwe is simply because this would render the politicians powerless to manipulate society.

The fast-track land reform, indigenisation and opaque predatory mining dispensation all serve the interest of Zanu PF in retaining political control. Added to this, is the control of State enterprises through the appointment of party cronies and the allocation of government projects to comrades.

This culture of creating an extractive economic system is so pervasive in all economic activity in Zimbabwe and even includes the allocation of flea market space and stands. Sadly, even the pouring of billions into Zimbabwe will not result in the emergence of inclusive economic institutions, but will most likely entrench exactly what has led to a failed State.

This extractive political system is not about to go away through negotiation. That is why I am rather surprised that the MDC-T thinks that it can negotiate into existence new economic system; it will not work.

I am also amazed by the rather expedient approach taken by the European Union to prop up the current political system with the hope of the emergence of an inclusive economic system in the future; it will not work.

For us to create a modern inclusive economic system in Zimbabwe, it will first be necessary to create an inclusive political system where political power is shared and where the rule of law is sacrosanct and private property is protected. Only then can out nation prosper.

The challenge is, therefore, for us to dislodge Zanu PF from political power because as long as they are in charge, they will protect at all costs this extractive economic system and its institutions to the benefit of a few.

In other words poverty will increase and the majority of Zimbabweans will not have a stake in the economy.

The promise by Zanu PF to empower and develop is hardly a sincere effort and remains a mere promise. Its ultimate fulfilment could lead to the emergence of a strong empowered middle class that will demand better governance in the future; that is a risk that they cannot afford because it could lead to their demise.

The Zimbabwe we want cannot, therefore, emerge under the current circumstances. We want to create a prosperous country and that requires us to establish inclusive economic institutions that facilitate the realisation of the full potential of every citizen.

We want Zimbabweans to be creative, innovative and wealthy without fear of expropriation of their wealth or assets. The government must have nothing to do with the allocation of economic resources or assets to citizens, but must merely create an environment for success for all.

In order to achieve this, political institutions need to be inclusive and citizens must be able to participate in making decisions that affect their lives. This requires that political power must devolve. Just as we abhor economic monopolies we must, therefore, abhor monopolistic political power as we currently have.

For me there is nothing untoward about us having multiple political parties because this allows us to break the monopoly of Zanu PF.

As long as we have fair electoral processes where each one is free to compete for political power and we have an informed populace who are not locked up by the patronage of Zanu PF, we indeed can create the inclusive political system that will result in the emergence of inclusive economic institutions to the benefit of all.

Our stance must remain to ensure that no election will take place in Zimbabwe until we have electoral reforms, freedom of association and an open media which creates access to new information to the majority of our people especially those in the rural sector.

Without a change in our political culture and its instituions, it will always be difficult if not impossible to create the Zimbabwe we truly want.

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on vtmusewe@gmail.com. Article first published by politics web

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