Beyond the Rhetoric of Freedom and Democracy (26-06-07)

Our country, Zimbabwe, is going through an unprecedented crisis that has both political and economic characteristics. At the root of the tragedy are issues of political illegitimacy and bad country governance authored by the regime of Robert Mugabe and his party ZANU(PF).

To end the suff

ering, we must bring democracy to Zimbabwe, but as we have seen in Kenya, Zambia, and Malawi free and fair elections are not a guarantee of prosperity. A democratic dispensation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for economic development. We must have a national economic vision and a corresponding strategy to achieve that destination economy.

We have a duty and obligation to construct both technocratic solutions and capacity to address specific national challenges. We must build institutions and develop a value system that guarantee accountability and provide democratic checks and balances, while ensuring economic delivery. There must be measurement, monitoring and feedback mechanisms for all economic programs.

Africans deserve — and demand — the same standard of living as people enjoy in the USA and Europe. We want to see that level of social and economic success in Zimbabwe and all of Africa. If Malaysia, Singapore and Mauritius can do it, why can’t we?

I had the opportunity of studying at Oxford University in the UK and working in the USA. I witnessed the industrial drive, innovativeness, cohesiveness, work ethic, competitiveness, thrive for excellence, technology leverage, and ingenuity that have been central to the successes of the economies of the USA, Europe and the Asian Tigers. We know these same values will work in our country.

To that end, we ask the international political and business communities to assist the democratic forces in Zimbabwe develop, test and refine economic strategies for the future, beyond the rhetoric of freedom democracy.

A liberated Zimbabwe must be the leading democracy in Africa, characterized by people-centred development and economic growth. We must seek to build a nation characterized by inclusive and sustainable development rooted in substantive participatory democracy.

Our GDP and per capita income should be among the top three in Africa, but to get there, we need a country of small government that encourages direct investment, respects free market principles, property rights and the rule of law, fosters export-based investment and manufacturing, and has an effective independent central bank. We must seek to promote fair, secure and effective use of land, leverage new technologies and harness the services industry.

On top of this, we must aim to supply the world market with processed products because just selling raw materials will limit both job creation and economic growth. In some sectors, a small country’s economy of scale will work against this, but wherever possible we must process our minerals internally, and drive value-added manufacturing.

Can we do it? Go and look at a country like Singapore and tell us why not.

In 1957 Singapore had the same GDP as Ghana, but today the island state — with a land area smaller than New York City — enjoys per capita income greater than Germany, France or Britain.

A new generation of leaders is required to take Zimbabwe to that level, and build a globally competitive economy such as that of Singapore, South Africa, Mauritius, Brazil or the USA. We need creative dreamers who do not fear globalization, but thrive on chaos and uncertainty.

However, effective execution of that vision can only begin after the country has gained its freedom. For now, we need to draw up and debate economic policy blueprints. We need to engage visionaries and state crafters such as Lee Quan Yew of Singapore and Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia; industrial leaders from Japan and Korea; and the brilliant minds behind India’s new economy. Let’s invite business leaders from General Motors, McKinsey, Microsoft, GE, and Boeing to bring modern corporate wisdom and insights to the task of retooling a nation.

The next major election in Zimbabwe is due in March 2008 and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is working on establishing a united front inspired by a single candidate principle for every electoral contest (President, Parliament, Senate, and Council). The objective is to ensure that every opposition vote counts against Mugabe and his ZANU(PF) party. Yes there are two wings to the MDC, but we are busy building a coalition with the sole and unequivocal mandate of liberation. Of course this has been a difficult exercise, but we cannot afford to fail. Granted time is not on our side. However, we will shame our detractors, and succeed.

After electoral victory, that’s when the hard work will start, transforming Mugabe’s nightmare into a dream whose time has come: a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe.

To outsiders, we say help us help ourselves. We seek to lay a good economic foundation for our country ahead of change. Zimbabweans themselves shall be the key creators of the technocratic revolution that will make their country a globally competitive economy. African countries must break the cycle of meaningless democratic change by achieving transformation that has both form and substance.

We shall overcome.

Arthur G.O. Mutambara

Prof. Arthur G.O. Mutambara heads one of two formations that make up the Zimbabwe opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

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