Investment, job creation = real empowerment

Thirty one years after attaining independence in April,1980, the average Zimbabwean is still classified as poor by world standards. Recent statistics confirm that at least 70 per cent of Zimbabweans live on less than $2 a day, thus they are classified as living in abject poverty.

Joina City
Joina City

What an indictment on the vision of this great nation's founding fathers and mothers. Why are the majority of our people poor in the land of plenty?

The Zanu (PF) side of the inclusive government has, of late, gone into overdrive with its so-called '' indigenization and empowerment'' programme.

The government only began to craft an indigenization and empowerment blueprint in 2007. Although passed by Parliament in 2007, the Act was only gazetted less than a year ago.

Despite being vigorously opposed by the MDC, because Zanu (PF) somehow had superiority in numbers in the sixth Parliament, the Bill, fundamentally flawed as it was, found itself on our statute books.

As a starting point, the government should be thoroughly ashamed of the fact that after almost three decades they still had not crafted a holistic and people-centred policy for the empowerment of historically disadvantaged people.

This crucial issue underpins the very reason why thousands of the country's gallant sons and daughters paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we gained our independence from British colonial rule in 1980. The policy of empowerment is not and should not be taken as a simple electioneering gimmick by any political party. This is a matter of life and death for it will determine the political and socio-economic trajectory of Zimbabwe for several generations to come.

We cannot empower the poor by grabbing wealth from the rich and dishing it out like confetti at a wedding. You do not empower the poor and marginalised by changing the colour of the new bourgeois class from white to black. Put bluntly, you do not empower the poor by grabbing 51 per cent shareholding in Lever Brothers and giving it to politically well-connected individuals.

Instead of grabbing 51 per cent of a severely under-capitalised and struggling foreign-owned company, it makes better economic sense to embark on a deliberate blueprint that will create more business opportunities, expand the industrial and financial base and create new employment opportunities for the millions of our unemployed youths.

It is a lie for anyone to claim that the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is just interested in creating opportunities for job seekers and not in creating new indigenous employers.

The MDC's policy is to ensure that we create and attract investment opportunities – both domestic and foreign. Once this has been done, inevitably new business opportunities will arise and our local entrepreneurs will then be able to establish new business ventures that will create new employment opportunities.

The present indigenisation and empowerment policy will ultimately lead to the pauperisation of the majority of historically disadvantaged Zimbabweans.

It will also lead to unprecedented de-industrialisation and flight of capital. The facts speak for themselves. Zimbabwe is not the only investment destination in the world. Even within the SADC region, there is fierce competition for foreign direct investment. Naturally, no serious-minded foreign investor will put his money in an economy that cannot guarantee the security of his investment.

The present scenario is a recipe for massive corruption. It will not stimulate but stifle the growth of Zimbabwe's industrial, manufacturing and financial base.

It will create cartels who will manipulate who gets what in any foreign-owned company that operates here. Inevitably, very few people will eventually benefit from the present chaotic and emotion-driven programme.

We should seriously consider creating new wealth as distinct from grabbing old wealth. We all know the mayhem that accompanied the land reform programme. We have created a nation of thousands of struggling peasant farmers who can hardly fend for themselves. Instead of empowering our people by identifying those who had a passion for farming and thereafter, adequately training and capacitating them, we chose to adopt a one-size-fits all approach, that was tainted by corruption.

The time to re-focus and re-design our investment and job creation policy is now. We have to take politics out of this very serious business. We have to avoid the mistakes of our neighbour, South Africa, where their BEE (black economic empowerment) policy created a few Tokyo Sexalwes, Patrice Motsepes, Cyril Ramaphosas and Mathew Phosas of this world juxtaposed with the hopelessly poor millions of black people in KwaMashu, Cape Flats, Gugulethu and Mamelodi.

We should beware of the ghost of '' tenderpreneurs'' in our beloved Zimbabwe. We should create real and sustainable wealth across the length and breath of our great country. We do not want to create a few billionaires in a sea of poverty and deprivation.

In the event that we stubbornly proceed to implement the current poorly thought-out and designed empowerment programme, Zimbabwe is heading for economic and socio-political doom. Mark my words.

Obert Gutu is the Senator for Chisipite, MDC Harare provincial spokesperson and Deputy Minister of Justice & Legal Affairs.

Post published in: Business

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