Why not think about it?

If you read the noble statements in ZANU's 1972-4 programme, published in these pages last year, you must have asked yourself how we got from there to the mess we are in now.

I must admit that when I read that document now, it looks like the sort of prospectus NGOs write to circulate among potential donors. Since it is going to a variety of organisations with different opinions and following different economic doctrines, it must include something for each of them.

ZANU's Mwenje 2 claims that their violent campaign was the way to liberate Zimbabwe's people where others approaches had failed. To allay the fears this would arouse in the West, it states that ZANU defends all the rights in the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights and only takes the violent path as a last resort. President Mugabe repeated this to Pope John Paul II at Harare airport in 1988 in front of the world's TV cameras.

To prove their revolutionary credentials to the Chinese and the Russians, they use a sprinkling of Marxist jargon, then they remember they must stress that concern for the oppressed in terms that appeal to Scandinavian social democrats. The whole hodge-podge leaves me asking what they really believed. Experience suggests that they never knew the answer to that question themselves. They never planned for what would happen after they took power.

Anyone with an ideology, be it communist, socialist, “multiracial”, capitalist or even fascist would work out some detailed plans for the kind of society they hoped to create. ZANU relied on action, any action as long as it was action, in response to crises as they emerged instead of trying to predict when they would emerge and prepare a considered response.

For example, they made the ownership of land central in all their appeals to the people, but they never thought out what sort of a land tenure system they favoured, nor did they develop a plan for how to make a moderately smooth transition to the new system. In 1980 they accepted donor dictation and don't like us to remind them that the British were the biggest donors.

In 2000, they showed that they still hadn't developed any plans in their 20 years in government. The result was the chaos we saw, which created the maximum amount of ill-feeling in the maximum number of people. Commercial farmers had almost all received letters assuring them that government had no plan to take their land.

Surely a more intelligent approach would have been to remind them from the start that the existing system could not last and persuade them to co-operate in a transition to a system with land ownership spread among many more people, but the commercial farmers' contribution to spreading their skills so as to contribute to a smooth transition would still have been needed for the working life of farmers who were there in 1980. Instead of proposing a phasing out over 20, 30 or 40 years, ZANU did nothing for 20 years and, when presented with a crisis, gave some of those farmers no more than an hour's notice to clear out.

The treatment of the farm labourers, the real experts on what could be done with the soil, water and other resources of the farms that employed them, wasn't just ZANU electoral politics coloured with Shona tribalism. It was stupid and disastrous.

And they gave even less thought to the industries, which depended a steady level of commercial agricultural production, either as a source of raw material for food processing and textile industries, or to produce demand for agricultural machinery.

Any sort of planning, even the most “ideological” would surely have been better than the populist posturing and 150-decibel rhetoric we have been treated to for the past 14 years. But the alternative would have involved careful thought and, even more threatening, open and free discussion with everyone involved – big farmers and industrialists, workers in agriculture and industry, and consumers.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *