In the recent Ministry of Finance Quarterly report which focused on the last quarter of 2016 treasury revealed the state of economic stagnation which shows evidence that the government is not making any headway in reforming policy to put the economy on a growth trajectory. The Quarterly Bulletin reports that economic growth was a mere 0.7 %; recurrent expenditure is taking 66% of the budget and a whopping 92% of the revenue. The shocking revelation was that the government overspend by a mind blowing 42.3%; rather than the budgeted US$1b they spent more by US$0.6b. No one is held accountable. The most worrisome news in the Treasury Bulletin is the veiled confessions: ‘in the face of declining revenues, the gap was largely financed through domestic borrowing, the bulk being Treasury Bill issuances’ and further that ‘government domestic borrowing is unsustainable as it crowds out private sector borrowing for productive activities’.
In last week’s Gravitas we argued that the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) are playing ‘casino’ with public funds and slowly the truth is coming out that the emperor is naked.
Minister Chinamasa and Governor Mangudya may want to take wisdom from the former RBZ Governor, Dr Kombo Moyana’s contribution at a SAPES dialogue, who stated the following:
In my time working with Bernard Chidzero we made sure our wage bill was maintained at 20% of government income. We would shiver if it reached 25% but now people go to sleep when it is at 83%. No country or institution can survive when it is using 83% of its revenue for wages (Newsday, 14.05.2016)
To put it into perspective imagine a civil servant earning $500.00 and every month that same person borrows, from banks, an extra $200 to spent. The end result is that if the civil servant were to keep on borrowing every month they end up bankrupt and the bank would eventually refuse to lend more money and even send the sheriff knocking. On the other hand Chinamasa thinks he can ‘grow money’ by issuing more Treasury Bills but fails to realise how that is melting the whole financial system. The rate at which the government runs through the Treasury like a bull in a Chinese shop is the reason why Zimbabwe needs a robust public financial system with critical oversight from democratic institutions. Imagine the rate of inflation if Zimbabwe had a local currency and instead of Treasury Bills the machines at Fidelity would have been cranked to full speed. No sense of budget restriction at all.
The question is why is the government failing to reign in expenditure and set the economy on a new path? In our view, we argue that with the advent of the jambanja political economy which came via the Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP), Zimbabwe is now gripped in an expropriation mode which means government policy and elite behaviour is now geared towards re-distribution without any growth. This re-distribution mode means that democratic state institutions are trampled with no regard to accountability and the ruling elites have taken full advantage of the instabilities and as a consequence any serious investor, local or foreign, is nerved by this predation.
Dispossession, Displacements and Elite Accumulation : From Chiadzwa to Manzou
In the past few days the Zimbabwe Lawyers of Human Rights (ZLHR) obtained a High Court order barring the Ministry of Lands and the Zimbabwe Republic Police from displacing the Manzou villagers. At the heart of the matter is an allegation that the ‘First Family’ wants to displace poor villagers, dispossess them of land and in the process accumulate vast amounts of land for their business.
It is not only in Manzou that this sense of instability is common; in Chiredzi Zimbabwean diaspora based investors have been forced to seek protection from the courts after unilateral revocation of their offer letters midway the farming season; in the urban areas clean up operations destroying homes and livelihoods have become a routine phenomenon; in Chiadzwa the debacle was worse with hundreds displaced with insignificant compensation; so was the same in Chisumbanje where thousands were dispossessed of their land and replaced with a big corporate.This state of instability and insecurity is directly linked to the Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP) which has led to a destruction of land related property rights. The consequence was the breeding of insecure tenurial rights, and access to land and any other resources became determined by patronage networks and the only sense of protection seems to come from joining the ruling elite networks.
Black Economic Empowerment and Indigenisation : The limits and parochialism.
The ruling elites have also extended this expropriation mode to the entire economy under what they have called ‘indeginise and empower’ and the consequence there have been catastrophic looting. Witness how the Minister of Indigenization went on a rampage charging that all ‘foreign’ companies must comply with local legislation that 51% must be owned by local people. At the heart of that harangue was not the desire to empower people but to directly make sure that the political class becomes a business class without producing any goods or services.
In Marange the much-vaunted Community Share Ownership Scheme, turned out to be a farce of stage managed events meant for electioneering campaigns. The whole indigenisation and black economic empowerment ideology and policy is built with a very faulty logic: that economic growth comes from parcelling a cake and not from baking more. It is a very emotive but limited ideological propaganda feat.
At the height of the indigenisation mantra the citizen was told of an economy in which they would fully participate and opportunities will be ‘aplenty’ and the ruling class youths threatened fresh invasions against ‘non-complying companies’. It turned out that this was an ideological cover for the elites to muscle into so called foreign companies; in Masvingo a local political ‘warlord’ muscled into a mine.
The so called Sovereign Wealth Fund has not gone anywhere and while the legislation has been enacted stating that 25% of mineral royalties will flow into the Fund it seems like a mirage. Here is a government with an appetite to spent unchecked, swamped with debt, foreign and domestic, claiming that 25% will be set aside for the Fund. Such a promise, as they say, is only a comfort to a fool. The National Indigenisation & Economic Empowerment Board (NIIEB) has suddenly found that they have no job to carry out and the wild claims in 2012, by then then Minister of Indigenisation, that the Fund had a value of $3billion was just a number picked from the sky (Newsday, 24.12.2012).
But the chaos soon spread with the minister saying banks must follow the indigenisation law and even the brother Gideon Gono was alarmed and had to issue a rebuttal that the ‘finance sector’ was only regulated by the central bank and no one else. But the real capital had already noticed what was happening and since then it has become problematic if not impossible for local financial institutions to obtain real capital on global capital markets. But the young people also learned well. Witness how the Old Mutual Kurera/Ukondla Fund was just looted and emptied with no consequence whatsoever and in certain cases mobs of youths turned up at your business to query whether the business was compliant. This level of chaos, appropriation and outright entitlement was borne out of the jambanja political economy in which the might of force, coercion and state apparatuses are used to muscle into businesses. The elites have learnt a dangerous lesson; that they can always reap where they did not sow.
Moving into the Future: Halting the Jambanja Political Economy
Professor Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros argued that Zimbabwe’s party-state could be characterised as a ‘radical state’ because they had effected a large-scale redistribution of land and managed to smash white-settler and colonial based agrarian property relations. However, Moyo and Yeros did not anticipate that once the ruling elites had been trained in the art of expropriation it would be a mammoth task to make them unlearn that mode of destructive accumulation. The effect of that political economy of expropriation is now a cancer which has to be dealt with decisively because it has placed unregulated public power in the hands of a predatory elite and the economy is now locked in a ‘permanent crisis’ with no exit.
The ruling elites at the centre of this racketing scheme mobilise a radical nationalist discourse to confuse citizens. When these ephemeral manoeuvres are exposed they charge us of being ‘little boys’ in universities, but they forget despite being of smaller stature, we are citizens who need answers. The brother who accuses us has a stiff and very plump neck sinking in fat gathered from dipping in sick people’s public health insurance premiums, at PSMAS, whilst the public health system is in shambles. The big brother reminds us of the rotund character Gitutu Wagataanguru in Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s book ‘The Devil On The Cross’. The full Christian name, he boasted, was ‘Rottenbrough Groundflesh Shitland Narrow Isthmus Joint Stock Brown’. Gitutu got very fat feeding on people’s produce and was unforgiving to those who mistook him for a small time thief and he would fume in defense of his records in the art of thievery and robbery. For those who dared to ask where his belly came from Gitutu bellowed that the belly grew the moment he discovered that he could reap where he did not plant, eat without shedding a sweat and drink what others had fetched.
1.4 George Charamba: In Defence of the ‘nationalist elites’ ?
The looting of public funds, even from dying people, is arrogantly described as a ‘pittance’ and the citizen must keep quiet because Sheiks in the Middle East get ‘millions’ in oil money. The brother Gitutu does not reveal that the same Sheiks have Dubai to showcase for the oil money and here is an interesting fact: in 1985 Air Zimbabwe, had more than 10 planes and Emirates had about five; fast forward to 2016 and Emirates has nearly 300 planes, employs nearly 40,000 and Air (Si)Zimbabwe has only 7 planes (most of them are grounded) and a $150m debt that must be added to the public debt. The question is: what do you have to showcase for the looting nationalist elite besides the harangues and decadent mansions? A ‘radical nationalism’ which has partially descended into naked racism, an indigenisation project which feeds the elites; a black empowerment policy which is anti-production and a party-state apparatus which acts extra-judicially is at the heart of our economic meltdown.
Zimbabwe needs a serious re-think of the mode of development that was ushered in by the ‘jambanja’ political economy. While the world is grappling with the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and what has been called the ‘internet of things’, Zimbabwe’s economy is stuck in a semi-feudal structure. Mcdonald Lewanika’s observation, in a working paper on the ‘future of work’ that Zimbabwe is locked in a slippery non-industrial vortex of ‘subsistence farming and informal economy’ is spot on. The informal economy, the cross border activity, the importation of cars from Japan and the night vending is indeed hard work by the citizen but this must never be mistaken for being a substantially accumulating economy. The economy needs to be rescued from a survival mode. In simple ways we need to look in the mirror and admit that ‘we have seen the enemy, it is us’
Tamuka C. Chirimambowa & Tinashe L. Chimedza are the Co-Editors of Gravitas.