Temper Euphoria With Extreme Vigilance [opinion] (allAfrica.com)

Spectrum
The insulting conditional “lifting” of a travel ban on Mugabe by the EU for a year “under his African Union chairmanship capacity” is revealing
PRESIDENT Mugabe’s rise to the chairmanship of Sadc and the African Union has excited conflicting emotions. Western detractors and local cynics feign indifference and dismiss the event as merely ceremonial but are barely able to conceal their visceral fear of what their nemesis can do to an otherwise supine Africa. Supporters are euphoric that an iconic African leader has confounded and shamed local and foreign detractors who did not want him to assume the mantle of Sadc and AU leadership.
The West is furiously bemused by Africa’s choice.
Then there is the inebriating euphoria of a nation which has for more than a decade been viewed as a pariah state and suffered an investment flight and drought. It is desperate to be “rehabilitated” into the community of nations.
Zimbabwe is being recreated and many delegations are flocking in to make investment deals. Foreign direct investment at any cost is the new buzzword.
The temptation to look good and to be most welcoming is great.
It is known that apart from China, India and Russia and Latin American countries, most European Union nations are furious with President Mugabe on behalf of Britain over the land reform, and that bids Zimbabwe engage European bloc members with eyes wide open. They will strike where it hurts the most when least expected.
Gaddafi lesson
If anything can be learnt from the experience of Libya and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, it is that imperialists and their agents don’t forgive and don’t forget.
White former commercial farmers who claim Zimbabwean citizenship have been vindictive in their bid to see Zimbabwe punished with economic sanctions, if not a military invasion, for the land reform programme in particular and black economic empowerment policies in general.
They have constituted themselves into a virtual fifth column without concealing their intention after the MDC project collapsed.
Britain, the US and their European allies see themselves as carrying the burden of vengeance for the land grievance and they would never want to have failed. It is in that context that the casual dismissal of Mugabe’s rise to the chairmanship of Sadc and the AU should be seen as no more than calculated dissembling by a temporarily beaten but relentless and vengeful enemy.
The “warming up” is a tried and tested trick. It would be foolhardy to view it in any other light.
President Mugabe will for the next year be the official voice of both Sadc and the African Union, carrying in that voice his “toxic” brand of politics. He has already declared that African resources are for Africans.
He has lamented the failure by the African Union to fund continental programmes and its own operations, thus leaving the continent open to the whims and caprices of the piper who must call the tune. He has called for value addition and beneficiation of Africa’s resources to derive maximum benefit from exports.
President Mugabe has also called for accelerated industrialisation and greater integration of the five continental blocs so that ultimately Africa is able to speak with one voice.
He wants Africa to claim its space in the sun given its population of over a billion people and an abundance of natural resources, rich farmlands, power-generation potential and a youthful population. Africans cannot continue to be subservient to the dictates of European states and America. This is “inflammatory” rhetoric that resonates among the poor.
Contagion
It is this desire to break free from the clutches of former colonial powers which is fuelling the West’s angst over Mugabe’s elevation.
While there are disingenuous assertions that Mugabe’s chairmanship of Sadc and the AU is symbolic, there is fear of a policy contagion, which doesn’t have to take the radical form it did in Zimbabwe. It is the idea which is viewed as dangerous.
We have already seen how Zuma has been jolted by Malema’s EFF to question the ANC’s willing seller, willing buyer approach to South Africa’s land reform.
And whenever Mugabe gets the platform to address the world, these issues will ring out bold and loud, this time not on behalf of an “isolated” Zimbabwe but for the rest of the exploited continent, for the oppressed peoples of the world up to Harlem and Chicago.
That dual chairmanship confers on him the legitimacy to speak for the whole continent, hence efforts by the West to block his ascent.
Europe and America’s anger at the African Union and Sadc for electing Mugabe chairman should temper the celebrations of victory for Zimbabwe. The insulting conditional “lifting” of a travel ban on Mugabe by the EU for a year “under his African Union chairmanship capacity” is revealing.
He was never punished as an AU or Sadc chairman; he was sanctioned for the land reform in his capacity as Zimbabwe’s President. In that capacity, nothing has changed, nothing is forgiven. The anti-land reform war rages on.
Small print
The strike will not come in a physical form. It won’t be a mailed fist. It will come in the form of investment, in the nature of deals signed if Zimbabwe’s technocrats are not scrupulous with detail.
A combination of euphoria and desperation for a miraculous economic recovery, if untamed by judicious attention to the proverbial small print, can lead to the signing of trade and investment agreements which make nonsense of Zimbabwe’s land reform and black economic empowerment policies.
These policies are for Zimbabwe what oil has been for Libya and Iraq. It is time for extreme vigilance.
Yet this is where our business leaders have been found wanting. Few appreciate the implications of IMF-inspired, one-size-fits-all prescription for so-called conducive and investor-friendly policies. Ease of doing business — meaning low labour costs, unlimited profit remittances and tax holidays, minimal mining royalties, policy clarity, security of investment, business approval period, taxation rates — is a devious template used to set African nations against each other to win the attention of already rich multinational corporations seeking to plunder their resources in exchange for low-paying jobs.
Host countries are told to fight corruption and cronyism as the major causes of their underdevelopment but ignore the billions of dollars siphoned out of Africa in the form of illicit financial outflows, hence the gross mismatch between claimed investment figures and the self-evident poverty in all African nations.
Countries such as Zimbabwe which are keen to study the “small print” are blamed even by their own business leaders for deterring investors.
Whose investment? For whose benefit? Why should one investment template apply to all; is Africa one country?
How do we reconcile attempts to foist a similar investment armature on countries as diverse as highly industrialised America, Germany and Japan on the one hand, and underdeveloped states like Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi on the other?
Which rights?
Zimbabwe’s development trajectory should avoid the Johannesburg syndrome where one sees magnificent skyscrapers, expensive shopping malls and glittering hotels which a majority of South Africans access only through the back-door either as cleaners, garbage collectors, waiters or security guards or poorly paid shop assistants.
This is foreign investment without social content. People work but live in squalor after all the profit is creamed off by the investor.
Mugabe’s fight is for a fair distribution of that profit. He has been turned into a tragic hero because his opposition rivals who cannot mount a serious challenge to his pro-poor policies have chosen instead to magnify what should be peripheral matters in the current fight against multinational corporations plundering African resources. Rule of law, gay rights, human rights and property rights get a higher rating than economic rights.
Unfortunately, Zanu-PF has allowed its internal fights for power to divert attention from the goals of the land reform, black economic empowerment and implementation of Zim-Asset.
This has only given ammunition to its local rivals and enemies in Europe and America to condemn those policies.
Zimbabwe is being advised to repeat the same dogmas which have failed to enrich the rest of Africa in the vain hope that for us the outcome will be different.
Mugabe is telling Africa no, let’s change the rules of engagement. We can leverage our natural resources and human capital. That is the only way out of poverty. That is why Europe and America are extremely anxious about Mugabe leading the AU and Sadc.
But experience has shown that everyone demonised by Europe and America must be doing something positive for Africa regardless of faults here and there.
Many such have had their lives cut in their prime.
Mugabe has survived to tell of their grief and longings.
Source: Business