We Disband Loyalty Based Economic System [opinion] (allAfrica.com)

ZIMBABWE is capable of delivering a remarkable standard of living to her presently poverty stricken citizens and that is if she disbands loyalty driven economic policy implementations.
Loyalty is a good thing but the truth is better than loyalty. A loyalty driven society depends on “who you know” and yet a truth driven society depends on “what one knows” or on ability. Unfortunately Zimbabwe is implementing its general economic blue prints and policies on a “who you know basis” at the detriment of competence.
Competence should have been one of the integral pillars of our land reform and other economic empowerment policy programs.
Our loyalty based economic system benefits a sub group of a few individuals and entities. Instead of policies benefiting the vulnerable and less privileged, the policies are geared to be punitive and a burden to the vulnerable. Zimbabwe is just like Saudi Arabia were billions of dollars are channelled to benefit a few families; it’s shocking that such a country with abundant oil resources still has people dying of malnutrition. Zimbabwe is probably worse as we have the majority of our people living in abject poverty despite also having good weather, land and other natural resources. A competence based reward system would be able to deliver a better economy to most or if not all.
Loyalty driven economic reform and reward system is economically dangerous, devastating and destructive. As a country we have clarity of the hindsight, believing since we know the outcomes of the destructive land “reform” and that we can rely upon recollection of disastrous events, we could have been moving at bettering our failed models. We must have learnt from the myth called land reform which neither created a better economy nor corrected historical imbalance. The reform simply created a new class of land owners. We should do a recollection of our history and understood the gravity of the eventual outcomes pursuant to the land “reform”. Our agriculture industry cannot move forward ever since it was placed in the hands of a sub group of loyal but mostly incompetent “farmers”. The general economy is not likely to move forward with such systems too.
Our pride as a nation was taken away as we are now net importers of basically most of the food we used to produce on our own including but not limited to maize, fruits, vegetables, wheat and potatoes. In addition we have some of our communities still being fed bulgur wheat and maize imports donated by governments perceived hostile to Zimbabwe. It’s appalling that after this loyalty based land “reform” we still have children suffering and dying of malnutrition. We have to be ashamed as a nation to have a tag of being the second poorest nation in the world. Zimbabwe is worth to be venerated, exalted and celebrated yet all over the world it’s difficult to hold our heads high and be proud to be Zimbabweans. We could have avoided this by doing a structured reform through parcelling land to those competent and with sufficient passion and time to farm.
Land allocation should not have been based on influence, patronage, loyalty or “who you know” within the powerful corridors of government, political parties or society. It should also not have been a “long service award” for being a member of a certain sub group. This loyalty or “who you know” based resource allocation suffocates meritocracy. Some people are farmers some simply cannot be. The statistical evidence is all there for any neutral observer to see that these “connected” farmers are just not good farmers at all-and should not have been considered, entitled and cloned for farming ventures.
The “new” farmers have an obligation to make Zimbabwe have competitive, sustainable and progressive agriculture sector. The obligation must go beyond just feeding their families but the entire nation. The land they obtained through a well-oiled patronage system is for Zimbabweans and they simply hold it in trust. They should either produce or they should be forced to handover their pieces of land to those who have abilities to farm.
Land allocation should have followed a more transparent governance framework and competence profiling to define benefiaries.This should not really assume a complex university taught certification model or some balance score card model, though it could be a complimentary tool to set minimum standards. In its simple form sabhuku wangu Tegwe vonoziwa hurudza dzavo (my village headman Tegwe knows competent farmers in his village).
The land reform disaster should have been our learning curve but unfortunately we have already forgotten the pain it is still causing. The same land reform pitfalls are being followed in the same random, arrogant and often incoherent economic empowerment trajectory. A nation that fails to learn from history will always be in the dustbin of historical annals and never create legacies. Our country needs to change the benefit system in its economic empowerment thrust. Those entities or individuals who benefit from economic empowerment should match or exceed a pre-set competence profile of requisite sector based Knowledge, Skills and Abilities. A robust corporate governance framework that prevents incompetent and sub group loyal entities and individuals to straddle all economic empowerment deals.
Our present economic empowerment model does not become meaningful due to the words or propaganda we ascribe to it. Our wishful thinking that we are a unique generation of empowerment will not deliver socially sustainable economic growth or create employment. We are not unique! Revolutions of this nature have happened all over the world in one form or another. The revolutions that delivered success had competence based reward systems.
The Reserve Bank Debt assumption bill is yet another manifest of a “who you know” society attempting to foist the pains of their opaque benefits to peasants and bottom of the pyramid workers. These loyalists have invisibilities they maintain, especially those that benefit the most. There is this inability to recognize that any of the advantages they obtain are a direct result of disadvantages in equal proportion to poverty stricken and economically suffering peasants and ordinary workers. That total lack of awareness and callousness results in the present mischief of the privileged few to vote for debt assumption when the debtors remain some mystery. Zimbabwe seems to move in ways that punishes the poor. A system that hedges decorated debtors from their delinquency is loyalty that has been taken far especially in respect of callousness. The same applies to the recent debt purchasing schemes by the central bank.
The loyalty driven system straddles every facet of Zimbabwe’s economic society including mining claims, hunting safaris, fuel blending, bank loans and government tenders. It’s not socially and economically sustainable. We won’t move forward to deliver growth and employment but benefit just a few connected families.
Director appointments in state enterprises are almost an old boys club or a network of country club members. We have a situation where we have career board members who have never infused new ideas and innovations into the plethora of companies they lead. If they had infused new ideas we wouldn’t be faced with companies that have failed to deliver employment or positive returns on investment. We have loyalists who follow ministers’ boards from one ministry to the other. We can’t have a country that is a preserve of a few. We will fail as a country.
Unfortunately bad policies should have been stopped cold before enactment because they are often never repealed after promulgation. My take on correcting and moving forward is as follows:
Land reform was an unavoidable policy in as much as it was expected to correct historical imbalances. It was just done in a chaotic and incoherent manner that benefited those loyal to an already existing well established social, political and economic class. To move forward the country may ideally decide to undertake a Performance Gap Analysis audit to enable capacity building through training and skills transfer. Just like in a properly governed company those who fail to deliver in a few years after the interventions must be booted out of the farms because the farms are for all Zimbabweans. 91 year leases should be disbanded in the interim until such a time we have farmers able to deliver economic success to the generality of Zimbabweans.
The economic empowerment model must be disbanded. The country needs to redesign and redeploy a more equitable and sustainable economic empowerment model. A system that promotes competence profiling and a robust compulsory corporate governance framework should be designed and deployed.
The authorities must limit board sittings. The country leaders must have an independently managed database of potential directors. Boards must have limited terms. The country must never allow perpetual board members.
Lastly, as I have said, Zimbabwe has potential to deliver a remarkable standard of living to its citizens. The right thing is to abandon a loyalty based reward system going forward. To create a lasting legacy for this generation some warped policies must be abandoned. We must have a fresh start of any economy that is based on competence instead of loyalty.
Brian Sedze is a Strategy and Innovation author and consultant. He is the President of Free Enterprise Initiative and Chairman of Africa Innovation Hub. He can be contacted on brian.sedze@gmail.com