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regarding parliamentary motion on the meltdown of the Zimbabwean
MR COLTART: We have just
been entertained for the last ten minutes by my hon. friend. One
thing that Hon Kasukuwere (the Deputy Minister of Youth Development
and Employment Creation responsible for the Youth Brigades) has
said I think should dominate this debate: namely the question -
how do we protect the vulnerable in our society? If we are to be
committed patriotic Zimbabweans that question should dominate this
debate. The reality is that our current economic situation has never
been so depressed and poor people have never been as vulnerable
as they are now. This is not MDC propaganda; if you look at the
article on Zimbabwe, that the Zimbabwe government sponsored to the
tune of US$ 1 million, in the September edition of New Africa magazine
you will see some of the statements made in that document support
what I am saying.
Let me refer you to part
of the magazine; for instance it records that our GDP as a nation
is back to the level of 1953. We have lost over 50 years of economic
growth in the space of a decade. It is estimated also in New Africa
magazine that 80% of Zimbabweans are now living below the poverty
datum line including members of our armed forces. Our economy is
collapsing. For example gold production last year was the same as
our gold production in
1907! It is the lowest gold production since 1907. The last time
we had the coal production as low as it was last year was in 1946.
These are facts that none of us can avoid. We see the manifestation
of these things when we visit the supermarkets which the hon. member
has spoken about. The reality is what we have seen in our supermarkets
is the symptom of a far deeper cancer in our society.
There has been a lot
of debate and a lot of propaganda from the other side of the house
about sanctions being to blame. This is of course the chorus from
our friends from the other side but the reality is that Zimbabwe
should be one of the wealthiest nations in Africa irrespective of
the targeted sanctions imposed on the ruling elite. When you look
at our human resources, when you consider our highly educated workforce,
which is a credit to this government, if you look at the literacy
rate of Zimbabweans - which used to be among the highest in Africa
- possibly still are the highest in Africa - you will see that we
have some of the most productive people in Africa. That is something
that we can all be proud of as patriots of this country; we certainly
should be. We also have a very motivated work force. We have natural
resources that are not found in such abundance per capita in any
other country in the world. Once again I refer to the New Africa
article; in that articl e you will find a document about our natural
resources and minerals. We have the second biggest reserves of platinum
in the world. 60% of our nation comprises the particular granite,
greystone-granite, in which gold is found. We have nickel, diamond
and titanium in abundance - a full range of minerals. This is one
of the most beautiful countries in the world. We have one of the
Seven Wonders of the World, the Victoria Falls. In other words Mr.
Speaker, we have all the resources I have mentioned that should
make Zimbabwe a great nation irrespective of any sanctions. We seemingly
have had all the ingredients to make a great nation over the last
27 years since independence and yet we are now faced with the catastrophic
situation of 7 500% inflation - the official government figure -
and 80% are below the poverty datum line, and 3500 people are dying
of preventable ailments. The World Health Organisation said last
year that we have the lowest life expectancy in the world.
We as patriots
need to sit down together and consider afresh this catastrophe as
Zimbabweans - whether we are ZANU PF, of whatever faction, whether
we are MDC, of whatever flavour. We need to go deep into our history
to find when it was that everything started to go wrong.. Why is
it that in 1958 we had an economy bigger than Singapore? And yet
since 1958 we all, black and white, have managed to reduce this
country to the basket status it now suffers from. In my view the
problems started well before 1980. The root of our decay can be
traced back to many of the policies first implemented in the early
1960s. For example I believe that price control regulations were
imposed in the 1960's. Foreign exchange regulations were imposed
in the 1960's but most importantly Mr. Speaker what happened in
the 60's is that we removed one critical important ingredient necessary
for long term sustainable economic growth and that is summed up
in one word - democracy.
The Rhodesian Front government,
in the pursuance of white minority rule, discarded whatever democracy
was developing this country in the 1950s under the leadership of
real patriots such as Garfield Todd. Therein lies the root of the
economic collapse of this country. The Rhodesian Front bequeathed
to ZANU PF an undemocratic legacy including the Law and Order Maintenance
Act, an undemocratic Constitution, complete control of the flow
of information - the RBC simply became the ZBC and did not change
its policies of supporting blindly the government of the day - price
controls and exchange control regulations. ZANU PF merely picked
up where the Rhodesian Front left off.
Mr. Speaker, it is time,
if we are serious about the plight of our nation, that we start
to consider the situation of the vulnerable in our society. - [HMS:
Inaudible interjection] - Hon. Kasukuwere may not be seeing the
plight of the vulnerable in his constituency but I do in mine. I
have seen people getting thinner by the week; I can see that thousands
of people in Nketa High density suburb have no or little access
to food, water, drugs and basic health care. We all need to move
beyond rhetoric and consider the plight of the vulnerable in our
Mr. Speaker, my hon.
Friend blames everything on sanctions and I want to look at that
now. The first point I want to make is that we must consider the
history of this country in this regard. We know that in 1966 the
United Nations very correctly imposed on the white minority government
of Rhodesia comprehensive trade and economic sanctions. They were
a censure imposed by the UN of racist policies. They were overwhelmingly
enforced. The only countries that breached those sanctions were
South Africa and Portugal and partially by some countries like France.
The point I am making is that they were comprehensive trade and
economic sanctions imposed on the regime led by Ian Smith - [an
HON MEMBER: An illegal regime] - yes illegal.
However the fact is that
after some 14 years of these sanctions in 1980 the Zimbabwean dollar
was stronger than the United States dollar. In case someone thinks
I am trying to defend the racist policies of the Rhodesian Front,
let me make no doubt about the point I am making. I am not seeking
to be an apologist for the Rhodesian Front. The point I am simply
making is that despite the imposition of comprehensive trade sanctions
over a period of fourteen years on the Rhodesian Front regime, the
Zimbabwean economy was nowhere near in a catastrophic state as it
is now - [HON KASUKUWERE: It was a white man's economy]- let me
respond to Hon Kasukuwere: it may well have been a white man's economy
but despite that most people of all races then had basic access
to food, water and drugs, which they do not have now. Mr. Speaker,
we are dealing with old historic facts. Irrespective of who is responsible
for the imposition of the sanctions and what their scope is, the
fact remains tha t the present targeted sanctions are not as comprehensive
as the sanctions imposed on 1966. This then begs the question: why
then has our economy collapsed almost totally under a more benign
regime of sanctions now? The reason is simple - the targeted sanctions
imposed on the ruling elite are not the cause of our economic woes.
Speaker the sanctions, such as they are, were first imposed in 2002.
However if you look at the pattern of economic decline in this country,
we can see the economic decline did not start in 2002 but started
in 1997. If my hon. friend is prepared to consider the historic
facts, he will see that the Zimbabwean economy started its major
decline in 1997. The first thing that started the collapse, as my
Hon. friend Mr Mashakada has already stated in his speech moving
this motion, is that this government sent Zimbabwean troops, not
in Zimbabwe's interests but to protect private mining interests
of the ruling elite, to the Democratic Republic of Congo in
Mr. Speaker, unbudgeted payments were made to war veterans in 1997
which greatly increased the budget deficit and as a result the Zimbabwean
dollar plummeted and lost something like three to four times its
value in November 1997 - on the day commonly known as 'Black Friday'.
If one considers the economic records you will see that there was
a further steady decline from 1997 to 2002, five years before sanctions
were ever imposed.
Thirdly, Mr Speaker,
there is the historical fact that sanctions have not been imposed
on the Zimbabwean people but have been imposed primarily on particular
individuals. There is, of course, the American measure which prohibits
the American government from voting in Zimbabwe's favour in the
IMF and World Bank. That however only applies to the American government.
It does not apply to the European Union. It does not apply to Japan,
China, Canada and many other wealthy countries.
In other words, that
provision is limited to one country. In fact it does not prevent
the Zimbabwean government from seeking loans from other developed
countries and it still has the right to seek assistance from many
international financial institutions. The current sanctions regime
does not prevent the government of Zimbabwe from seeking loans from
any country in the world. The fact that we have battled to get support
is not because of American sanctions but because our economic fundamentals
are all skewed. In this regard Mr. Speaker Sir, we need to turn
to what our neighbours have said and in particular we need to consider
what none other than President Mbeki said in his weekly letter to
the ANC just ten days ago. He said two things in particular: first
was that the Zimbabwe government needs to address the overvaluation
of the Zimbabwe dollar. The second thing was that the Zimbabwe government
needs to end the quasi-fiscal expenditure which has been hallmark
of this go vernment's economic policy over the last few years.
Mr. Speaker if we consider
these two aspects of economic policy, we will see these comments
go to the very core of what this government stands for. The reason
that we have our exchange rate pegged at ridiculous levels - the
reason the Zimbabwe dollar is still pegged at $250 to 1 against
the US dollar - is because this benefits the ruling elite which
is still able to buy foreign currency at these ridiculous rates.
Mr. Speaker, the regulations
which require the productive sector to sell a certain portion of
its foreign exchange earnings to government at ridiculously low
exchange rates are part of this ruinous policy. The tragedy is that
much of the foreign currency that is acquired is not used for the
benefit of all the people of Zimbabwe. The tragedy - if the truth
is told -is that it is political elite in the country which benefits
from this policy. The preferential access to foreign exchange at
staggeringly low rates of exchange, that bear no relation to the
real value of the Zimbabwe dollar, is done at the expense of the
Mr. Speaker, until what
President Mbeki said is listened to, until the exchange rate policy
is looked at, until we bring to an end the preferential access that
certain people have to foreign currency, until we bring to an end
the unbudgeted quasi fiscal spending, until we end the irresponsible
printing of money, our national economic woes will continue. We
need to take into account very seriously what President Mbeki said
to the ANC recently.
Mr. Speaker, let me turn
briefly to the issue of price control and the Indigenisation Bill.
I will not dwell too long on these issues. Let me just say these
price control measures were introduced as a knee jerk reaction to
the rapid hyper inflation experienced in late June. The tragedy
regarding the imposition of the price controls is that just the
opposite of what was intended will now happen. Far from this quelling
inflation it has already fuelled inflation. There has been some
short term benefit to some people but time will show that that is
only a small short term benefit because all that has happened is
that products that were in the formal sector, and therefore subject
to some form of control, are now being sold by the informal sector,
the black market sector, and prices are rocketing.
Until, Mr. Speaker, we
get back to a situation where the market determines the price of
products this price control policy will not be in the interests
of impoverished members of our society. We must stop kidding ourselves.
This new policy will only increase inflation.
Let me turn briefly to
the Indigenisation Bill in response to Hon. Kasukuwere. There is
no doubt that because of the historical inequalities and injustices
there is a need for balance and fairness in our society. The problem
is that this policy as it is being devised will, firstly in my view,
not benefit the generality of the people but will only benefit certain
people in the ruling elite, which should not be the intention. Until
the whole process is opened up, until we can see that assets are
going to be transferred to the vast majority of our population,
it will not be in the interests of Zimbabwe. We have the land reform
programme as a precedent in this regard. We can all see the evidence
regarding what has happened in that regard. Mr. Speaker, it is now
clear to all objective observers that the main beneficiaries of
the land reform programme are those in the ruling elite. The biggest
benefit has gone to those political and military leaders who have
cherry picked the most productive farms most of which have now been
rendered derelict. That is not in the best interests of Zimbabwe.
I have no doubt that the same will happen to our businesses if the
Indigenisation Bill goes through in its current format.
Let me end by talking
about the future of our country. (Inaudible interjections) Mr. Speaker,
I have the right to speak about Zimbabwe as much as anyone here.
I was born in Gweru in 1957 and my roots in Africa go back to 1820
- so I think I have the right to speak about my country and I will.
We need to ask ourselves the question - why is it that Singapore
which had a smaller economy than ours in 1958 is now one of the
strongest economies in the world and yet our nation during the last
forty years has been reduced to the basket status it is now?
Long before sanctions
or the MDC became part of the body politic of this country our country
lagged behind Singapore. It started lagging behind Singapore in
the 1960s when the racist and unjust policies of the white minority
government were imposed. In the 27 years of majority rule nothing
has changed regarding the deterioration of our economy save that
the economy has rapidly worsened. After the last seven years of
social, moral and economic collapse we need a national healing.
We should not be shouting at each other when hundreds, if not thousands,
of people are dying each and every day throughout the country.
We need to recognise
where the roots of our national malaise lie. We need to recognise
that they go way beyond 1980; they go way beyond ZANU PF's rule.
The roots of our problems go back to the time when the brief flicker
of democracy that we saw in the 1950s was snuffed out. We need to
go back to that time to see whether we can revive that tiny flame
of democracy that had started to shine in the 1950s. We all need
to transform our nation, collectively, into one we can all be proud
We need the following,
Mr. Speaker, firstly we need to rekindle democracy in our nation.
We need to take concrete steps to root democracy. Integral to that
is a new constitution; but it must be a new constitution that we
all agree to; a constitution which is owned, which is embraced by
all Zimbabweans. It cannot just be a document we agree to in this
House; any new constitution must be embraced by all our people.
We need to enter into a new contract with each other and the Zimbabwean
people (Inaudible interjections) - Mr. Speaker it is a great shame
that some of our colleagues cannot listen to this because we are
in an unprecedented national crisis - but that is the first point
- we need to root democracy in our nation Zimbabwe.
Secondly, Mr Speaker,
we need to remove many of the controls over our society and our
economy. I would like in this regard to return to Hon Kasukuwere's
speech and his example of China. Hon. Kasukuwere spoke about China
as a great example. I think we have many lessons to learn from China.
There are 4 or 5 provinces of China which are responsible for the
bulk of economic growth enjoyed there at present. These provinces
have some of the most liberal economic environments one can find
anywhere in the world. There is minimal legislation which controls
the activities of the private sector - indeed I stress there is
less bureaucracy, less red tape for businesses in these provinces
than there is in any other country in the world. That is a fact.
In other words, the Chinese
Government has embraced the private sector and this has promoted
growth in its economy with spectacular results. What we are doing
now in Zimbabwe through price controls and through certain provisions
in the Indigenisation Bill is just the opposite.
Price controls inhibit
the private sector's ability to grow. If we would but embrace the
free market that itself controls prices through healthy competition.
If we discourage foreign investment in this country, as the Indigenisation
Bill will do, we will only guarantee one thing - that much needed
foreign exchange will become even scarcer. Without substantial inflows
of foreign exchange into our country, we cannot not grow our economy,
as we need to.
Mr. Speaker, I guarantee
that in China you will find that there are no such prohibitions
against foreign investors controlling their businesses. There is
no 51% control clause as there is in the Indigenisation Bill in
any Chinese law and that is why companies like Nike and Chevron
and thousands of multi-national companies have invested in China
and have assisted China to achieve the spectacular growth it has.
In conclusion, may I
repeat that our nation is in crisis - the resolution of that crisis
should transcend partisanship. We need to put our hands together
in this House to devise policies than can stabilise our country.
We need to devise policies which will bring back our brains. Mr.
Speaker, it is unacceptable that we have exported our best brains.
Our young people - so supremely talented - are not in this country
any longer. We need to devise policies to bring them back, to bring
skills back so that we can stabilise and then revitalise our country.
We should all work for an economic turnaround and deal with the
harsh realities facing our nation rather than engage in meaningless
and destructive rhetoric.
Mr. Speaker, if we move
away from rhetoric to constructive action I have no doubt that this
nation can still be the jewel of Africa - [DR. MUGUTI: It is the
jewel of Africa]-No, at present it is not but it has the potential
to become that - but that can only happen when all of us move away
from all this empty rhetoric to consider the harsh circumstances
that the poor are facing in our nation today. Our futile posturing
must stop immediately. We must, without delay, devise practical
solutions to address this economic and humanitarian catastrophe.
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