Saviour Kasukuwere is a giant of a man, almost standing at two metres. Like his first name denotes, he is seen as a ‘saviour’ for his nation having been deployed by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe with a strict detail.
He has to wrestle out the riches of the country from foreign hands and deliver them into the indigenous population. He exudes great passion about the task at hand. His consummate take of the subject and detail can easily convert skeptics. He sees the past decade, which brought extreme economic misery to his people, as a necessary revolution which had to be undertaken nevertheless.
The hardships endured were simply collateral for the bigger prize to get – changing the ownership rights of the national resources. He insists that appropriating the national resources for the indigenous population was necessary to level the economic playing field and to ensure that locals are not forever recipients of the economic leftovers. “It is our right to be in charge of our own economy,” he insists.
He justifies why they undertook a land redistribution exercise first and then shifted to minerals rights. Zimbabwe reeled from a worst economic collapse in the past decade after undertaking a very ambitious land redistribution exercise.
While government officials say it has gone down successfully, critics point to the collapse of the economy and the appropriation of land by the ruling elite as the bad side. Kasukuwere – the minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment – is oozing with praise for the good outcome of the exercise.
At the height of economic collapse the Zimbabwean dollar lost every value it had and shops running without any stock were a common sight while fuel was also in short supply. Many Zimbabweans jumped the collapsing economy to wear the unsavoury tag of ‘economic refugees’ in neighbouring countries while others found their way to some of the European countries, the United Kingdom in particular.
Kasukuwere makes no apologies about these developments. To him this had to happen for a major realignment of the ownership rights in the economy. This is just part of the unfolding story, according to him. The indigenisation train trudges on. At this stage it is reverting to the minerals sector. This coincidentally still focuses on the land.
“These people did not mind us owning the land. However they felt otherwise when we went for the belly of the earth. We must take control of our minerals. We are unwavering on this. The law is clear – you can try and bribe a minister but we will point you to what the law says,” he says. He maintains that the indigenisation law is not meant to favour the ruling elite.
“The workers in these mines, we say, should be empowered. They must be part of the ownership structure of the company,” Kasukuwere says. He says the economy has done very well in the past 18 months generating well over US$ 2 billion. They intend to use the returns on the investments in rolling out services to the communities and developing the infrastructure.
The indigenisation juggernaut will be closing in on the banks. He says without hesitation about the necessity of the majority owning and benefitting from the resources. “What economic crisis? There is no crisis. If you mine in Zimbabwe, the majority must benefit,” Kasukuwere bellows out, proclaiming success from the land redistribution exercise, saying US $600 million was made from the sale of tobacco last year.
“You can not continue to have tea in my house while I have nothing,” he justifies. He says land has been taken from 4000 white farmers and redistributed to 400 000 farmers who previously did not own any land. But not all agree with Kasukuwere. Some point to the drastic decline of production in farms that previously were the pride of Zimbabwe, ensuring self-sufficiency in food production.
The new owners are struggling to plough and use progressive farming methods to enhance and sustain production. But still Kasukuwere has an answer to the current low production. This was to be expected, he says. Locals have to adjust to a new working culture and adopt new farming methods not as workers but owners of the production systems. It has been a slow rebirth, but he challenges his countrymen to be prepared to work hard.
Things started getting better two years ago when the government ditched the valueless national currency and adopted the American Dollar. “They attacked our currency and we as such decided to use theirs.”
The Dollarisation of the economy was among the turnaround strategies. They also use the South African Rand in some areas.
They do not use coins, American cents in this case, with US $1 being the minimum currency in the market! $ 1 buys you a newspaper, five satchets of grandpa or a few seconds phone call. This is an expensive economy by all standards, at least for a person coming from outside used to other currencies with a lower value to the Dollar.
On the ground life has become better; at least the shops are fully stocked and there is sufficient fuel supply and jobs are being created. Major fuel suppliers and car dealers that had ditched the country are re-stocking.
They see the privilege of having been awarded the right to co-host with Zambia the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly as another opportunity to shore up the economy. What Saviour says with conviction is that his government’s rivals are equally passionate about what they point to as flagrant ruining of the economy! Elections are due in March and the state’s coffers have run dry. Understandably so – with a costly political solution in the form of Government of National Unity (GNU)! This came about after the disputed 2008 elections in which the opposition agreed to jointly serve in government, which resulted with a huge cabinet in which the ruling ZANU-PF and MDC-T share ministries.
Where there is a ZANU-PF minister he/she is deputised by an MDC-T member and vice-versa. The country had two vice presidents (until the death of John Nkomo last month), a prime minister and two deputy prime ministers. This translates into a heavy executive.
From the ZANU-PF faithful, in particular ministers and senior government officials talked to, there is a well-recited story – the future is bright and their party shall continue to govern. The opposition is convinced they are about to see the last of ZANU-PF. A new constitution is being debated which will ultimately pave way for elections after a referendum. As to which party will win elections and whether indeed the life of ordinary Zimbabweans will improve as a result of the current policies, only time will tell!.