Zimbabwe is currently going through tough economic times and those in authority seem clueless on crafting policies that will take the country forward owing to political bickering. The consequence has been that there is no consensus on what government policies are on critical issues. A case in point is ZANU PF saying it is government policy to take 51% shares of foreign owned companies by force (if it has to) whilst the MDC leadership saying this is not government policy and investors need not worry.
The consequence of this has been the continued stagnation of the economy, with Bulawayo industry facing extinction. Ask me, I would say, the question of the day should never be resolved by political expediency, but by the demands of the times, and that demand is to address the employment crisis.
Indigenisation as a policy is not the most important question of the day, but rather how government tackles the issue of poverty associated with rampant unemployment in the country. It all sounds good and sexy that we start talking about our people participating in the economy, but with unemployment raging in the 90% region, it is irresponsible and suicidal not to tackle these social problems. History is awash with examples demonstrating that high levels of unemployment and poverty are recipes for “regime change”, and chaotic transitional phases.
If you are in power and do not create employment to absorb the university graduates and idle minds, you are warned that you are sowing a seed for your own downfall. Harare city centre is congested every hour with men, women and youth roaming the streets trying to keep themselves occupied until the sun comes down and they can go home. In some cases, people who are ordinarily supposed to be in employment have resorted to coming to town and gathering around street preachers to hear the gospel. The street preachers have even become popular- judging by the numbers they attract at any given time of the day.
The country needs to prioritise employment creation immediately and ensure that the industry already operating at low levels increases its capacity utilisation. This will automatically translate to increased demand for labour and formalizing the economy, translating to more revenue for the state. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a worker. We cannot be a nation of 14 million businessmen/women, or mining moguls because somebody ultimately has to provide the labour. What labour requires is dignity and fair remuneration that allows one to live a decent life and afford the basics of life.
Recently Minister Kasukuwere is reported to have been arranging meetings with teachers to see how best they can benefit from the Indigenisation process. That is the most ridiculous suggestion I have ever heard. If all teachers are busy panning for gold or whatever, who will look after the future of the country? Like every other worker Teachers need good working conditions and fair remuneration for the great work they do.
With unemployment on the high side, my guess would be that it is important to come up with strategies to absorb skilled personnel back into the formal system who are currently doing ‘rese rese” in the streets. This business of chasing away investors and threatening business with closure will only leave us with shells to inherit. We need to unlock the potential and do everything possible to attract investment both local and foreign. That is answering the right question.