March 23rd, 2011
02:42 PM GMT
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Tendai Biti, the Zimbabwean Finance Minister, is a history buff. He loves to read about the Second World War and he is passionate about understanding his country in the greater context of history.

While he doesn’t want to underestimate the political challenges facing Zimbabwe, he believes the international community has failed Zimbabwe and that he and his countrymen have been “hung out to dry.”

When Biti and his party, the MDC, joined Robert Mugabe’s party in a coalition government two years ago, there was hope that the stabilization brought about by the political agreement would see a flurry of foreign investment. It wasn’t to be.

Biti is now on a mission to urge the West to engage more with Zimbabwe and quotes the impact of the 1947 Marshall Plan as proof of what can be done if there is political will.

Biti believes the international community has mismanaged recovery in the past two years. He says the West has failed to understand the dynamics of the country and been “unstrategic” in their dealings with Zimbabwe.

He identifies three attitudes hindering foreign investment in Zimbabwe. The first school of thought is “wait and see what happens.” The second approach urges Zimbabweans to “show progress, give proof they are moving” and the third way is to say, “as long as Mugabe is there we will never engage.” He says all positions are wrong. He suggests finding ways to do business with ordinary Zimbabweans.

Many who listen to his studied argument are not convinced. There is a sense that Zimbabwe – despite the unity government – is still firmly in the grip of Robert Mugabe and that the political future of the country is unpredictable.

Will foreign-owned companies be expropriated? How secure are property rights? How much longer can the fragile coalition hold? Will an early election bring more violence and intimidation?

All questions that no doubt infuriate Tendai Biti as he tries to rebuild an economy on the rickety foundations of a coalition government that even he calls an “unholy alliance.”

But here’s another: Will Zimbabwe confound the sceptics and increase investor confidence if the international community continues to be blamed for being too cautious?

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. lorne

    who would give a dime to this rathole.
    when mugabe dies then it can be freed.
    mugabe you could have been like mandela instead you went to the dark side
    your tarnished forever in the history books just another 3rd world killer and dictator

    March 23, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  2. kemetalkebulan

    THE Government has achieved its objective of empowering indigenous Zimbabweans through the land reform programme as two-thirds of the beneficiaries are ordinary citizens, a new study has revealed.

    The research, conducted by the African Institute for Agrarian Studies and led by Professor Sam Moyo, has found that most beneficiaries were from rural farming backgrounds and unemployed.

    It also says the newly resettled farmers continue to improve despite experiencing financial constraints.

    In the research report, Prof Moyo dismisses assertions that the programme had seen an increase in causal labour, saying a large proportion of maize and cotton produced in recent years originated from newly resettled farmers as confirmed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Food Programme Report of 2009.

    Part of the report reads: “The results of the survey indicate that there is scant evidence to support most of the commonly held assertions regarding the outcome of the fast-track land reform process in terms of who gained access to land, their security of tenure and the failure to realise meaningful rural social reproduction.

    “Only about 15 percent of the land beneficiaries could be considered ‘elites’, including high-level employees and businesspeople who are connected to Government and the ruling Zanu-PF.

    “By far, the largest number of beneficiaries are people who have a relatively low social status and limited political or financial (commercial) connections, although some of these may have important local connections and influence.

    “Most of the beneficiaries were from rural farming backgrounds (mainly in communal areas and as farm workers), while many of the urban beneficiaries are working people and from among the unemployed.”

    The study, which is said to be the only extensive survey of six districts across six provinces in most of the agro-ecological regions, shows that land tenure insecurity is not a major problem in resettlement areas.

    It also emerged during the survey that inadequate input supply has hampered production in recent years.

    “The majority (of new farmers) were resettled from neighbouring rural settings, to which many remain connected.

    “A much lower proportion of the land beneficiaries, than is often alleged, remains in formal employment and has access to State resources, given also that the job market has been deteriorating and that there has been inadequate public input supply and financial support.

    “Land tenure insecurity is not commonly cited as a problem in the newly redistributed areas, as only 18 percent of the beneficiaries cite either land conflicts, including their lack of ‘title’ and fear of eviction as factors which limit their social reproduction and/or production. Instead, crop inputs by most land beneficiaries are found to be the main constraint to agricultural production.”

    In an interview last week, University of Edinburgh (Scotland) PhD candidate and researcher Mr Grasian Mkodzongi said the fast-track land reform programme was successful.

    He, however, cited inadequate funding as a major impediment to increased yields.

    “The land reform programme was, to a large extent, successful and it’s not true that it only benefited the well-connected,” he said.

    “It also benefited poor people from rural areas and the unemployed.”

    Last year a Professorial Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at Sussex University in the United Kingdom, Professor Ian Scoones, also published a study on the programme, declaring it a success.

    “There has been a lot of distortion and misleading facts.

    “Debates have stuck in emotional and ideological positions around land,” he said.

    Prof Scoones said some crops grown by small-scale farmers since the beginning of the reforms had increased tremendously.

    Small grain production went up by 163 percent, edible dry bean production by a whopping 282 percent and cotton by 13 percent.

    “The agricultural sector has been transformed and there are problems but it has certainly not collapsed,” he said.

    Of the 400 resettled farmers interviewed during the research, only 5 percent could be categorised as elites, he added. “Yes, there have been problems. We would not deny that has been part of the story, but it’s not the whole story,” he said.

    “We have to appreciate both the successes and failures and not to take a misleadingly one-sided perspective on it all.

    “Sometimes this is reported in very respectable newspapers in the UK, South Africa and Zimbabwe, but this is simply not supported by facts on the ground. Sure, there are elites who have benefited, but, overall and certainly from our study, we found that about two-thirds of the beneficiaries were mostly poor people from rural areas

    March 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  3. kemetalkebulan

    Mugabe is right. Africa needs more men like Mugabe.
    Zimbabwe politics
    Well, many are led by the western media to think Mugabe is another mad, greedy, ruthless African dictator holding on to power, but also wondered why many respected Africans including Mandela never crisis Mugabe. A lot of African leaders say Mugabe is being demonised needlessly. Why he still enjoy considerable support from Zimbabweans, why many see him as a symbol of African resistance to neo colonialism. I may be right but I personally think some of the issues below make it very unfair on this poor 83 year old Mugabe!!

    Mr Tsvangirai, who leads the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, is funded by the United Kingdom and the United States. I can't even imagine the thought of having the Conservative party in UK being funded by the Russians or The Democrats in USA being funded by the Chinese government. The liberal democrats being funded by North Korea. However the west sees no problem in funding and removing governments willy-nilly. Tony Blair, the former British prime mister has been quoted several times confirming that the British government is funding Zimbabwe opposition.

    Whilst Mugabe called for national healing and reconciliation and pardoned the white minority government which had allegedly performed human rights abuses at Zimbabwe independence in 1980, the USA and UK; and the so called Allies never forgave the Nazis and there are currently still operations to hunt down some of the escapees Nazis allegedly involved with human right abuses.

    Where in the world can foreigners own 90% of local resources and the government does nothing except in Africa. In Zimbabwe about 70% the nation's arable land was under the control of about 4,500 farmers that were almost exclusively white Zimbabweans in a country with a population of about 12 million.

    Mugabe who was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1994 by the Queen of England was the western world's favourite African leader till he introduced the land distribution program to black Zimbabweans that was appropriated from white farmers in the year after the knighthood. That very same year Mugabe introduced the land program, a year after knighthood, Mugabe was considered a villain. How can you explain that someone knighted by the Queen one year and the next year considered a leader of Axis of evil state. Robert Mugabe stated that his land reform policies were to address land ownership patterns that had not changed since black Zimbabweans were not legally allowed to purchase most land during the days of apartheid-style minority governance before Zimbabwe.

    Whilst in Western society we celebrate the length of the queen of England reign and treat the royal family with dignity and do not question their reign, the same can not be said when it comes to African political structures. I once studied African history and politics and my understanding is that African political structure is a mixture of royalty and western governance- that's why most leaders act in several capacities as "kings", "head of states", etc. I think the west should respect that instead of imposing their own version of governance on other nations. Everyone criticizes Mugabe for long periods in office, yet Gordon Browns dines with Gadaffi (who has been in power much longer that Mugabe and does not even have elections at all) and have prison deals, oil deals etc. Is that fair!!!

    * No matter how many times the media and the west predict his downfall this man still prevails. I personally think Mugabe is one of the greatest politicians ever to walk on earth. Far greater than Obama, Margret Thatcher, Mandela etc. In addition Mugabe is probably the most educated political leader ever with seven academic degrees including law and economics and holds more than 10 honorary degrees and doctorates from international universities.

    March 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  4. kemetalkebulan


    March 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  5. SaManyika

    We have always known that the Western media was lying about the land redistribution process here. They were trying to serving white interests in a nation thats 99.8% black. The same kind of lies are now being told about that Chiadzwa diamond field. My home area is less than 35km from Chiadzwa and yet we read via BBC, CNN that there are mass murders, lootings, forced labor, out of control soldiers, blood diamonds ect. and yet we have never seen it here...amazing what the media can do.

    March 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  6. Gono

    Biti is a "history buff"? Funny he enjoys reading about WWII and seems clueless about Zimbabwe's own liberation history. Give us a break about Biti. Everyone in Zim knows that he is an inept politician, a crude administrator and an intellectual crook.

    March 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  7. Gono

    WikiLeaks has told us that Biti has been actively involved in structuring sanctions on Zimbabwe. How can he then turn around and claim to be working for economic progress when he invites sanctions on that same economy? This is the kind of hypocrisy that I thought only existed in America!

    March 24, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  8. C Bunjira

    I very much doubt that Tendai Biti has understood the impact of the deceit MDC orchestrated when they plotted to remove Zanu-pf, by whatever means – between 1997/8. It is sad that he (Biti) now has all to undo.

    Given The West are in a preordainment of the educated post-modern mind, helping Zimbabwe back on it's feet would mean a stronger economy surpassing even Western economies. African nations, who are all clearly anti-Western – regardless of their media positions and official statements, have not looked too kindly or taken kindly to MDC's position. Seeking aid from the West to formulate their politics and begging for sanctions really looks and feels absurd.

    It is amusing that Tendai Biti has spend more time on Western History instead of Zimbabwean History. Had he actually focused more on home soil politics, he would have been more pragmatic. Biti fails to understand that in as much as people didn't agree with the continued leadership of Zanu-pf, it is the MDC who caused the economic turmoil in Zimbabwe. By begging for those sanctions, MDC crippled the Zimbabwean economy – no matter how the media tries to dress up the facts. This is something every Zimbabwean is clear of.

    Because the Western position was never to help Zimbabwe, but to exploit the spoils of the political dispensation – they continue to take Biti for a fool because The West understands what Biti's MDC party stand for.

    The MDC is a party of opportunist, that a serious Zimbabwean would never consider supporting it.

    On this background lets consider the real questions here:
    " Will foreign-owned companies be expropriated? How secure are property rights? How much longer can the fragile coalition hold? Will an early election bring more violence and intimidation?

    All questions that no doubt infuriate Tendai Biti as he tries to rebuild an economy on the rickety foundations of a coalition government that even he calls an “unholy alliance.”

    But here’s another: Will Zimbabwe confound the sceptics and increase investor confidence if the international community continues to be blamed for being too cautious?"

    1. An early election would probably bring violence. Especially now that Zanu-pf feels it's misunderstood, and with the jaws of sanctions still in place, liberty of choice is undermined. One can't actually have an opinion without being considered a sell-out if you choose to be anti Zanu-pf. So the MDC has complicated the right of choice for any other political party that wishes to establish itself.

    2. Foreign investment is key at this stage of the re-building process. I don't agree with any notion that foreign firms will be expropriated. I think what is more likely to happen is, introduction of stringent measures and red-tape for foreign investment which may detract investment, but nevertheless protecting foreign investment.

    3. On the aspect of property rights, it's still a cloudy mist for the Agriculture sector. I don't think property rights are under any threat in the residential or industrial sector. In fact, there isn't any compelling evidence to suggest that this was ever an issue of unbalance.

    4. The coalition can no longer continue to operate because we are not moving forward given the international policies still being exerted on Zimbabwe's democracy. We, the people of Zimbabwe require a resolution for things to move forward.

    March 26, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  9. The Diaspora Response

    The truth about the land reform is coming out even from the British.The truth that has not come out is about the sanctions that are supposed to target Mugabe's Innercircle.The sanctions are meant to ferment dissent ,uprising and chaos with the ultimate goal of removing RG Mugabe from power.Zimbabweans are the only people not allowed to have paypal accounts and are restricted on the money they can remit home.I was told by my bank that Zimbabwe is a country under sanctions and had to fill out forms to send money to my mother.My bank tells me that Zimbabwe is under sanctions and at the same time the EU and US claim that the sanctions are only targeted against Mugabe and his Innercircle.Basically they are trying to conceal that they are using the playbook of the honourable Dr Josef Goebbels to conceal that the sanctions are real and targeted to ruin the entire Zimbabwean economy with the hope that this will then result in an uprising against RG Mugabe,I leave you with the quotation of Dr Goebbels below to analyse and enjoy:

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    By Honorable Dr Josef Goebbels.Adolf Hitler's Chief of Propaganda

    March 29, 2011 at 5:06 am |
  10. Patriotric Zimbabwean

    The west's views of Zimbabwe are fed by ignorance and an obsession with getting rid of Mugabe such that all opportunities that hit prospective investors in the face become minute. Of course the international media will serve the interests of the Western governments that are not too happy with the status quo.

    March 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  11. C Bunjira

    The reconstruction can no longer be pioneered by the MDC for the sake of progress and credibility to internal negative elements (pro Zanu-pf hard liners). MDC have become a destruction to the political agenda.

    The real issue of challenge is that Zimbabwe has no real substitute to the MDC party.Therefore the MDC will continue to be viewed as the net catalyst for any prospect of change.

    However, because of the route MDC took to establish itself, i.e their choice of funding, their choice method to remove Zanu-pf (sanctions), and how they were making up government post/functions as they came into power – Zanu-pf will always view them as puppets who are seen as antagonist to progress.

    Whatever immediate change that needs to come out of Zimbabwe has to be Zanu-pf inclusive and not exclusive.

    Whilst we clearly set the tone and declare ourselves to be anti-Zanu PF we need to be co-operative with Zanu in the same way we are to be co-operative with the MDC, as Zanu controls the mechanism for change, i.e trade and commerce, and more seriously – Security Services.

    If we exclude Zanu-pf, then: whatever promises we make to the people will fail because Zanu-pf will sabotage those plans through trade and artificial shortages. The wealth make up of Zimbabwe is still controlled by Zanu-pf.

    As we think of an international policy in the long run, we need to bare in mind that the route of patronizing Zanu-pf does not benefit our economy, nor does it benefit our own political ambitions in what we set out to do. It actually creates a stalemate.

    We need, instead, to be encouraging the west to give financial assistance to opposition parties to establish co-operative institution that will be free from government control before we can enforce change. If we are to pursue a free from violence route, that is our only way forward.

    Nathan created a credit union or is in the process of doing so. We need to be challenging Zimbabweans to join such investment initiatives. Only through supporting such instruments can we begin to bring real democracy without control or restriction.

    Right now the MDC no longer has government funding. They are stuck running back to China and Russia for assistance because the West has blocked funding or refuse to provide them such assistance. China and Russia are only giving that assistance not because Tendai Biti is good at his job, but because Zanu-pf is part of the GNU.

    So we need to think about that. We are not an oil reach country.

    We need to provide economic growth, wealth creation and investment opportunities within the indigenisation spectrum.

    Come post Zanu-pf, will we go down the route of economically enslaving our people with debts we can never repay because borrowing will be the only real measure to facilitate and support our government, if Zanu-pf internal co-operation isn't negotiated?

    March 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
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