By Saul Gwakuba-Ndlovu
ZIMBABWE, together with the rest of the world, has ushered in the New Year, 2019, and closed the door to 2018 during which it held harmonised elections.
With long motor vehicle queues at various fuel service stations in all the country’s urban centres, it is undeniable that the fuel shortage is currently a major national challenge.
Cash shortages at commercial banks is another problem that the nation is facing.
The focus is on Zimbabwe achieving its economic goal of turning the country into a middle-income nation by 2030 — President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s life’s passion.
Weather conditions permitting, and all other factors being equal, that goal should be achieved within the set time frame.
But it is most important to sensitise and motivate not only investors, but also every Zimbabwean to work much harder than usual in the next 11 years, beginning this very year, 2019.
The country is presently experiencing a very high unemployment level.
To achieve middle-income economic status, that unemployment rate must be brought down through formal employment.
Formal employment is generated by sustained investment.
Zimbabwe has virtually limitless investment opportunities in the mining sector in view of the country’s wide variety of minerals that range from aluminium to zinc, among many others.
In Africa, Zimbabwe is the third richest country, in terms of mineral resources, after the DRC and South Africa.
It is very likely to be the richest, sooner or later, if recent reports about the discovery of oil and gas in some of the country’s regions prove to be authentic.
What would be needed under such circumstances would be a great deal of mostly export-oriented investment that would create massive employment and earn unprecedented export earnings.
In addition to that mouth-watering possibility, the national decision to adopt a devolution-of-power type of governance is most likely to widen and facilitate poverty alleviation, a process that was launched some years ago and has all along been called ‘economic empowerment’.
Land resettlement is an aspect of that policy the implementation of which has, most unfortunately, been marred by corruption that has resulted in the acquisition of more than one farm by some privileged state officials.
Devolution is meant to give administrative, legislative and constitutional power to local communities to decide and implement issues that affect them, that is to say matters of economic, social, cultural as well as political interest and importance to them.
For that national goal to be achieved by 2030, as declared by President Mnangagwa, devolution must play the biggest role in the rural areas since it is in those parts of the country where most people live.
That role is to improve the people’s economic life; that simply means that it must pull the people out of the pit of grinding poverty to the level envisaged by the President.
Economic prosperity is brought about by the production and distribution of goods, or the generation and sale of services at a profit, that is to say, at more than it cost to produce and distribute the product or the generated service.
Prosperity on the economic front is also created by gainful employment, which boils down, in fact, to the sale of labour power and/or professional skills needed and exploited by investors.
That prevails in situations where there is formal employment.
In nations where most people’s lives are based in villages or hamlets, the most effective way to create economic prosperity is to empower each family.
Using devolution of power, national poverty alleviation projects at family level can turn local council wards into more or less socio-economic self-sufficient communities.
Properly planned socio-economic projects can lead to inter-ward trade, which in turn can lead to inter-district and, ultimately, inter-provincial trade.
Devolution can, and should, enable Zimbabwe to launch such projects with the aim of attaining President Mnangagwa’s 2030 economic objective.
The economic process, that is national poverty alleviation, using the family approach could be launched this year, simultaneously with the introduction of devolution and should target primarily rural areas with traditional chiefs as ex-officio heads of the relevant structures comprising councillors, Members of Parliament, senators, headmen and village heads.
It is advisable to refer to the process as ‘poverty elimination’ instead of ‘poverty alleviation’ because poverty alleviation means tolerating some form of poverty whereas poverty elimination means eradicating poverty altogether.
To succeed, it is necessary to conscientise people about the importance of hard work.
The traditional practice of working more or less seasonally should have no place in a national economic system that depends on currency as a means of procuring essential consumer goods and services, a means of survival in fact.
To raise currency, it is necessary to produce commodities or goods and to generate services for sale.
Work is needed in both cases; usually we find that the more one works, the more goods are produced and the more services are generated, the more the financial gains and the less the shortages or wants (poverty).
The tried and tested rule of human life is that consumption or utilisation of goods and services should be preceded by production of those goods or generation of those services.
Zimbabwe has developed a sub-culture whereby in the rural areas a large number of able-bodied people spend a greater part of their lives consuming alcoholic beverages and intoxicating drugs at business centres.
That is usually followed by long spells of sleep after or before the consumption of quantities of food produced and prepared by some other people.
We need not point out and emphasise that non-productive consumers are a national liability who need to be strongly urged to change by producing what they would like to consume.
Devolution of power implies that local people shall shoulder their responsibilities right from decision-making to the implementation stage. For Zimbabwe to achieve President Mnangagwa’s poverty-eradicating national economic goal, every able-bodied Zimbabwean has to work hard, not sometimes, but every time.
Saul Gwakuba-Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org