By Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
THE recently installed Zimbabwe President, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, has stated many a time after replacing former President Robert Mugabe last November that his priority is the revival of the economy.
He repeated that policy statement at his inauguration on August 26 2018 in Harare.
Zimbabwe’s economy is by-and-large agri-based, which means that it is dependent on land.
The indigenous people of Zimbabwe have lived off their land for as long as their oral history can be recalled.
The country’s land became a bone of contention from the time of the arrival of the British South African Company (BSAC) in 1890, whose brigands seized large tracts from the African people at gun-point.
They literally pushed them into inhospitable terrain, while they occupied the healthy regions.
In 1930, they passed a law giving the white settlers some 49 149 174 acres, and only 21 600 000 to the black people whose area was called native reserves.
Some 17 793 300 acres were named unassigned land, 7 464 566 acres were to be sold to aspiring black commercial farmers and were referred to as ‘native purchase areas’.
Forests were allotted some 590 500 acres while some 88 540 were described as undetermined land.
A number of amendments to that Act were made with the passage of time and the acreages also changed, culminating in the 1969 Land Tenure Act.
This article is not about the history of the seizure of land by the former colonial white settlers of Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, but it is about land as the basis of Zimbabwe’s national economy.
Land is the source of food for the human race.
It is on it that various crops are cultivated or grown — cereals, vegetables, fruits, tree bark, roots and tubers.
It is also on land that timber grows, from which furniture is manufactured.
These provide humanity with material comfort and generate monetary wealth as commodities.
Livestock is reared on land. Some of Zimbabwe’s regions are most suitable for livestock such as cattle and goats. Wild game is found on land and so are varieties of birds and reptiles.
Many tourists come to Zimbabwe on hunting safaris and much foreign currency is generated by that tourism segment. Some enterprising farmers rear ostriches and other kinds of birds such as guinea fowls.
Chickens, of course, are reared on dry land.
Land is where many sporting activities are held.
It is on land that roads, railways and airports are constructed, and so are other means of communication. Minerals are found in the land.
Human residents are most largely based on land with the exception of boat houses in some countries with large water bodies. In any case, water is found on land or underground, not in the air.
The construction industry uses five types of materials — bricks, cement, glass, timber and roofing materials such as zinc, asbestos or tiles, all of which are procured from land.
This explanation of what appears to be obvious is meant to show how land can be, and is, used to develop people economically and why the people of Zimbabwe went to war against white colonial settlers.
Zimbabweans should actively participate in their country’s economic development by utilising land products, some of which can be exported to some SADC states.
Good but relatively cheaply produced bricks, tiles, ceiling boards can certainly be exported to some neighbouring nations such as Malawi, Namibia and Botswana.
What Zimbabweans need to do is to be innovative so that their products, for example, are unique.
Varieties of products can be made for various SADC market segments such as the peasantry in the rural areas, the middle class in the peri-urban and urban centres as well as for the upper class, industrialists and established commercial entrepreneurs.
The development of towns at targeted business centres is an opportunity for enterprising people to launch businesses to uplift themselves to a better economic level.
President Mnangagwa’s wish that Zimbabwe will be a middle-income nation by 2030 is quite tenable if Zimbabweans can utilise available economic opportunities.
The mining sector, for example, could and should be better organised for it to be less of a threat to the national infrastructure and physical environment.
It is very important that land should not be destroyed by reckless mining activities. Land is the most valuable national heritage and should be accordingly protected.
Zimbabwe’s national economy can grow significantly if Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are financially focused on their country, if they can pull a leaf from the experience of the Jews who, for many years before and after Israel was proclaimed in May 1948, sent money from wherever they were to Israeli banks in Tel Aviv and Western Jerusalem.
That money enabled those who returned sooner or later to settle down in businesses in Israel. Zimbabweans in the Diaspora should look far beyond today and save for that future.
Their residential security can never really be assured in, and by, the countries where they may be living presently.
In any case, they should always bear in mind that ‘east, west, home is the best.’
Zimbabwe’s economic development should involve everyone, young and old, disabled and able-bodied, for as long as they can think. Individuals can, and should, produce whatever they can for either themselves or for sale.
Individuals should form companies, and so can, and should, communities. Transport and tourism services are most appropriate for community-run businesses whereas livestock breeding is suitable for individually-owned companies.
However, professional consultants may be required for advice and guidance on those matters, but there has got to be available land to exploit or on which to operate.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell
0734 328 136 or through email. firstname.lastname@example.org