Zimbabwe’s president is in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum (WEF2018). And the run up to his visit has been characterized by a significant amount of state controlled media fanfare, private media encouragement and a decent amount of optimism by the business sector. One or two opposing parliamentarians have joined the praise-singing band wagon of the trip (and Mnangagwa’s presidency) while broader civil society activists have chosen to avoid critique of the same.
By Takura Zhangazha
The broader public have not had much of a say on the matter but it is not expected that they would debate beyond what is presented to them via the mainstream and social media. But suffice to say those of ‘middle class’ and our own version of a comprador bourgeoisie (wannabe rich) will no doubt celebrate the attendance of a president who is probably closer to their hearts after he announced that his administration is a free market oriented one.
In left leaning and altogether progressive local and global circles this is read as meaning that the Mnangagwa government is ‘neo-liberal’ in intent and purpose.
Its primary template as he and his advisors are on record as having said, is global capitalism’s mantra of the ‘ease of doing business’. A template which basically means that the primary political function of Mnangagwa’s government is to enable the flourishing of private global capital in the country. Or to treat the country and its population as one big market where profit by those that already have some spare ‘capital’ to invest, will invariably do so.
So Davos 2018 is emblematic of Mnangagwa’s economic (and political) policy intentions in the short (electoral) and long term. It makes it relatively clear that his is a neo-liberal but, to use his ruling Zanu Pf party phraseology, ‘commandist/ military intervention’ (led) in implementation of open sesame ‘free’ market economics.
He is promising a reversal of his predecessor’s badly thought out indigenisation policy and introducing laissez faire to mining, manufacturing, financial services and with la slightly nuanced political radicalism, agriculture. The latter is more couched in state capitalist ethos akin to China’s model as it will also applied to the intentions of infrastructural development (road, rail and air). Again via Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and long term mortgaging of same said public services to private capital.
Social services (health, education, public transport, energy, access to water) will be placed into the hands of private capital and ‘tenderpreneurs’ (cdes linked to the ruling party) via PPPs. The primary value in such processes is ‘profit’ and not lives. It is rare for any private company involved in social service provision to forego profit in order to serve the greater public democratic interest by providing a public good/service at a loss.
Despite the multiple examples in the global north where neo-liberalism is not only on an ideological backfoot but basically failing, our government still insists on it as a panacea to Zimbabwe’s economic challenges.
In reality we have been on this path before. Such an approach is Economic Structural Adjustment (ESAP) 2.0.
But to explain to the new leadership of the ruling Zanu Pf party is to speak to a wall. Not just because they are too eager to please capital but also as a result of their evident inability to think outside of an old box that is also coincidentally ahistorical.
Where they have referred to their current leadership as one that resulted in ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ of the liberation struggle, their embrace of neoliberalism is neither historically grounded in people centered values nor by dint of the latter progressively revolutionary.
Not that Mugabe’s approach was any different. Leading by the spur of the global neoliberal moment that is the WEF 2018 or seeking a place at the table of global inequality and colonial legacies.
So perhaps someone should tell President Mnangagwa (and advisors) that #Davos2018 cannot be Zimbabwe’s own version of the Berlin conference of 1884/5. Even with the exception that it is our own leaders that are making offers of land and other known/unknown resources . Our country is not for sale. Never has been. No matter the assumption of the false promises of a dying global neo-liberalism.
Seeking to parcel out key national resources to the highest bidder may appear like progress in am immediate post Mugabe era but that would be naive. The ‘market’ has no friends, no values except profit. the neo-liberal governments and private capital that we are seeking to curry favour from are seeking to re-confirm their economic approaches, together with their colonial hangover effects on us. Again.
So a well publicised moment in the neo-liberal sun will occur for President Mnangagwa at Davos 2018. But it’s a moment that may not be as warm as anticipated. It may signify the onset of a winter of austerity. Courtesy of playing to a neo-liberal and wintry Davos global capital gallery.
Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)