Friday, August 7, 2009

Are the indigenous exempt from hard work?

Are the indigenous exempt from hard work?

John Robertson

THE argument I was trying to offer in my blog last week didn't quite make it as the final paragraphs were lost somewhere in cyberspace. Allow me, please, to make the points that went missing.

I was describing the publication that was presented to the Zimbabwe International Investment Conference, an event that was claimed to have been "designed to showcase Zimbabwe's potential" and that was said to have adequately presented investors the opportunity to assess areas of possible investment "through interacting with Zimbabweans themselves".

The "co-operation with indigenous investors" theme was indeed frequently emphasized at the conference and the organisers produced the said glossy colour publication that listed all the things that need to be built, rebuilt or re-equipped.

That too referred to requirements for local participation.

As this fancy document was described on the front cover as a Prospectus, potential investors might have been forgiven for believing that it would invite them to subscribe to loan stock and shares issues and would reveal to them the full extent of financial requirements, the returns they might expect and the extent of local support. But not a sum was suggested, not a project was described in financial terms and not a single domestic contribution was identified. In no way did the document describe even the smallest contribution that would come from indigenous people.

In short, in no way did the document amount to a Prospectus.

Ignoring these points completely, Golden Guvamatanga, the journalist from The Herald who was so pleased with it, said, "We welcome with open arms investment that not only have locals as partners but one that benefits them so that the unprecedented levels of poverty caused by the Western-imposed economic sanctions can be reduced."

Forgive the grammar, please. That is a direct quote.

His main thesis is that indigenisation, by which he means being allowed to claim the right to acquire a large part of the assets built by others, is a wholly honourable quest. But he offers not one line to say why.
Instead, we are invited to accept without question that efforts to "rubbish" all its laudable merits are totally unacceptable.

But what does it mean? He expressed the thought that economic sanctions caused "unprecedented poverty", but this is absurd, not just because economic sanctions were non-existent, but also because it fell outside his theme, which tries to persuade everyone, to accept that indigenous people have an unquestionable right to become partners in ventures started by investors from abroad.

We have to ask how people can demand the rights to become partners without contributing anything. How can they demand the right to extract benefits from activities that depend one hundred percent on the commitments of other people?

To get down to basics, indigenisation is a political ploy that invites voters to loyally support the party that promises to get them things for nothing. And the political objective of "empowerment" is to bring about the disempowerment of any who are considered a potential threat. That is why the Land Reform Programme also dispossessed many successful black farmers; people who needed no favours from the State and who had empowered themselves.

My claim was that if locals can identify good investment options, they should go ahead and develop them. If they don't have the skills, they should work at acquiring them. If they don't have the money, they should set about making it, or develop the credibility to borrow it, and seek out bankers and partners who will back their good ideas.

In other words, do what all other investors do.

Genuine investors do not wait for others to hand them lists of opportunities or identify good ideas for them. They do that for themselves. That is what they do well and that, plus lots of hard work, is what makes them investors.

Why should Zimbabweans feel they have rights to exemptions from the hard work and risks involved just because they are indigenous? They have no such rights and they should be deeply suspicious of politicians who tell them they have. What they do have is the absolute right to work for what they want. Just like everybody else.

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