Tomorrow will be a do or die day for Zimbabwe. The Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF), which comprises government, business and labour, will be holding crucial talks that will decide whether the country moves forward, remains stagnant or continues on its downward slide.
The three will be discussing the Kadoma Declaration, a document drafted five years ago to chart the way forward for the country. The government has prevaricated on signing the document which calls for far-reaching political, social and economic reforms to reduce the world’s perception of Zimbabwe as a high-risk country.
Zimbabwe has been regarded as a pariah state since it embarked on its controversial land reform programme nine years ago. It was expelled from the Commonwealth (though it may argue that it quit the club) and was slapped with smart sanctions by the European Union and the United States.
The onslaught has seen the country’s economy shrink by almost half. Unemployment has surged to nearly 80 percent. The exchange rate has plummeted to such an extent that the local currency, which was stronger than the United States dollar during the first three years of independence, is now the weakest on the continent.
Worse is still to come unless something is done urgently. Inflation is expected to shoot to 800 percent within the next two to three months.
The Kadoma Declaration was mooted at a meting of the TNF’s technical team on Zimbabwe’s country risk on 20 August 2001. The team said that the country’s problems had to be addressed in their totality for it to move forward.
Central bank governor Gideon Gono expressed the same sentiments when he presented his fourth quarter monetary policy statement for 2005 last week.
The Kadoma Declaration was reaffirmed at a full meeting of the TNF on 23 January 2003 but the government has dodged endorsing it up to now largely because it calls for radical reform especially within the government.
The partners agreed that they had to address Zimbabwe’s country risk factor and improve its image for there to be any meaningful turnaround.
They defined country risk factor as the “premium attached by nationals, residents, foreigners and international bodies on residing in and /or doing business with a particular country”.
The problems that the country was facing had to be addressed urgently because the economy was performing poorly. More than three-quarters of the population was officially classified as poor.
Poverty had in turn led to an increase in crime. It had also resulted in the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, making it easier for corruption -the country’s worst enemy- to thrive.
Because of the country’s poor image, Zimbabweans were regarded in poor light wherever they went and were ill-treated or abused at immigration points in some countries. They were also discriminated against when trying to go into business abroad.
The country risk factor had also resulted in lack of patriotism with some Zimbabweans having low confidence in their country.
The country itself was unable to supply its people with basic human needs leading the population to mistrust any institutional system- opening doors for a thriving, uncontrollable black market.
The TNF team identified some of the causes of the risk factors as failure by some government institutions to function effectively. There was also a mismatch between policy and action and delays in implementing policy.
There had also been an increase in “irresponsible utterances” by politicians and lack of political tolerance. This had given rise to political instability and apprehension by foreign governments.
Though the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was keen to see the declaration signed at the beginning of 2003, the government prevaricated, blaming the country’s economic ills on the West and the opposition. The economy took a dive and has been on the slide since.
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo said it appeared that the government was now ready to talk because it was the one that had initiated discussion of the Kadoma Declaration on February 3.
He said technical committees had been going through the document before it is discussed at a full session of the TNF tomorrow.
It was not clear what prompted the government to initiate the talks because the Kadoma Declaration calls for radical changes from the government which has over the years tended to act arbitrarily, blaming its failures on either British Prime Minister Tony Blair or United States President George Bush.
A source who attends both the technical and full TNF meetings said civil servants were pushing for the talks because they were now desperate.
“They are frustrated. Things are not moving in government. The government has no money. They want to use the TNF to ensure real progress. They want the TNF to push real issues,’ the source said.
The adoption of the Kadoma Declaration could pave the way for a rapid economic turnaround as this is the “defining moment” in the country’s turnaround programme, as Gono said last week.
He said it was a defining moment in that the country was standing on the verge of tremendous opportunities which it should take advantage of to break away from the economic setbacks of the past seven years.
But Gono warned: “Naturally, as with every opportunity, equally true is the fact that the country is standing on the edge of a cliff which threatens to irreversibly take us downhill if we do not boldly move forward with speed to address most of our shortcomings of the past.”
The central bank chief said Zimbabwe’s worst enemy was its own people because they lacked oneness and clear commitment to pursue a path that produced mutual benefits for the country.
“Economic opportunism is now at the heart of everything we seem to be doing day in, day out,” he said.
This is evident on every street corner with some people even boasting that they did not come to “town” to work but to make money.