HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum (Wef) and the run up to his visit had been characterised 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 joined the praise-singing bandwagon of the trip while broader civil society activists chose to avoid critique of the same.
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 media but suffice to say those of “middle class” and our own version of a comprador bourgeoisie 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 was emblematic of Mnangagwa’s intentions in the short and long term. It made 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 a slightly nuanced political radicalism, agriculture.
The latter is more couched in State capitalist ethos akin to China’s model as it will also apply to the intentions of infrastructural development. Again via Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and long-term mortgaging of same said public services to private capital.
Social services will be placed into the hands of private capital and “tenderpreneurs” 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 back foot but basically failing, our government still insists on it as a panacea to Zimbabwe’s economic challenges.
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 historical.
Where they have referred to their current leadership as one that resulted in “Operation Restore Legacy” of the liberation struggle, their embrace of neo-liberalism is neither historically grounded in people-centred values nor by dint of the latter progressively revolutionary.
Perhaps someone should tell Mnangagwa 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.