Life better for Cross in Rhodesia? Of course it was

EDDIE CROSS
EDDIE CROSS

Joram Nyathi Group Political Editor
Cross complains bitterly over the poor performance of the Zanu-PF Government and reminisces over the good old days in Rhodesia. Meanwhile, the private sector should not get too excited about the revelations of corruption in Government; glass houses, stones, logs in eyes, kettles, pots and calling each other black.

There was an interesting article in the media last week by Hon Eddie Cross. Cross of the famous Beira Corridor Group is very cross with the performance of the Zanu-PF Government. He is not the only one. They are a legion, and ready to rush off into the sea.

In that article, titled “The price of bad governance in Zim”, Cross makes his disillusionment plain. Why not? He said he had joined the liberation struggle in 1966; that’s why he found himself sitting on the podium at Rufaro Stadium on independence eve in April 1980.

This is the source of Cross’s bitterness: “They (Zanu-PF Government?) took over a country with virtually no debt, a small but self-sufficient economy which was able to sustain a reasonable standard of living for its people . . .  the country had received virtually no external assistance in the previous 60 years . . .  Mugabe took over a country with a small but honest and efficient administration, a well-educated minority and a people who … had the second highest standard of living in Southern Africa after South Africa.”

This is where we are today: “Our public administration is viewed as one of the most corrupt in the world and is bloated and inefficient.”

His proposed solution: “If we do nothing to restore confidence in the state and engage the international community to unlock our economic potential urgently, we are going to be in big trouble by the end of May.”

I am not a prophet, so I won’t comment on Cross’s Ides of May.

Let’s also give it to him that he makes some valid points about corruption in the public service, lack of honesty and inefficiency, although there will be questions about the scale.

The problem with Cross’s analysis is that it is over-politicised. At independence there were about 250 000 whites, if not less, after some of them ran away from majority rule or black rule. There were about seven million black Zimbabweans. I believe Cross is talking about whites when he refers to “a well-educated minority”. I want to believe it is the same minority which had the “second highest standard of living in Southern African after South Africa”.

Were blacks among those who enjoyed the “second highest standard of living”?

It’s no rocket science to state that in South Africa it was a similar racial minority which had the “highest standard of living” in Southern Africa. It still is, 20 years after majority rule. I don’t understand how such racialised economic disparities justify Cross’s decision to join the liberation struggle. Did Cross go out of his way to fight settler minority rule so as to justify minority privilege or he genuinely believed the system was bad?

Rhodesia maintained “a small but self-sufficient economy” which excluded a majority of its seven million blacks who provided all the cheap labour in the factories, the farms and mines. These are the privileges which Smith wanted to preserve for a “thousand years” and whites were happy to fight for them.

I am prepared to tolerate the racial insinuation about an “inefficient” public service. We can have one of or the most corrupt public administration in the world. The point is that we should not be corrupt, we should not tolerate corruption. Whites in Rhodesia were so conscious of their privileges they were prepared to die to protect them. We blacks cannot even appreciate what Independence means.

But Cross does not explain how a racist government could offer good governance. His admiring longing for a Rhodesian efficiency that he at the same time claims to have sincerely fought against seems contradictory.

He doesn’t tell us the role of the private sector in preserving the racist government of Rhodesia.

Whites remained in complete control of all sectors of the economy until 2000 when the land reform programme was launched. What role was the private sector playing? What investments did it make in the economy?

Here was a private sector which supported a racist government for almost 60 years and mustered the techniques of import substitution under UN economic sanctions failing to adapt to a free operating environment brought about by the lifting of the same sanctions!

Could there have been elements of economic sabotage well before the land reform? Reports clearly show that while Government was spending more resources in social services such as more schools, hospitals, water and urban residential accommodation, industry was not growing, was not importing new technologies, instead they were demanding incentives and lower tax. That song has not changed. It was the same song that gave us Esap and the beginnings of mass retrenchments and unemployment which still haunt us to this day. These retrenchments became the birthbed of protest politics which gave us the MDC, of which Cross was and remains a member.

What we find strange is that while Cross tells us that Rhodesia had no debt in 1980 and had not received “external assistance in the previous 60 years”, he believes only the “international community (can) unlock our economic potential” today. Given his known ideological leanings, this is the same “international community” which has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe since 2001. This is the same international community which Cross and his party can influence to reject Government policies which favour the majority.

So it is that Cross moans about the last election results. Following the inclusive Government during which the economy “bounced back strongly”: “The election results of July 31 put the whole economy into reverse and by the end of the year, revenues to the state were in decline …” he says.

But this reversal could not have been organic, more likely manufactured. It explains Cross’s over-politicised jeremiad. The election was supposed to produce a certain result regardless of how the people voted. This ties in very well with the malicious “tongai tione” curse. It chimes well with MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s demands to be invited into Government because he holds the “key” to economic recovery, just as he held the “key to elections”.

Media have a role to probe levels of corruption in the private sector. The private sector has been jeering and cheering exposures of corruption scandals in the public sector as if they were clean themselves when it is know that most of them are closing down operations just to fix whoever they imagine did not vote right.

In the same newspaper, Iden Wetherell praises Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who rules his country with an iron fist without any opposition to talk about, as a “benevolent dictatorship”. I hope he doesn’t mean we have too much democracy where the opposition can call for sanctions against the country and still benefit from the economic rebound!

Unfortunately for Cross and his ilk, there shall be no reversal of the land reform or black economic empowerment policies on which Zim Asset is firmly anchored. Policy modifications are nothing new. They are part of an organic system adjusting to the circumstances on the ground. Strategies change even in war situations, unless you stop thinking. Happy birthday Zimbabwe on 34 years.

 

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  • Boss

    Joram you let Eddie Cross get away with murder…Zimbabwe inherited a wartime debt from Rhodesia and continued to honour that debt post independence. Fact!