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I WANT to congratulate our hard-working MPs. Finally, the 4times4 Ford Ranger off-roaders are on their way. We are told our MPs need these all-terrain vehicles to visit their constituencies, most of which are in rural areas. So I hope we will be seeing more of you, not to admire the vehicle but with an expectation that you will help improve our rural circumstances.

This is no doubt a big sacrifice on the part of Government nearly 290 vehicles each costing $35 000 for a Government operating on a shoe-string budget!

But media reports indicate that some MPs were not happy with the vehicle procurement arrangement, seeing as they are required to pay for them. They wanted the vehicles for free. Why, Cabinet ministers got theirs for free and fast, too. The MPs will be exempted from paying import duty or value added tax for the brand new vehicles.

Some were busy looking their gift horse in the mouth: why were they all being bonded to the Ford Ranger? They wanted variety and choice.

None is talking about the state of the general economy and what this expense means to ordinary voters who can’t send their children to school or pay the tuition fees.

So, we, the electors, shall not involve ourselves in that tussle between the two arms of the State. Our interest is in service delivery, or at the very least, quality representation in the House. People expect debate around issues that improve their quality of life: security of tenure on the land, affordable residential accommodation, the right to life, better health facilities and quality education for their children.

How can Zimbabwe better deal with people in the Diaspora so that they contribute to the development of the country?

There are diverse people who left for different reasons. But some of them are now keen to return, armed with new skills in different fields and disciplines of study and are in search of opportunities in the new economy.

How can they be accommodated to make a positive contribution towards a better Zimbabwe?

That brings with it a challenge of its own and we shall not flinch from posing it. Our esteemed MPs should be doing some soul-searching now as they count their blessings. Was their election to Parliament a result of individual hard work, a reward for service to the community, unorthodox campaign tactics or simply riding on the back of popular party policies? Do they know what is expected of them do they have any specific projects and targets before the next elections?

Party supporters are aware and know the promises made whether by the individual or the party through its representatives in the constituency. People are waiting for results, and impatiently, too, given the parlous state of the economy. The relatively good rain season was only a providential temporary reprieve. People want delivery on party policies.

The type of vehicle chosen by the MPs themselves is a significant statement. They want to conquer with ease our inhospitable roads. The majority of the voters don’t enjoy those options. They use donkey-drawn scotch carts. Buses which used to ply some of the roads in remote parts of the country have been withdrawn due to the terrible state of those roads.

How is an MP, who rides in the luxury of a Ford Ranger, to appreciate the plight of his people?

Over the Easter holidays, I happened to drive across Mberengwa District from Masase in the west up to Mataga and on to Zvishavane. It was some real experience after the heavy rains last season. Most of the roads are just zigzagging rough trenches. The less said the better.

They make the very thought of going kumusha such a horrible nightmare.

Then there is a problem with the brand of the vehicles.

The justification in the papers is that there were credit terms because Government does not have cash. MPs will also have to pay back by converting some of their sitting allowances. The implication being that Willowale Mazda Motor Industries, which assemblies the Mazda brand locally, could not offer similar terms for obvious reasons.

This is classic chicken and egg situation.

WMMI indicated recently that it would be able to meet partial demand on the local market if properly capitalised. And that is in line with Government’s economic recovery blueprint, the Zim-Asset programme. There are great employment prospects, regional exports in the medium term and a g element of import substitution.

But given the cash challenges, Government cannot immediately capitalise the company. Which means it must attract private investors or some form of partnership arrangement to recapitalise a long shot indeed, given the usual protests and complaints about Zimbabwe’s indigenisation and empowerment policies.

Fortunately, that’s a stigma the country must carry with honour. That stigma is a product of the protest politics of those who were always opposed to the land reform programme and have made every effort to poison the global environment against anything Zimbabwean.

So it is that Zimbabwe is ranked 170 out of 189 countries in terms of ease of doing business. Of course, that’s a World Bank report. We are classified as a high risk destination for investment. Because of those bold policies, propaganda is easily brewed and sold cheaply that Zimbabwe doesn’t respect property rights. This blanket blame is not constrained by any need to separate the imperatives of the historic land reform programme and the 49-51 percent share ownership ratio on the one hand and ordinary investments in all other sectors which President Mugabe has repeatedly stated is flexible.

But then, Zimbabwe has every reason to take an independent stand. There is no point in giving away our natural resources for no practical benefit in the name of attracting foreign direct investment. That investment must come on our terms there must be clearly defined benefits for our people.

As indicated in a report presented by former South African president Thabo Mbeki at the World Economic Forum in Abuja, Nigeria last week, Africa loses through “illicit outflows of financial resources” as much as it gets annually by way of foreign investment. And that’s a staggering figure of $50 billion. Since 1980, the continent is estimated to have lost between $1,2 trillion and $1,3 trillion through the same scams orchestrated by multinational corporations.

That in part explains why Africa has not moved forward since the dawn of majority rule. We are happy to sign contracts which prejudice our people simply to appear to be investor-friendly. There is need for a paradigm shift in African thinking. We are no longer colonies feeding the mother country. Political independence must translate into true economic independence through independence of thought and action.

Zimbabwe is paying a heavy price for that historical aberration, but our people are far better in terms of human development index than most of those notching tantalising GDP growth rates which support only a minority of those who trade on the stock exchange.

So to our MPs, we hope to see those Ford Rangers in the constituencies. The people shall judge in the next election whether you as an individual or collectively as a party you deserved their vote and trust.

Source : The Herald

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