South Africans for many years have watched in wonder and amazement as Zimbabwe self-destructed economically, and politically, to such an extent that the local currency had to be abandoned with inflation at around 300million percent. While a period of “unity government” reversed the decline, the return of ZANU(PF) to full control of government last year has instigated the financial collapse once again. Oblivious to the desperate suffering of the people of Zimbabwe, Mugabe and his cronies are again on their familiar course of taking without contributing.
But, of course, it couldn't happen here, South Africans believe. Oh really?
Mugabe inherited a rich and vibrant economy with a healthy potential for more growth. But, after several years of little interference, he couldn't resist the temptations. Facing calls for political change Mugabe reacted by encouraging party supporters to take what they wanted. And they did. As the economy stuttered government joined in and Ministers took what they wanted, all for personal gain. Arable and productive land was laid waste and eventually businesses felt the pressure to allow selected friends of government to share profits while doing nothing to enhance business.
Last week the South African Government introduced legislation that will allow the state to take a “free” 20% stake in all new oil energy projects and to buy an additional share at an “agreed price”. Irrespective of the fact that this will terrify prospective investors, it smacks of similar legislation to the north. There is no suggestion that government wants to be involved as a financial investment so that it can offer expertise and direction as a direct input to the general fiscus. It smacks simply of taking for personal gain without any hint of commitment by contribution.
Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, responding to criticism from Opposition parties, claimed that it would not deter investors and accused those objecting of not being interested in change. “You're stuck in the past,” she claimed.
The Bill was passed by the National Assembly 226 votes to 66 votes and will now go to the National Council of Provinces.
Few would object to government being involved in projects of national importance if they showed real interest by buying into such projects and making a meaningful contribution as a stakeholder. But this plan to grab without any investment what others have made possible is a worrying feature that should be reversed. If the legislation goes ahead inevitably other areas of possible gain without pain will be considered and our country can kiss real investment a fond farewell.
Zimbabwe's economic woes are entirely self induced and should serve as a warning to others tempted toward that slippery slope.
Majority rule comes with many responsibilities. And an absolute majority, such as is embraced by the ANC, carries with it additional temptations of bulldozing through ill-thought legislation that provides a licence to reap what they did not sow. Most South Africans know what harvest that brings. Perhaps declining further Mugabe invitations to party would be a pleasant start.
Interestingly, Mugabe began his grab what you can policies 20 years after Independence. Should we be worried?