EDITORIAL COMMENT: Zimbabwe has come of age

Today is our 44th anniversary of independence, the day Zimbabweans achieved freedom, and did so under an elected Government, the double achievement being important.

The freedom meant we became the owners of our own destiny, that we would decide what sort of country we wanted and could build that nation, without others deciding what was good for us, or building a different country where a small settler minority owned the natural resources, half the land, the better half, and all the rights to exploit minerals and water.

But it also meant that while we were free to build what we wanted, we were also responsible for what we built and so accepted the duty to build something we could be proud of and something that was a lot better than had come before. We would continue to grow better still our responsibility and our duty.

The freedom gained on April 18, 1980 also meant that we would all reap the rewards of what we built and gain the benefits of our work and what we created. The caveat, of course, was that we had to build and work to gain the benefits, since’ as all farmers know, you cannot reap what you do not sow, and that you actually reap what you have sown.

This to a large degree is what this year’s anniversary theme means: Unity, peace and development towards Vision 2030. It encapsulates the sort of country we want, the Vision 2030. And it lays down the conditions needed to attain that vision, the unity we must display, the peace we must have, and the development that we have to work to attain.

President Mnangagwa and his Second Republic Government have been emphasising for at least six years now the national vision and what we need to be doing to get there. At today’s celebrations in Murambinda, they want to show what has been achieved, which we sometimes forget, as well as stress what we still have to do.

Vision 2030 is the next step on the road for Zimbabwe; it is obviously not the final destination since the journey will carry on until the end of time. But as we work out our future we need to have these milestones marked out so we are pushing in the right direction, and pushing together.

The vision is not just having an upper-middle income economy, it also encompasses what sort of economy that must be.

So the vision is not just a richer country, but one where the people as a whole share that growing prosperity. Upper middle income means that we all need to be in the middle income ranges. Otherwise the vision could just be for a richer country, regardless of who finally benefited.

We are now roughly at the half-way mark of that stage of our journey to the Vision 2030 milestone, so we do need to think what we have achieved, so we can see the progress made and make sure that we are not side-tracked by wrong turnings, but at the same time see where we need to push harder.

The Second Republic started emphasising the need to recover from a couple of decades of stagnation and retreat, and to convert the promise of land reform, which finally gave everyone the opportunity to share in the natural resources of Zimbabwe, into something more concrete.

But that recovery phase was completed very quickly, making the Zimbabwean economy larger, in real terms, than it had ever been before. Since then the Second Republic has been emphasising growth, moving into new territory, as it tailors and refines policies and programmes to do this, and incidentally becoming the fastest growing African economy.

This year we will still see growth, despite the dreadful El Nino drought, and even as a result of that drought the growth rate is not going to break records. But still we are now in a position and the economy is diversified enough that we still grow. And we need to remember that the recent spurt of growth means that not only can we cope with the effects of bad drought, but can continue pushing development.

Part of this development this year is evening out what we have already done. Dams were completed and built, and have filled, so there is need to push very hard in connecting farmers to these new water sources, hence the programme to more than double the irrigated land available for smallholder farmers.

The fleet of drilling rigs will be active, drilling those village boreholes, providing convenient water supplies for every house, plus the village plots for vegetables and fruit trees.

We assume that the agricultural experts are examining the lessons from the drought and working out improvements to Pfumvudza/Intwasa that will help people cope with the next drought; these could be in techniques and in the crops selected and varieties bred. One lesson we have learned is that no farmer, large or smallholder, should be involved in monoculture. Variety is essential as is ever greater access to irrigation.

Mining has been seriously booming, growing more than fourfold under the Second Republic, as laws and policies were adjusted to create this growth, along with the rise in jobs created and mining taxes. Even the new currency has won directly from the mining boom, being backed by half the royalties the miners have to pay, with a lot more miners now paying.

New technologies are pushing up the quality of life as well as the standard of living. Almost every adult Zimbabwean now has a phone, something unimaginable at independence and even 22 years ago, when we were just halfway to today. Every home has at least a solar lamp, so that oil lamps have vanished from shop shelves and candle making is hardly a boom industry. Those village boreholes have solar pumps, so seriously save labour. Schools are all getting solar panels.

These might be little things, but make life a lot easier and better and complement the wealth creation of the central policies. They also show how technology can upgrade lives as well as increase wealth so long as we seize the opportunities.

Vision 2030 is built from many strands. The core is the growing economy and the involvement of everyone in that growth. But that is just the necessary condition; the rest is how we use that growth and widespread involvement to create a brighter and better Zimbabwe for our own families and the rest of the country.

And so we return to that gift of freedom, that right of freedom. We can now make these decisions and we can take responsibility for our own future and can benefit from making the right decisions.

Happy celebrations Zimbabwe!

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