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National interest or Partisan dynamics in Economic Policy Design

16 Feb 2020 at 08:36hrs | Views
This instalment marks the end of this series on political transitions and economic policy architecture in Zimbabwe.

To refresh your memory reader, you would recall that policy-making is a series of planning, adoption and implementation of a plan of action aimed at servicing matters of public interest. Policy-making therefore serves as a structured mapping and evaluation of problem-solving mechanisms over a given period of time.

Beland & Cox (2013) define policy-making as a set of ideas which define common interests and are implemented to satisfy public interests. Given the notion of public interest involved in policy-making, it is important to argue that policy-making may either be political serving or be guided national interest. The underpinning ideological premise for a policy can indicate if its core motive is either partisan or national. As highlighted, the introduction of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Policy (EEP) was based on collective aspirations to democratise the ownership of the means of production.

The major justification being that of breaking the monopoly of historical inequalities. This also saw the same policy being used to secure power consolidation interests of the ruling Zanu-PF.

Given this background, it can be argued that economic policy-making is founded on the twin biases of partisan and national interests. This explains why the indigenisation agenda has been castigated as a pro-establishment policy which was used for political mobilisation for the ruling Zanu-PF. The reference made to indigenisation as a core national project in the 2013 Zanu-PF Manifesto emphasises the reality of how policies are manipulated set political agendas. At the same time, this could indicate how certain policies resonate with certain traditional ideological patterns. Since its establishment the indigenisation policy has been synonymously juxtaposed with the nationalist economic decolonisation stance.   

The introduction of the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme (Sterp) was an extension of the Inclusive Government's cohabitation terms. After the GNU ended Sterp was aborted. The short-lived character of Sterp is illustrative of how policy-making may be an expression of transitional effects. Further to this, policy-making is grounded on short term political interests. However, it must also be noted that while some policies tend to be short-lived as a result changing dynamics of power their core objectives are subject to inclusion in the continuity of policy-change. This is because public interests continue to be perennial and changing less for the good.

In the case of Zim-Asset, the adaptation   of issues pronounced in the Zanu-PF 2013 election manifesto as policy reflects how political actors set the political agenda in any case of transition.

The Transitional Stabilisation Policy (TSP) and its thematic remodelling of political economy issues in Zimbabwe substantiates how political transitions facilitate a transformation in the norming of political parties. This has been noted through Zanu-PF's premise of re-engagement discourse which is seemingly turning neo-liberal as highlighted in the TSP. However, in mapping a sustainable economic future for the country, the notion of equitable economic empowerment must be upheld. This has always been the key aspiration of the masses.

This is chiefly because sustainable social contracts are embedded on ideas which resonate with the interests of the majority and any signs of policy architecture which is disengaged from a people's past and their philosophy of freedom is detrimental to political interests of those bestowed with the power to govern. There is need to reinforce political interests with national interests. A departure from what is perceived as national interest is a threat to political interest. Political interest is sustained by national interest, so for politicians to stay in power, their policies must be in sync with national goals and aspirations. Therefore; "The economy dictates the politics. Political parties might claim to differ in policies and even ideological inclinations, but when economic conditions dictate certain trajectories the politics follows suit" Samukele Hadebe (2019).

The series highlighted the post-colonial state's entanglement in competing nativist and neo-liberal philosophies in its enduring struggle for resource management and the harnessing of capital. In light of this broad perspective, a detailed zoom-in to the electorally incentivised transitions in Zimbabwe between 2008 and 2018 stirs the discussion in substantiating the reality of political transitions in impacting economic policy architecture. To this effect, over the past few weeks various issues have been discussed namely: The Dynamics of the GNU Inclusivity and Reality of Transitional Compromises. Focus was also extended to assessing: The Second-Republic's Transitional Stabilisation Programme: A Return to Neo-liberal Orthodox? The final section discussed the intravenous relationship between the role of national and political interest in influencing policy formulation. Therefore, given the context of political transitions pinned down to economic policy creation, the chapter concludes economic policy architecture cannot be disengaged from interchanging power shifts.

The political transitions experienced in Zimbabwe have served as a source for policy continuities and discontinuities. Far beyond the given, policy architecture must be informed by rational political interests which house the aspirations and values of the national questions of the day.

The present-day discourse on economic policy-making is grounded on a history of economic inequalities which modelled the structure of pre-independent African state. Therefore, the post-independent state's economic equality ideological premise must be the starting point of justifying our contesting economic policy continuities and discontinuities. Ideology and history are critical in filtering logic(s) which are disengaged from the perennial aspirations of a people as predetermined by their past and philosophies of freedom which bind them. Policy-making is an expression of cogent self-determination and preservation of political capital.

Therefore, the successive highlights of power-shifts between 2008 and 2018 help in unpacking the underlying motives of economic policy-making as either partisan or national interest motivated. As such, there is need to appreciate that while policy continuities and discontinuities may be politically inspired, there is need for policy creation to be more grounded on enduring and unifying aspirations of the masses who are the mainstay of longevity for the party given the mandate to govern.

The power to govern is incentivised by a set of historically grounded principles which when dissolved in favour of expedience threaten the core of national interest and the very existentiality of the interests of those in power.

Economic policy-architecture in Zimbabwe is underpinned on a broader African post-colonial "liberation" experience. As such, the African state has been more defined in terms of economic liberation and delinking of the means of production from colonial axis of power (Adedeji and Ake (1981 p 31). On the diametrical opposite, this position has attracted a neo-colonial counter-attack as being retrogressively populist and out of touch with global market culture realities (Mills & Herbst, 2012). This does not erase the relevance of  the class, regionalism and gender binary questions which challenge the given notions of equal opportunity access in the context of Zimbabwe's local economic plans of action (Moyo & Yeros 2005, 2007; Moyo,  Chambati,  Murisa, Siziba, C. Dangwa, Mujeyi, and Nyoni (2009); Scoones, Marongwe. Mavedzenge. Mahenene, F. Murimbarimba, and Sukume (2010) ; Chambati 2011; Moyo 2011a, 2011b; Mkodzongi 2013a, 2013b).

In essence the exaggerated definition of African states' economic policy-making as populist ignores the post-colonial quest for equitable resource distribution and meeting the economic livelihood interests of formerly marginalised African citizenry.  This corroborates the position by Mkodzongi & Lawrence (2019 p 1):

More importantly, the major beneficiaries of the land reform were peasants who now have access to better-quality land and natural resources that were previously enclosed and enjoyed by a few whites under the bi-modal agrarian structure inherited from colonialism, that is, white commercial farmers and agro-industrial estates on the one hand and small-scale black commercial farmers and black peasant families on the other.

A prototype milestone economic decolonisation experiments can be attributed to Julius Nyerere's principle of radical policy between 1967 and 1985. The Tanzanian model for policy-change was characterised by a deliberate position to dismantle British colonial economic monopoly and exploitation in Tanzania (Ibhawoh & Dibua, 2003). This saw the compulsory collectivisation of pri­vate farms in Tanzania and emerging African farmers on communal farms and this process became the defining mark of the Ujamaa economic blueprint (Mitchell, 2014).

The Ujamaa economic trajectory was founded on indigenous, self-containment social and economic survival practices grounded on Tanzania's traditions (Ibhawoh & Dibua, 2003).  There is a substantial correlation between this concept with that of Scientific-Socialism principle advocated by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. The Tanzanian (1967-1985) and Ghanaian (1960-1966) experiences are intertwined to the so­cialist ideological paradigm imported from East Europe with a strong grounding to rethink Western defined economic models anchored on capitalism. This pathological embodiment of the Marxist economic collectivism is also defining in the discourse of pan-Africanism as an ideological vehicle for economic decolonisation. The same genes of a Marxist and pan-Africanist predisposition can be linked to the Zimbabwean context under Robert Mugabe from the late 90s up to the time of his ouster in 2017 (Simpson & Hawkins, 2018).  The wave of the Third-Chimurenga which swept through Zimbabwe after the land reform exercise had undertones of Marxist and pan-African anti-colonial leanings.

This produced a defining outstanding characteristic of his radical economic indigenisation stance christened as Mugabeism (Ranger, 2004; Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2015, Mahomva, 2015). The competing discourses of Marxism and pure pan-Africanist economic trajectory characterise the complexity of the complexion of economic decolonisation in Africa (Mahomva, 2014).

At the same time, this has harboured some contradictions where shifting economic policy positions are concerned. As noted in the seemingly socialist context of the ideological grounding of early independent Zimbabwe, Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) was adopted by the Government and this created early criticisms for the Mugabe administration (Kanyenze, 2011). In the same vein to attract Western political sympathy after the exit of Robert Mugabe, the current administration has been problematised in some quotas for its flirting with the West in its bid to solicit to access sources of foreign capital.  

– Richard Runyararo Mahomva is a Political-Scientist with an avid interest in political theory, liberation memory and architecture of governance in Africa. He is also a creative literature aficionado. Contact:

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