Editorial Comment: Let actions speak louder than words

Minister Shiri

Minister Shiri

A major reason why we must celebrate Operation Restore Legacy which was executed by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces last month is that it ensured Zanu-PF remains in charge of key Government policies.

This is important for purposes of continuity, steadiness of the revolutionary ethos and entrenchment of black economic empowerment policies. Essentially, that is Zanu-PF’s most enduring legacy and at its core is the land reform programme. All other so-called “reforms” are neoliberal sideshows which should not detract from policies which are set to make Zimbabwe the most empowered society in the region.

That said, we want to hold President Mnangagwa to his word: it is not going to be business as usual under his administration. We take that to mean actions will speak louder than words – whether it is the fight against corruption, cutting non-essential Government expenditure or improving service delivery.

What will separate the new administration from the previous one are not policy “reforms” to make a so-called clean break with Mugabe; rather what will distinguish the two very significantly is the new administration’s ability to translate words into action and policy into actionable programmes.

We therefore liked it when the new Agriculture, Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri last week made two policy announcements which we hope will be implemented with speed. First, he said people who have occupied State land without official documents should move out immediately. Related to this, at the launch of Command Livestock, Fisheries and Wildlife in Harare, Minister Shiri said there would be no more fresh land occupations and that offer letters should be respected.

He also said issuance of 99-year leases would be expedited so resettled farmers could use these to borrow money from banks. For this to work, he said, farmers should take farming as a full-time business.

Over the years since the land reclamation programme began in earnest, its biggest implementation handicaps have been lack of funding and disruptive, unlawful farm occupation by people without proper documents coupled with a failure to enforce policy. Witness how many land audits were carried out, all exposing multiple farm ownerships against Zanu-PF’s own one man one farm policy but nothing was done.

We need action on the farms. Including on inordinately protracted audits and resizing of farms. Disputes over boundaries must soon be a thing of the past and so should corruption and delays in the provision of inputs.

In fact, things seem to be falling into place. Zimbabwe Bankers’ Association chief executive officer Mr Sij Biyam assured Minister Shiri at the launch of Command Livestock last week that all banks were ready to fund agriculture so long as they were not crowded out of resources by excessive Government borrow- ing.

We stress the need for expeditious action because Zimbabwe cannot afford to create a perception of failure on the land reform. That is the only policy initiative and legacy which distinguishes it from much of the continent. And so far Boers in South Africa have tried to use occasional food shortages as a result of frequent droughts as a scarecrow against land hungry blacks. They are told without the Boer farmer they will starve like Zimbabweans, that Mugabe ruined a once prosperous economy, and by implication they are being told Africans cannot farm and feed themselves. That the white farmer is their only saviour.

We cannot therefore fail South Africa’s poor through our own failure to make a success of the land reform. We are not about to confirm that Africans are incapable of farming unless they are being supervised by a white farm owner.

Unfortunately, the new administration doesn’t have the luxury of time on its lap. That is why speedy policy implementation is of the essence. Let actions speak louder than words.

We need to “reform” the way we implement policy rather than waste time reforming policies crippled by lack of implementation or by corrupt execution.

Article Source: The Herald

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