Locking resources into a sustainable future

Tapiwa Maswera Correspondent

Whenever you talk about the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe, few men stand out for their iron-clad conviction, resolute determination and military vision and foresight like Josiah Tongogara.

In one of the video clips on YouTube, the popular war hero, astonishingly calls Ian Smith, a great teacher. This is a most flattering description of the architect of UDI, by someone who was already in full rebellion against the illegal Smith regime. But Josiah Tongogara was no ordinary man. Here was a man who had come from training in China in 1966 to find that the four groups of five-man liberation forces deployed into the country had been mercilessly wiped out by the ruthless Rhodesians.

There was no quarter to be given and the situation demanded war, outright confrontation with the sophisticated racist regime. Many attempts to infiltrate fighters into the then Rhodesia had failed miserably. Josiah set about reversing this situation and by 1979, he had deployed three battalions of 5 000 men each into Rhodesia.

This was a far cry from the four groups of five men each that had been deployed 13 years earlier in 1966 which had been completely wiped out.

And these battalions that he deployed in between 1977 and 1979 were aptly named. It’s a big lesson in transformational leadership and posting resources into the future and Zimbabwe would do well to learn from the man whose name pervades the narrative of its liberation war history.

The first battalion called Sungamberi, Shona for “tie up/lock into the front/future”, was about lifting the war to the next level.

I prefer the “lock into the future” interpretation of the word Sungamberi. It rhymes with my own imagination of a glorious war for independence which was well planned and executed.

The second battalion of 5 000 men was called Fanya Haraka, Swahili for “hurry, hurry” or “accelerate”. Again in my narrative, Fanya Haraka means “accelerate”.

The third battalion also of 5 000 men was called “Maliza Maliza”, Swahili for “finish off”. In a period of fours years after the catastrophic events of 1975 — events which among other things had led to the untimely death of Herbert Chitepo, another war hero and icon of the struggle — Tongogara had risen from the biggest setback in the fight for liberation and assembled a formidable force that was ready to claim the racist Rhodesian regime’s head.

In his philosophy, his narrative, his way of thinking — the way to do it was to lock into the future, accelerate and finish off with a flourish.

This narrative — lock into the future, accelerate and finish off with a flourish — rhymes with our times and the problem that is facing Zimbabwe at the moment.

Building an economy that can attract capital

The Zimbabwe economy — for whatever it’s worth — was built to extract natural resources and provide raw materials for the colonising powers — in the process creating an alienated and restless youth. It bleeds capital like a sieve and is not capable of accommodating and rehabilitating all our youths into its future. We need to transform this economy into one that can generate capital from within itself and attract more from outside.

To do this, we must be willing to learn even from our enemies, innovate and reinvent ourselves and invert the structure of our economy which is basically monopolistic and oligopolistic and in its current state incapable of delivering to all Zimbabweans.

Capital and Profits

The contractual savings (insurance and pensions) industry is the most logical starting point if we hope to create an economy that has bounce and is capable of generating its own capital and grow the economy sustainably.

When an economy has lost the capacity to create capital and deploy it efficiently within itself — read here make sustainable profits — then it has lost its capacity to continuously improve the way it serves its people.

The connection between capital and profits is what gives the economy its bounce and sustainability allowing it to grow and serve widening society needs over time. Charity is not scalable.

The Joseph Innovation

When the biblical Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream of seven years of hunger and seven years of plenty, he was locking into the future and describing the foundation for an economy that is self-perpetuating, capable of self-renewal and sustainable. A society that experiences fluctuating harvests, but is subject to an unvarying consumption rate must put away surplus in times of plenty so that it can benefit in times of hunger.

This simple concept made Egypt the first and oldest nation state to date, richest and most powerful nation on earth for 30 centuries.

Posting resources into the future

A Zimbabwe that aspires to lock itself into a prosperous and sustainable growth trajectory should not only learn to live within its means, but it must also learn the art of posting resources into the future. The financial services industry is the life blood of the economy and no economy can function well without a viable and vibrant financial services industry. Posting resources into the future creates capital which in turn creates the assets that banks require as security which in turns facilitates the value creation that is required for profitability and growth.

Negative Savings Rate

Tragically, Zimbabwe at the moment has a negative savings rate of ‐8 percent. Compared to South Africa (14 percent) and some fast growing Asian countries (50 percent), we are actually going backwards.

Research has demonstrated that a country that has a well-functioning financial services industry can generate as much as an additional 1 percent growth rate. Simon Kuznets, the originator of the concept of GDP, liked to joke that when one talks of economic development, then there was the First World, Third World, Argentina and Japan. After World War 2, Argentina went from the sixth biggest economy in the world into oblivion while Japan resolutely locked into a prosperous future, accelerated and finished off the second biggest economy in the world by 1968.

A big part of Japan’s experience was based on learning the art of posting resources into the future, using it to raise the massive amounts of capital which were complemented by American aid. It helped that Japan no longer had to spend much on its own defence.

Conclusion

We need to learn from our heroes’ nay from our enemies too. The most important challenge facing us as a country today — an unemployed and restless youth — was originally created by colonisation when it dislocated black youths from land.

But we delude ourselves when we think land reform or better education followed by unemployment has even dented it.

It is a problem that has informed all our wars and woes — the rebellion of 1896, the war of liberation, land reform and now it manifests in a restless workforce and an equally restless unemployed youth.

As President Mnangagwa succinctly sums it up, the solution is jobs, jobs, jobs. The economy needs to start building a strong backbone — by rehabilitating its capacity to generate capital from within itself in order to deal decisively with this problem. Like Josiah Tongogara, we need to lock into a sustainable future, accelerate and finish off with a flourish. Who knows, we could be employing youths in battalions of 50 000 a year in 13 years’ time.

Tapiwa Maswera is an Executive Director and founder of Global Worldview. He is an actuary, researcher, valuator of pension funds, a former member of the Justice Smith Commission of Inquiry into the Loss of Values in the Insurance and Pensions Industry. He can be contacted at tapiwa@acumenactuaries.com

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