Xenophobia and Violence as youth economic empowerment tools: Misplaced priorities for Zimbabwe

15 Feb

The recent renewed calls for foreign business persons to leave Zimbabwe and have their businesses taken over by indigenous Zimbabweans are at the least misplaced and at worst highly misinformed. These calls are definitely nothing new and are a wicked extension  of  the chaotic indigenization process that first started with the 2000 land  invasions led ZANU PF.  Having witnessed the violence that engulfed Bulawayo and Harare in 2011 perpetrated by young ZANU PF party zealots, I am inclined to note that these actions are futile and irrational. This purported empowerment drive spearheaded by Zimbabwean young men and women is flawed for a number of reasons. In the end I argue that these unlawful actions must be stopped by the Zimbabwean government forthwith. Firstly, the idea that the Zimbabwean youth can be economically empowered by attacking and invading businesses owned by Nigerian, Pakistani and Indian nationals will not yield results. This is for the simple reason that most of these so called youths are mere hooligans who have no clue about running any business. These youths are being misled to believe that the retail sector and businesses owned by the foreigners are the most lucrative. Why are they not being told to take over companies that are in the construction, food or other industries. Young people need to be dissuaded from approaching life using this quick money making approach that has engulfed Zimbabwe. Even if these youths were to have access to the businesses that mainly specialize in motor vehicle spare parts, cheap clothing and home electricals, it would be nearly impossible for them to stock them up as they do not have the capital to stock these shops. Most of the goods are acquired from the Far East and Arab countries such as Dubai and China and God knows where these youths will raise airfares and other resources to keep these businesses running. Of course, I have no doubt that given expert advice these young people would be able to run these businesses but strongly doubt these “comrades” who have been protesting would be able to do any good beyond meting out the violence they are hired to deliver to the doorsteps of these foreigners. Secondly, I think the idea of invading the businesses by the youth and cancelling the operating licenses for these businesses by the gvernment only deals with the symptoms of the problem. It is alleged that property owners who are mainly of a foreign origin and even some Zimbabwean nationals have been charging exorbitant rentals in the form of “Goodwill deposits” ranging from $5 000 to $10 000 to get access to small rooms and shops for retail. This kind of speculation by property owners in Harare and some cities in Zimbabwe has led to the almost alienation of many a Zimbabwean entrepreneur who would want to engage in such businesses as those operated by the foreign nationals. Therein lies the problem – Zimbabwean nationals are now arguing that the Government must protect such industries as the retail sector from the so called foreigners. This is most ludicrous. My argument is that cancelling the licenses does not deal with the problem. The government and local authorities have a moral duty to step in to end such madness and protect not just Zimbabwean locals but even foreign nationals who might want to engage in retail trading in Zimbabwe. It certainly must be criminal for any property owner to charge such exorbitant fees citing fear of defaulting on the part of the lessee. There are clear laws that speak to tenant –lessee relations and these can be invoked in Zimbabwean courts of law if ever any of the parties were to default. A diligent enforcement and investigation of this and other related matters by the relevant authorities with assistance from other relevant parties such as representatives of the entrepreneurs should be able to solve this problem amicably. On a more serious and moral note, I find it deplorable that Zimbabwean government officials have remained mum when foreign nationals have been attacked over the running of these businesses. The actions exhibited by the youths are highly xenophobic and potentially lethal. Zimbabwe need not be reminded of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa on Zimbabweans some three years ago. The attacks on the Nigerians on Kaguvi Street, the Indians in down town Harare and other foreign nationals will not aid the indigenization or youth empowerment drive in any way. What will it be next then:  raiding the homes of these brothers in the affluent suburbs they live in, chasing their children from the affluent schools they go to, stopping them from going to upmarket clinics and hospitals, what,  what,  what… this madness must just stop. Infact, it is legally and morally wrong for the government of Zimbabwe to offer visas, residence permits and even operating licenses to these foreigners and pretend to feign ignorance when they are being attacked by these so called youths. If the Government of Zimbabwe feels that it does not want foreign nationals to engage in retail trade then this must be made clear to all and sundry through Zimbabwe’s embassies abroad, on the Government’s website and whatever medium so as to dissuade these so called “investors” from coming to Zimbabwe. It is funny to notice that the foreigners that have been targeted thus far remain fellow Africans from Nigeria. So much for African Brotherhood! Government Crying foul There has been an argument that the government is not benefitting in any way by the presence of these foreign nationals’ businesses in Zimbabwe. However, one is tempted to contend that the Zimbabwean government’s incapacity and inability to collect what is due to it is of its own creation. Efficient measures should be put in place to ensure that the have policies that are fit for purpose to deal with revenue collection. For instance, a less corrupt and more efficient system of customs duty regulations would ensure that these foreign businesses would pay proper import duty charges than what they are currently paying. Instead of punishing Zimbabweans who would have crossed the borders and bought themselves goods not meant for resell such as shoes and clothing, the government must find better ways of raising revenue. Moreover instead of the revenue ending up in customs officers pockets, it would contribute to government revenue helping it to create jobs and not this ludicrous idea of wanting to purportedly every youth to be a “businessman”. I am quite sure that if these foreign businesses pay other taxes, it will only be for window dressing. I would want to know what system is used by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to collect taxes such as VAT from these companies. Clearly assumptions are dangerous and could be misleading but I would take a hunch that the majority of these companies do not remit these taxes because of the porousness of the tax collection system and abuse by corrupt Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officials. Clearly, the Zimbabwean government is trying to solve the problem of youth unemployment and economic unemployment using a muddling through approach largely informed by illegal and vindictive actions. These in the end will not be beneficial to the scores of youth hired to be angry on behalf of the government and to the generality of Zimbabwean young people. My call is for the government to find other ways of dealing with these foreign business people such as efficient tax collection measures to raise the much needed revenue which they are failing to get from them at the moment. More importantly, the government needs to find money to inject into the economy so that more new jobs can be created to absorb the largely increasing young Zimbabwean population. A dosage of good governance that would ease the stringent conditions enforced by International lenders and a more transparent deployment of revenue from the Chiadzwa diamond sales could and will definitely ease such lacuna. Zimbabwean young people need to wake up and smell the coffee as well, no wealth gained through violence, vindictiveness and unfairness to other human beings will never bring them economic empowerment and prosperity.

One Response to “Xenophobia and Violence as youth economic empowerment tools: Misplaced priorities for Zimbabwe”

  1. Vale February 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    You are spot on Cde!!!


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