Putting people at the center of economic development

By Raynold Mhotseka

Harare – Latest events following the Police ban on the planned demos by the main opposition party MDC Alliance sparks interesting debate on whether democracy promotes or inhibits development.

The ultimate concern of this article is not one driven by political interest but rather one underpinned by eagerness to witness real economic development and transformation following years of isolation on the international scene during the long rule of former President Robert Mugabe.

A report commissioned by the World Bank and Nordic Trust Fund titled “Human Rights and Economics: Tensions and Positive Relationships” mentioned that human rights add value when it comes to the quality of economic growth, and specifically the distribution of growth within a society.

“As such, they should not been seen as constraining economic development and growth but seen rather as a framework for economic development, which can inform economic policy and guide social welfare on aspects related, in particular, to equity,” the report said.

Since the 2018 harmonised elections, the political environment in Zimbabwe has remained tense especially with the Nelson Chamisa led MDC Alliance refusing to accept the outcome and effectively regarding the incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa as “illegitimate.”

Since then, the country has witnessed a series of demonstrations, most of which unfortunately have ended up in bloodshed and loss of lives amid a major crackdown on protesters by the security forces.

The ban on the recent planned demos by the opposition party, one of which was slated for Friday 16th in the capital last week and the events which followed as the Police descended heavily on the defiant protesters has raised questions in relation to government’s commitment in upholding human rights.

The interest of this article is to explore the relationship between the two, “Respect of human rights and Economic development.”

In relation to the events aforementioned, it is important to take note of some of the civil liberties and these include the freedoms of speech, assembly, religion and movement.

Arguably, improvements in countries’ ratings in the upholding of such civil liberties boost economic growth rates. In addition, an environment where human rights are respected is bound to increase both domestic and international investment, all of which Zimbabwe is currently desperate for as the government aims to revive the country’s ailing economy.

The manner in which the Police handled itself to disperse the demonstrators following the prohibition order, arbitrary arrests and detention of political activist has put a dent on government’s efforts to sale a reformed image to the outside world especially Europe and America.

Given that much of the chaos has been brewing in the urban areas, the larger part of which is the hub of opposition politics according to election outcomes, it seems government is more concerned with championing economic development even if it means by-passing the other.

This appears unwise as the international community continue to reiterate the need for political reforms as key to unlocking economic fortunes for the once ‘bread basket of Africa’ nation.

In a joint statement published on Tuesday, the Heads of Mission of the Delegation of the European Union to Zimbabwe said the intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders, trade union and civil society representatives and opposition politicians prior to, during and following the demonstration in Harare on 16 August are a cause for concern.

This casts a doubt on prospects for positive economic development, worse off during a time it has been confirmed that the country is heading towards recession in 2019, and also battling a sharp increase in inflation levels.

Zimbabwe needs not to do much to address this conflict between the respect of human rights and economic development. A genuine dialogue where all political parties are content with its nature is the key starting point.

The ongoing political tensions is dragging the nation which is full of potential and it is high time different arms including the courts and security forces discharge their duties in a manner that does not spark partisan linkages.

Systematic disrespect of human rights during the former president’s tenure on a larger extent drove the country to the current impasse, reversing that will undoubtedly go a long way in complementing efforts to revitalise the economy again.


Raynold Mhotseka

Raynold Mhotseka is a Journalism and Media Studies student at the University of Zimbabwe. He serves as a news writer at financial research firm, Equity Axis where he is currently on attachment. He can be contacted through the following email links, rayjnr.mhotseka@gmail.com and raynoldm@equityaxis.net.

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