In a country that heavily relies on imports for everything from bottled water to matchsticks, Zimbabwe’s blanket ban on used vehicles, as stipulated in Statutory Instrument (SI 64), appears not only useless but also illogical. This policy is built on the flawed assumption that protectionism can shield the motor industry and the broader economy from the influx of imports that contribute to trade imbalances. However, Zanu PF’s approach to industry protectionism fails to address the core issues responsible for Zimbabwe’s trade deficits, characterized by significant imports exceeding the value of superior value-added exports like unprocessed agricultural products and minerals, often sold at a fraction of their true worth. Unless Zanu PF takes meaningful steps to rectify the man-made economic crisis through comprehensive political and economic reforms, protectionism is destined to fall short.

Essential reforms must include efforts to dismantle the intertwining of the ruling party and the state, which has facilitated primitive accumulation—a combination of coercive tactics and legitimizing consent used by ruling classes as they vie for political and ideological supremacy. This scenario is particularly relevant in a society marked by stark disparities in development, primarily driven by the dominance of a settler-capitalist mode of production and the new ruling class’s attempts to either supplant it or exploit it primarily for rent-seeking purposes. These factors are at the heart of the trade imbalances that Zanu PF is vainly trying to address through protectionist measures.

With triple-digit inflation, soaring internal and external debt, unsustainable fiscal practices, a tax regime conducive to tax evasion, and a blurred line between the ruling party Zanu PF and the paralyzed state that fosters corruption, Zimbabwe cannot afford a protectionist stance. The ailing industry desperately needs coherent policies that prioritize the sanctity of private property and are underpinned by a strong commitment to the rule of law—two essential elements for the revival and subsequent stabilization of the industry.

The political stalemate, a prerequisite for the necessary political reforms, offers a potential solution to the economic challenges plaguing Zimbabwe. These reforms could pave the way for the recovery and stabilization of an economy that deserves protection through trade-restrictive policies that make more sense than the irrational banning of second-hand vehicles. This stalemate, a result of Zanu PF’s futile attempts to establish a one-party state for perpetual power retention and unrestricted access to the people’s wealth, has hindered both service delivery and the overall welfare of the population.

Budgetary constraints, stemming from chronic budget deficits caused by growth-inhibiting policies driven by populist politics, coupled with corruption fueled by unjustified self-entitlement, have contributed to an unprecedented decline in Zimbabwe’s once-thriving industry. At the time of independence, Zimbabwe boasted the second-largest industrial sector in Africa. However, the decline brought about by unsound economic policies prompted the half-hearted implementation of the Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) as a means to stop the bleeding and allow for eventual economic healing.

ESAP was initially intended to counter the negative impacts of Zanu PF’s socialist policies that were harming the economy. However, diplomatic tensions with Western nations that intervened to prevent Zimbabwe’s imminent state failure and the resulting humanitarian crisis, coupled with Zanu PF’s anti-Western rhetoric, led to a different path. It is crucial to recognize that socialism, a preference of Zanu PF in the past, is fundamentally incompatible with democracy. Consequently, expecting a socialist state to embrace democratic principles is as unrealistic as expecting a fish to climb a tree. This level of ignorance has prevented the party from comprehending its failures, which cannot be remedied by protectionist policies aimed at addressing a crisis largely of Zanu PF’s making.

After international condemnation and isolation, primarily driven by Zanu PF’s illegitimate grip on power, the party responded with a poorly thought-out “Look East Policy.” This strategy, ignorant of the critical needs of the country’s industry, exacerbated the challenges faced by struggling industries. By exposing these industries to cheap imports, the policy forced many to shutter their operations, leading to increased unemployment and stagnant production. Zanu PF’s choice to prioritize national security and sovereignty over the welfare of its citizens was driven by the party’s need for political survival and longevity, detached from the people’s needs. Without legitimate reforms, Zanu PF cannot claim to suddenly care about Zimbabwe’s motor industry, as this contradicts its core objectives of plunder and primitive accumulation. A revived and stabilized economy, whether liberalized or not, threatens the state’s dependency, which Zanu PF relies on for power retention through partisan distribution of food aid and agricultural inputs.

An unfavorable tax regime and inflation have eroded consumer purchasing power, driving up the prices of locally manufactured goods. Poor economic policies, exposure to cheap imports, and a lack of political will to protect local industries have pushed consumers toward more affordable foreign products, particularly from China. In conclusion, it is not in Zanu PF’s interest to see a revitalized and stable industry. The party prioritizes its own self-preservation, survival, and longevity over the welfare of the people. This is compounded by Zanu PF’s failure to grasp the complexities of the political economy, which has led to uncontrolled profligacy and unsustainable borrowing. Ultimately, Zanu PF lacks the political will to implement the reforms necessary for the recovery of an industry worth protecting. Without reforms, there will be no industry left to safeguard.

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