via MDC split diverting attention – DailyNews Live by Jeffrey Muvundusi 6 MAY 2014
The current power tussle in the opposition MDC has become the talk of town, with screaming headlines of suspensions and expulsions surrounding the opposition party.
While this has consumed much of the local media space, observers say it is a fortuitous diversion of attention from the prevailing harsh economic conditions faced by the public.
Since the July 31 elections, things have been falling apart in the economy, that had shown great potential during the coalition government.
Of late, most Zanu PF and government gatherings have been characterised by long speeches centred on the controversial economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset).
For instance, at the just-ended Zimbabwe international Trade Fair (ZITF), speeches of government officials were characterised by droning populist rhetoric and repetitive and monotonous chants of the government’s economic blueprint ZimAsset.
While ZimAsset maybe a well thought out document, its implementation has not been as loud as President Robert Mugabe and his acolytes sing about. It is receiving a lukewarm response from different stakeholders.
In his address to journalists at the Bulawayo Press Club recently, president of the smaller MDC Welshman Ncube criticised the ZimAsset document.
“There are few who will doubt that the economy is far worse than it was before July 31 last year. Many of us are now worse off economically than we were before the elections. There are not many who will doubt that after nine months, the government of today has failed, notwithstanding the nice sounding clichés, ZimAsset, they have no clue on how to turn the economy,” Ncube said.
The blueprint reflects on the strong need to fully exploit internal relationships and linkages that exist between the various facets of the economy.
These clusters include food and security and nutrition, social services, poverty eradication, infrastructure, utilities, value edition and beneficiation.
But Ncube had no kind words for the document: “Slogans will never manage an economy. You may have an avalanche of nice sounding words, little tunes that children sing to but they will never manage the economy,” he said.
Towards elections, Zanu PF promised heaven on earth to the electorate, thereby managing to woo many souls who had previously lampooned the party for its annihilation of the once effervescent economy.
Ten months down the line, there are no signs of economic revival on the table, except the continuation of primitive rhetoric on promises which are not seeing the light of day.
Worse still, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, who early this year presented a national budget which economic analysts said was far from being pro-poor and failed to address the basic need for economic revival, told journalists in Bulawayo recently that Zimbabwe was in serious debt.
“Currently, I have got no capacity to pay the arrears or the principal debt which, by the way now, stands at $10,4 billion,” he said.
“This is excluding the RBZ debt which comes to $1,3 billion. We are more or less $7 or $8 billion in arrears owed to international financial institutions if we take all the debts into account.”
Chinamasa indicated that it had been made clear to him that Zimbabwe did not qualify for another loan as long as the arrears remained unpaid.
The IMF has always had a problem with Zanu PF’s numerous controversial policies such as the land reform programme. The chaotic land reform programme has been cited by the IMF as one of the reasons they would not consider providing debt relief anytime soon.
While the MDC infighting has suddenly hooked public attention, people seem to have forgotten what they are currently going through.
In Bulawayo alone, where more than 100 companies have shut down, ZimAsset has been cited by Zanu PF as the panacea to the crises through a Special Economic Zone provision which analysts say is far-fetched.
Reason Ngwenya, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Western regional director told the Daily News that the Zanu PF government was doomed in its bid to revive the economy.
“As things stand, the economy is sinking deeper, the liquidity crunch has just taken over,” Ngwenya said.
“The government has a lot of work to do in terms of holding the situation because if left unchecked by March next year, things will have worsened. Remember for any situation that we are in right now, the government is responsible.”
Ngwenya appealed to government to engage relevant stakeholders to try and save the economy from sliding further into the abyss.
Nicola Brown, the mainstream MDC Bulawayo legislator, concurred that the current squabbles in her party had actually obscured the challenges the country is going through at the moment.
She commended ZimAsset as a very good document which is lacks of funding.
“ZimAsset will be a very great document if only they tell us where the money will be coming from. As it is, there is no money to fund the blueprint and yet we all know the government has no money. Now it’s the taxpayer who has to fund this amidst all the corruption that is taking place in Zimbabwe,” Brown said.
She said the downward spiral of the economy has seriously shocked the ruling party to such an extent that it had been left clueless on how to contain the situation.
“We are now living in a nation where a huge gap has been created between the rich and the poor. The majority of people are wallowing in poverty and deprivation,” Brown added.