via Zanu PF’s ‘Bhora Mugedhi’: Did voters score own goal? Everson Mushava April 21, 2014 in NewsDay
ZIMBABWEANS were pampered with promises in last year’s general elections as political parties, particularly President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the MDC-T led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai jostled for votes.
Supporters were promised heaven and earth, with most of the promises focusing on reviving the country’s economy so that Zimbabweans could have food on the table. The last general election was a contest of economic blueprints purportedly targeted at improving the livelihoods of the many impoverished Zimbabweans.
Tsvangirai, who was targeting the youth vote, was brandishing his Job creation, Upliftment, Capital Investment and Ecology (JUICE) economic revival plan that was anchored on reviving industry and creation of over one million jobs.
Zanu PF rolled its campaign on indigenisation, job creation and black empowerment. Under the “bhora mugedhi” election campaign, the revolutionary party implied that Zimbabweans would score “a winning goal” by voting for it.
But just nine months after Mugabe’s resounding victory, Zimbabweans have awakened to the reality of a biting economy. The country is faced with a myriad of problems ranging from a collapsing industry to a stinging cash squeeze. The over 2 million jobs promised are still a pipe dream.
While the struggling masses are groping for answers from Mugabe, the corrupt-ridden ruling party seems clueless on how to turn around the country’s free-falling economy.
Things are getting worse and time seems to be ticking away for Mugabe, who turned 90 this year, while the hope for a better life for most of the struggling Zimbabweans is dwindling faster than it was conceived.
The prevailing situation has left people wondering whether by voting for “bhora mugedhi”, they did not score an own goal.
Mugabe promised to inject about $7,3 billion in liquidity through the indigenisation of about 1 138 companies across the country’s 14 key sectors of the economy.
This would enable, according to the blueprint, Zanu PF to generate 2,265 million jobs in the next five years and reduce the unemployment rate which statistics say is hovering above 85%.
Zanu PF also promised to build 250 000 low-income housing units for the million homeless Zimbabweans, 1 250 public houses and create 2 500 shell factories, flea and vendor market stands. The revolutionary party also promised to build 310 clinics and 300 schools.
But contrary to this, it seems the party has even rehashed its widely condemned Operation Murambatsvina, through eviction of residents in Chitungwiza and some areas scattered all over the country.
There are no signs that the government will provide residential stands soon, as even evidenced by an increase of squatter camps in Harare and the rest of the cities.
Mugabe promised an improvement in the supply of utility services such as clean water and electricity. He said his government would also increase salaries for civil servants to above the Poverty Datum Line of $511 per month.
While government employees have started receiving their salary increase this month, the salaries remain a pittance as most civil servants have received between $35- $50 for an increment.
STATE OF ECONOMY IN TATTERS
The economic situation stabilised during the five-year coalition government between Zanu PF and the two MDCs. Goods once again became available on the country’s supermarket shelves that had been empty for more than a decade due to Mugabe’s bad economic policies.
Both parties claimed ownership of the transformation of the country’s economy during the inclusive government tenure, but observers say Zimbabwe’s fortunes could have been a lot better had it not been for the haggling in government by the two giant parties.
Mugabe’s party always blamed everything bad on Tsvangirai’s party, accusing former Finance minister Tendai Biti of sabotaging Zanu PF populist policies by denying them funding, particularly in the agricultural sector.
The war vets, the biggest beneficiaries of the 2000 land reform besieged Biti’s offices several times demanding funding and labelling him a traitor who had crippled the agricultural sector and decimated the country’s food security.
The MDC-T secretary-general on the other hand repeatedly accused Zanu PF of siphoning diamond revenue, to build a war chest and deny the economy of the much needed capital injection.
It was always a war of words between the two and to most people, elections to usher in a single face government was the only way to transform the country’s flagging fortunes.
But alas, nine months after Mugabe’s electoral victory, his party has proved to be a needle pricking most Zimbabweans’ hearts.
Bhora Mugedhi? Joseph Chinotimba kicks of an imaginary ball before getting the parliament. File Picture by Aaron Ufumeli
Ironically some in Zanu PF are still throwing victory parties, and some have even started openly saying they are already preparing for the 2018 poll as if it’s only a year away.
Companies are closing down and according to statistics by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, close to 10 000 jobs have been lost as close to 100 companies have closed shop. The situation has continued to take a nose dive.
Just last week, the Registrar of Companies struck off more than 176 companies off the register. More than 634 companies are set to be de-registered in the next three months as, according to Section 320 of the Companies Act (Chapter 24:03), the companies have failed to either take off or have stopped business for a long time.
Mugabe’s government has struggled to deal with widespread corruption that has seen only a few well-connected people benefit from the country’s struggling economy while the rest are relegated to abject poverty. Zanu PF has failed to improve on its international relations. Lines of credit to generate the much needed foreign direct investment have remained elusive and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is struggling to meet revenue targets as companies are closing down, depriving the economy of taxes.
The party’s economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) has been lauded as the panacea to the country’s economic woes, but lack of funding has hampered its success. ZimAsset is clear on what needs to be done for revival of the economy, but remains mum on the how or where the funding will come from.
In early February, acting director of fiscal policy and advisory services Jonah Mushayi told a Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) workshop on ZimAsset that the policy needed $27 billion for it to be actualised. The budget is almost seven times the country’s National Budget of $4,1 billion announced by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last year. Chinamasa had, prior to presenting the budget, traversed the globe looking for funds, but had returned home empty handed.
Foreign Affairs deputy minister Christopher Mutsvangwa last month said Zimbabwe’s inability to honour its foreign debt was haunting it as no country was at liberty to release funds.
Former Economic Planning minister Tapiwa Mashakada said government’s failure to recognise the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) was the biggest flaw of ZimAsset.
“The programme is digging its own grave. It does not want to acknowledge FDI. FDI is downplayed as indigenisation is blown out of proportion,” Mashakada observed.
Zimbabwe has failed to attract foreign investors due to policy inconsistencies regarding its indigenisation policy. Tsvangirai, who claims Mugabe stole the last election, has repeatedly said he is the panacea to Zimbabwe’s economic challenges and unless Mugabe swallowed his pride and invited him for another coalition government, Zimbabweans would continue to sing the blues.
Tsvangirai’s claims are largely hinged on the extent to which things gradually improved for the masses when his party joined hands with Zanu PF in the Sadc-brokered inclusive government back in 2009. To some extent he might be correct, given the fact that Zanu PF has failed to prove these claims wrong for the past nine months.
The country is broke and struggling to pay civil servants. Political analyst Alexander Rusero said there was hypocrisy on Zanu PF’s failure to remunerate government workers well.
“During the inclusive government era, when Finance minister Tendai Biti was lamenting government’s bankruptcy, Mugabe and all Zanu PF ministers used the salaries issue as indicator of unwillingness by MDC to improve workers’ livelihoods. But they are now in government and failing to do the same,” Rusero said.
Mugabe’s promise to fund agriculture has also suffered a stillbirth with his Agriculture minister Joseph Made advising farmers to approach banks. Provision of social services in local authorities has become worse.
SIGNS OF HARD TIMES
While observers say it was too early for people to conclude that the former guerrilla leader has failed, the situation prophesies more hardships.
Zimbabweans are not new to gnawing poverty, but following a promise for better things by the just-ended coalition government, the dream of riveting to the 2008 ravaging poverty is just something most people cannot stomach.
A till operator with one of the largest supermarket chains who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media told NewsDay that sales have plummeted to the lowest ebb as the cash squeeze bites.
“I used to record sales of about $6 000 on my till before the elections, but now, on a busy day, I record at most $2 000. Things are bad,” he said.
Most companies have been struggling to pay workers. They are staggering salaries while others are put on forced leave as the economy continues to be distressed.
Newspaper adverts of goods being auctioned because people and companies have failed to service bank loans are clear testimony of the tough times.
Companies are struggling to access loans from banks to capitalise their businesses while for those that manage to secure loans, the cost of the money will be too high in a country with a stagnant economic growth.
Chinamasa in December last year admitted the high cost of money saying most companies would not find a breakthrough as all the profits will be consumed by the loan? Due to the current cash challenges, people have looked helplessly while their properties go under the hummer.
Last Friday, the Small Enterprises Development Corporation (Sedco) auctioned 17 properties as people and companies failed to service loans. Debt collectors and the Deputy Sheriff have also had a field day in attaching properties as more people continue to default due to the current cash squeeze and economic hardships.
John Mbizi, a Zimbabwean entrepreneur said he took $7 000 from a local bank to recapitalise his steel-making business, but lost his residential stand in Mt Pleasant after the business performed badly and he failed to service the loan that was spiralling due to interests.
“At the moment, I owe workers over $10 000 and things are not looking good. All my equipment and residential stands have been auctioned because I have failed to service the loans. There is no money in the country and we ended up selling our goods at non-viable prices, despite that interests will be accumulating on our loans at the bank,” he said.
Econometer Global Capital head of research Takunda Mugaga said auctioneers are cashing in because people are over borrowed due to economic hardships.
“Auctioneers are busy because people are failing to service debts due to grinding poverty. Poverty is reaching a climax in the country. If you visit micro-finance companies, you will meet even chief executive officers looking for loans. People are desperate, but the security margins of these loans are just unjustifiably high,” said Mugabe.
He said the situation was likely to get worse in the near future.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo has repeatedly said people should be patient with Zanu PF as it was working on resolving the economic challenges the country was facing.
To buttress Gumbo’s plea, Chinamasa, who is struggling to secure bailout packages and budgetary support, last October told an AMH Conversations session in Harare that the country’s economic problems cannot be addressed overnight.
Chinamasa told delegates to remain hopeful, saying there were no quick-fix solutions to the country’s economic challenges.