via ‘Mugabe belligerent stance an own goal’The Zimbabwe Independent by Hazel Ndebele and Brian Chitemba
A FEW days after making a conciliatory statement pledging to mend relations with the international community and saluting his former inclusive government partners at his inauguration, President Robert Mugabe slid back to his hardline stance threatening revenge against the West before ridiculing former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe’s threats against multinational companies and intolerant political statements jolted analysts who immediately said his tirade will derail prospects of economic recovery because Zimbabwe needs the West more than the West needs it.
Zanu PF, in its election manifesto, pledged to create over two million jobs mainly through its controversial indigenisation policy, a statement widely viewed as a pie in the sky given the party’s chequered track record since Independence.
After a landslide victory which the opposition has dismissed citing systematic rigging, among other allegations, Mugabe and Zanu PF are now under pressure to deliver on a myriad of promises made in the run-up to the July 31 elections.
The economy remains stuck in the doldrums after an earlier projection of 9% gross domestic product (GDP) growth for 2013 was revised downwards to 3,4% when the stock exchange nose-dived following Mugabe’s controversial win and the ageing leader’s recent statements which analysts say will do more harm than good.
GDP is unofficially pegged around US$7 billion, although official estimates claim it is US$11 billion.
With a host of formidable socio-economic challenges certain to make his seventh term a daunting one, Mugabe is reportedly mooting a grand exit plan since this is certainly his last term in office after clinging to power for 33 years.
In the plan, speculation is rife that Mugabe wants to include a few officials from the MDC to his new cabinet to give it a coalition face in order to seek legitimacy and maintain peace and stability, but with the ultimate goal being to create a stable economy.
But Mugabe seems to have quickly forgotten his conciliatory remarks a fortnight ago at the burial of one of the architects of his controversial victory, retired Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai, by launching a blistering attack on Tsvangirai describing him as an “ignoramus” before threatening a “tit-for-tat” against the British and Americans. He also threatened retribution against Harare and Bulawayo residents for voting MDC-T.
Speaking at the burial of Zanu PF politburo member Kumbirai Kangai last Saturday, Mugabe said the Heroes’ Acre was a preserve of Zanu PF-linked members only.
“They (MDC) want their zvitototo (buffoons) buried here. We say no. The only people we will bring here are the clean ones. Heroes of heroes,” said Mugabe.
Mugabe’s inconsistencies have raised pertinent questions about his sincerity to take Zimbabwe out of the woods and mend frosty diplomatic relations with the West, which slapped him and his inner circle with “targeted” sanctions over alleged human rights abuses and stolen polls.
Renowned economist John Robertson said Mugabe must be consistent or else people will not take him seriously.
“Potential investors who would want to assist Zimbabwe will under these circumstances lose confidence and go to other countries instead,” said Robertson.
“British and American companies in the country are not representing their governments; they are individuals, therefore Mugabe is addressing the wrong people; the business sector does not enjoy being threatened as they are in the country to perform a business function and not to be blamed for what their governments are doing.
“If the president retains good relations with the business sector, that will help generate tax revenues and employment. There is need for him to separate the political sector and the business sector.”
Economist Takunda Mugaga said such statements are toxic for economic growth although it is difficult to base government policy on what Mugabe said.
“Mugabe’s cabinet will be more revealing of his future policy stance than his utterances, although I do not dismiss the fact that such utterances stress the economy,” Mugaga said.
However, political commentator Blessing Vava dismissed Mugabe’s utterances as cheap politicking and mere rhetoric.
“He (Mugabe) is the one who plunged this country into this disaster and the chances of him doing anything spectacular to revive the economy are next to none. He needs to engage if he is really serious about rebuilding the country’s economy”.