HARARE – Over the years, one of Zimbabwe’s greatest handicaps — and one that led to run-away expenditure by any standard for a little geographical entity as ours — has been the conflation of party and government functions.
This trend, which started during the dark years of former president Robert Mugabe’s rule, seems to have continued unabated even after the fall of the former strongman in November 2017, paving the way for his ally-turned-foe Emmerson Mnangagwa taking over both government and party reigns.
However, although people expected a lot from Mnangagwa given the magnitude of the rot that took place during dictator Mugabe’s days at the helm, nothing seems to have changed.
Zimbabweans supported the military takeover of 2017 primarily because they hoped Mnangagwa had since realised Zimbabwe was being taken down a forest path heading nowhere. There was indeed a feeling that Mnangagwa would tinker with his Cabinet, discarding the old guard that superintended over Zimbabwe’s current mess and picking new faces.
When he shunted the likes of Obert Mpofu — for long accused to be the face of graft involving diamonds in Chiadzwa and Patrick Chinamasa, among others many thought government has stopped spending on them.
Instead, Mnangagwa assured the party bigwigs that they would continue to enjoy full ministerial benefits even though they were now working at the party headquarters. Nobody is really sure who is providing funding for their salaries and perks amid suspicion Treasury is involved.
For a cash-strapped country struggling to meet fuel and drugs procurement among other key obligations, spending another cent on party functionaries would be unacceptable.
It is possible no one sees anything wrong with that within Zanu PF, because they have been used to that anyway. During Mugabe’s time, several party programmes were funded by Treasury, making Zanu PF party officials think the conflation between government and party was normal. It could even be worse now with Mnangagwa having adopted the Chinese setup where the Chinese Communist Party is stronger than government.
There are suspicions that some policies announced by government, especially through ministers who were drafted in by Mnangagwa as non-constituency Members of Parliament, are being sabotaged at party level. Typical examples are Mthuli Ncube’s pronouncements.
Though hugely unpopular as they hurt the poor, most of the resistance seems to be coming from Zanu PF headquarters.
It is possible Mnangagwa wanted to placate the Zanu PF bigwigs to ensure unity within the ruling party but all the same cracks have continued to manifest. With Mugabe, those who dare question often got scathed as the tyrant did not take dissent lightly.
Party business will never turn out to be government business. On the other hand, government business is an entirely different thing altogether. Because of the conflation of the two all along, there are some among the country’s citizens, who would not see anything wrong with government funding party rallies and other functions.
There were several instances when Mugabe and his wife Grace travelled on government helicopters to venues across the country for meet-the-people rallies.
It is possible a lot of resources were diverted towards funding party activities for years, costing government millions of dollars. A clear distinction between the two is necessary in order to safeguard the paltry resources government has for its own operations.