via Can another unity government salvage Zimbabwe’s economic fortunes? – NewsDay Zimbabwe 8 August 2014 by Everson Mushava
ZIMBABWE’S economy is falling like a deck of cards, one year after the harmonised elections that ushered in the new Zanu PF government, ending the “promising” unity government between President Robert Mugabe and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The centre is failing to hold for Mugabe’s government.
Despite all Zanu PF’s electoral promises that saw it romp to a resounding victory over its arch-rival, MDC-T with a wide margin beyond many people’s expectations, the situation in Zimbabwe has remained precarious. The economy has been nose-diving at an alarming rate.
The country is grappling with massive deflation worsened by severe capital flight as both local and international investors continue to lose confidence in the government’s economic policies and political leadership.
Unemployment is spiralling out of control and, according to unofficial statistics, is now soaring above 90%.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union has claimed that over 400 workers were being retrenched every week as companies continue to close down.
Economists and the opposition MDC-T have accused Mugabe’s government, which is also struggling to pay its 230 000-strong workforce, of failing to revive the economy, claiming it was clueless and too engrossed with internal political fights.
Mugabe’s government is also struggling to raise the $27 billion required to fund its economic blueprint, Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset).
Tsvangirai recently described the worsening economic crisis as a “high security risk” and “a ticking time bomb”.
The former Premier claimed that policy inconsistency, particularly on the country’s indigenisation laws by Mugabe and the Zanu PF government, was the precursor to the economic collapse.
Tsvangirai has sensationally claimed that he holds the keys to the country’s economic recovery. Tendai Biti, Tsvangirai’s former secretary-general and leader of the MDC Renewal Team, has also called for the formation of a National Transition Council (NTC) to revive the country’s fledging economic fortunes.
But as the country continues to reel from the economic crisis while Zanu PF appears clueless, could unity between Zanu PF and the MDCs bring smiles to the face of the impoverished Zimbabweans?
Political and media analyst Ernest Mudzengi said unity could be a good proposal but judging from their performance during the time of the inclusive government, he feared the political parties would be too preoccupied with political power struggles at the expense of fulfilling their new mandate.
“Personally, I don’t think they can progressively work together. The best they would do is to come together and tussle for power as we witnessed during the times of the unity government,” Mudzengi said.
“What we saw was nothing but struggle for political turf. From the background, and looking at history, we can have a situation where they end up fighting over petty political differences that would not get Zimbabwe working again.”
Mudzengi said what was more important was for all stakeholders to work together to review the country’s fledging economic fortunes as it was evident from precedent that political parties cannot work together.
The inclusive government between Mugabe and the MDCs, which was brokered by Sadc after the hotly-contested and disputed March 2008 polls, was credited with stabilising the economy after a decade-long economic crisis.
But since Zanu PF romped to victory a year ago, the economy is moving in a reverse direction and the country is on the verge of collapse.
Zanu PF has struggled to fulfil all the promises it made ahead of the elections. This has given ammunition to Tsvangirai to claim that he has been the key to the country’s economic development.
The five years of unity government were characterised by haggling from the three parties and Mudzengi said there was nothing pointing to a complete departure from that culture.
Biti recently warned that economic recovery under the Zanu PF government was a pipe dream, while calling for the formation of a NTC to address the country’s economy that is falling into a debilitating comatose under Mugabe’s rule.
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said unity between Zanu PF and the opposition parties was impossible, but if ever the economy was to rebound, the onus was on Zanu PF to outline the succession plan for Mugabe so that people know who takes over.
“If this is not done, the situation will remain tenuous,” Zhangazha said.
He said unity between political parties would be of limited import as Zanu PF would still dictate the pace owing to large numbers in Parliament.
He said the situation would be made worse by the fact that the opposition is heavily divided and would not be of any substance to both national and foreign politics.
“There will be no unity in the short term,” he said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo recently said his party was open for negotiations which could result in his party working together with the MDCs to revive the economy, but such negotiations would be subject to Tsvangirai recognising Mugabe as the duly elected President of Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai has openly said he would never recognise the Zanu PF government which he claims was ushered in by rigged elections which his party described as “a monumental farce”.
The former Premier claims Zimbabwe’s economic woes were a result of a legitimacy crisis over Mugabe’s government after the “stolen polls”.
Some analysts say policy inconsistencies by the Zanu PF government, particularly in its empowerment laws, were the genesis to the economic meltdown. Just like his predecessor Biti, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has lamented bankruptcy on the part of government that he said was even struggling to raise money for recurrent expenditure.
Chinamasa has traversed the globe with a begging bowl to fund ZimAsset and revive the economy, but the efforts are hitting a brick wall because of the country risk. Zimbabwe is internationally perceived as uncreditworthy.
Corruption is also believed to be weighing heavily on government performance, but inaction on the part of the Zanu PF administration to deal with the scourge was adding salt to injury in efforts to resuscitate the economy.
Chinamasa recently proposed the closure of some parastatals that were not performing and bleeding the fiscus, against the background that top management in those institutions were pocketing hefty salaries.
Things seem to be grinding to a halt. The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority which is failing to meet collection targets, is now targeting vendors in an economy mainly dominated by informal activities.
Dewa Mavhinga, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition board chairperson, said: “Our economy will only recover if government abandons political patronage and becomes a meritocracy, that is, a government by people chosen on the basis of their ability and expertise, not political affiliation.”
While admitting that the five-year inclusive government between Zanu PF and the MDCs brought some form of sanity to the economy, he said the challenge with the Zanu PF government was its inability to restore investor confidence.
“The Government of National Unity comprising Zanu PF and the MDCs between 2009 and 2013 was positive for the economy mainly because it inspired confidence both locally and internationally that the economy was under good management,” Mavhinga said.
“What Zanu PF and its economic policy blueprint now lack is that all-important public confidence.”
He said the Zanu PF government should focus on creating a conducive environment for business, “the thrust which includes clear, settled and progressive laws and policies that attract foreign investment and also lead to a return of the huge number of Zimbabwe’s skilled labour force, experts and managers who are outside the country leading and sustaining economies of other countries because they are neither valued nor respected in their own country”.
Zimbabwe, Mavhinga said, has great infrastructure, but lacks proper, professional and qualified managers in government because of endemic political nepotism, patronage and cronyism by the Zanu PF government.