Source: 2017: Year of the rooster | The Financial Gazette January 12, 2017
By Njabulo Ncube
IN a recent Facebook post, a ZANU-PF politician had this to say on his timeline: “2017 is the year of the rooster (cock); what a coincidence”.
He was making reference to Chinese folklore whereby the year 2017 is cited as the year of the rooster or cockerel.
One of the key characteristics of the rooster, according to the Chinese, is its ability to be observant.
In the world of entertainment, the rooster is an excellent amuser for those who enjoy cock fighting.
Juxtaposed with human characters, the rooster can be likened to a devoted and loyal personality — individuals who keep their promises.
Other positive traits associated with the rooster include exceptional organisational skills, living a refined life, being tidy, and making decisions only after getting all the facts.
Incidentally, ZANU-PF had a rooster or a cock as its party symbol before it signed a Unity Accord with PF-ZAPU in 1987.
The accord which followed protracted civil unrest in the country soon after independence in 1980 saw the party changing its symbol to an artwork of the Great Zimbabwe monuments.
Regardless, the rooster emblem is still perched at the apex of the party’s headquarters in Harare.
Against this background, is it plausible to say 2017 is the year for the ruling ZANU-PF basing it on the Chinese Zodiac?
Obviously, most of the traits found in the cockerel are not part of the ruling ZANU-PF’s DNA. The party has presided over an economic free-fall, spanning over two decades.
Its policies are largely populist and therefore ruinous to business.
ZANU-PF is also known for its vindictiveness against those who disagree with it.
Having said that, ZANU-PF’s ability to quickly and accurately assess situations and overcome obstacles resonates with some of the traits of a rooster.
Reason Wafawarova, a political analyst based in Australia who is closely linked to ZANU-PF, believes that President Robert Mugabe’s party still enjoys hegemony sufficient enough to secure fresh government tenure in 2018.
“Socially, we are likely to remain a highly adaptive nation — putting up with all the challenges coming our way. Economically, the only chance of a difference is intervention from outside, through loans or aid. This cannot be entirely ruled out, although there are next to nothing in terms of chances to increase economic production ahead of 2018,” he said.
Undoubtedly, ZANU-PF is a political behemoth, weakened by factionalism.
Rampant corruption, in both the party and government, as well as a poorly performing economy, are seen posing enormous challenges for ZANU-PF going into elections in 2018.
To a lot of people, ZANU-PF faces its waterloo at the coming polls unless it deals with the existing economic challenges.
According to the Chinese, the major downfall of the rooster is its day dreaming habits, an imperfection that has also trailed President Mugabe’s party for years.
If there is one thing that ZANU-PF has in abundance, it’s ideas, although party mandarins rarely sit down to implement them.
Ahead of the 2013 polls, the party came up with an impressive manifesto, which now presents challenges for its leadership in terms of fulfilling its promises.
Among the promises, the party pledged to create 2,2 million jobs and to grow the stock of houses in urban centres.
As it is, the party is now racing against time to fulfill the promises made during the 2013 poll campaign trail.
Will ZANU-PF politicians be able to find solutions to the multi-faceted economic challenges and turn 2017 into “the year of the rooster”?
This is the multi-million dollar question that begs for an answer.
Ricky Mukonza, a Zimbabwean who teaches public management at Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa, said a general shift in the country’s policies, including those that have been stifling economic growth, can only be achieved as a result of change in leadership.
“However, if President Mugabe remains in power, the status quo is likely to continue. Political instability, both within the ruling party and in government is likely to persist as ZANU-PF leaders position themselves for the post-Mugabe era,” opined Mukonza.
Mukonza sees unpredictability in fundamental economic policies rattling the country’s economy going forward.
“All this will mean worsening hardships for the ordinary Zimbabweans. The deteriorating economy means closure of the few remaining companies, increased unemployment and decreased disposable incomes,” he said.
Complicating matters for ZANU-PF is the bane of corruption, which is frustrating efforts meant to revive the country’s economy.
Top officials accused of rampant corruption continue to walk the streets scot free, with law enforcement agencies looking the other side.
The same cannot be said of ordinary citizens who are being sent to the slammer for petty crimes.
There is also worsening factionalism within ZANU-PF’s rank and file, notwithstanding repeated calls to party faithful by President Mugabe to shun divisions.
ZANU-PF is divided into two distinct factions — the so-called Team Lacoste and Generation 40 or G40.
The divisions have seen the war veterans being split into several groups, hence disrupting the cohesiveness that used to make ZANU-PF a fearsome machine going into elections.
A recent document leaked to the media claimed the problems affecting war veterans “in their totality and complexity” are beginning to define a national security threat, with unpleasant connotations as 2018 approaches.
“This calls for urgency in addressing their issues,” reads part of the 10-page document purpotedly co-signed by Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramai and War Veterans Minister Tshinga Dube.
The expulsion from ZANU-PF in 2014 of former vice president Joice Mujuru and her so-called cabal had been expected to decisively deal with factionalism in the party once and all but, to the contrary, facts on the ground have shown otherwise.
Ahead of Christmas, Team Lacoste and G40 were at loggerheads over proposals to amend the country’s Constitution to allow President Mugabe to cherry-pick the next Chief Justice in the wake of the imminent retirement in February this year of Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku.
Currently, there is furore over a coffee mug that was emblazoned with the words, “I am the boss”, which Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was pictured holding late last month.
Mnangagwa’s rivals in G40 have come out guns blazing, accusing the Vice President of trying to usurp President Mugabe’s authority.
Team Lacoste, which is solidly behind Mnangagwa, has dismissed the claims as a storm in a tea cup.
Despite the party being averse to officials using the social media to discuss party business and settle their personal scores, Twitter and Facebook wars have continued, and it looks like the country is headed for another stormy year on the social media front.
This does not augur well for the party at a time the opposition is reportedly on the verge of forming a grand coalition.
Analysts canvassed by the Financial Gazette this week seem to agree with the Chinese’s interpretation of 2017 in so far as the Zimbabwean politics is concerned.
Among them, there is consensus that ZANU-PF would continue ruling the roost, citing its populists policies, such as the continuing land reforms, command agriculture, and the parceling out of residential stands to civil servants and the youths among other sweeteners ahead of polls.
The election mode would be deeply entrenched in 2017, with much of what will happen during the course of the year largely determined by what happens within ZANU-PF.
Reward Mushayabasa, a former journalism lecturer and political analyst, said 2017 would be a critical year in terms of the party’s existence as a political force in the Zimbabwe body politic.
Firstly, the leadership crisis within ZANU-PF might continue to haunt the party, he said.
“We are likely to see more factional fighting within the party as the key contenders for the succession battle position themselves to takeover in the post-Mugabe era,” said Mushayabasa.
“Secondly, we are likely to witness more repression from ZANU-PF as the party fights for its own survival. The party will continue to consolidate its grip on power by appointing party loyalists to strategic State institutions like the judiciary and security sector. Thirdly, we are likely to witness very little condemnation of ZANU-PF’s poor governance and human rights abuses from the international community,” he added.
Journalist tuned banker and economist, Bekithemba Mhlanga, said the economy would not sort itself out, predicting more company closures and job losses.
“The status quo will prevail,” said Mhlanga, who is based in the United Kingdom.
“Will the economy decline? I don’t think so — the auto pilot that has been on will continue. The liquidity crisis will continue and the introduction of the bond notes will have little or no effect. The damage is already done and the bond notes are not the solution to the problem and so don’t expect to cure something with an inappropriate solution,” he said.
Although President Mugabe has predicted economic growth in 2017 critics, however, say this is a mirage, because the government appears clueless in finding permanent solutions to the crises.
Be that as it may, another important variable on the political front, analysts said, is how the opposition parties will position themselves in 2017 in preparation for the 2018 polls.
Sympathisers of opposition parties have urged the parties to generate new and superior political strategies that would inspire confidence because failure to do so would generate apathy among potential voters going into 2018 and this would most certainly delight the rooster.
Without the much-needed international support and electoral reforms, the future of opposition politics, however, remains bleak as democratic space continues to shrink in Zimbabwe.