Source: Business disturbed by ZANU-PF infighting | The Financial Gazette July 7, 2016
SPEAKERS of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, has advised the business community to come together and seek audience with President Robert Mugabe, after a barrage of concerns over a worsening economic crisis industrialists said was being triggered by factional fights in ZANU-PF.
Mudenda, who attended an annual congress of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) in the resort town of Victoria Falls last week, said: “You can come together as ZNCC, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), and the Chamber of Mines at executive level, spell out your fears, and you will be able to see the head of State. This will kill the fear.”
Christopher Mugaga, the ZNCC chief executive officer, said they would push for a meeting with President Mugabe before the end of this year.
ZNCC president, Davison Norupiri, who was re-elected to lead the organisation for another term, said government was not consulting adequately, a situation which has impacted negatively on business.
“I do feel some sense of crisis,” said Norupiri, calling for urgent action to compel government and business to “work together to come up with measures to try to stimulate growth”.
Norupiri’s deputy, Devine Ndhlukula, who also got a fresh mandate to continue as deputy president of the ZNCC, said political polarisation had negatively affected business.
“We want to work with government but the political environment here is much polarised,” said Ndhlukula. “Business is on its own. As business people, if seen talking to a government official, you are perceived to belong to one faction and your business will suffer. We are afraid our businesses are being affected by this polarisation.”
The ruling party is divided into two distinct factions, namely the Generation 40 (G40) and Team Lacoste, which are vying for influence within the party to position themselves for President Mugabe’s succession in the event that he leaves power.
Team Lacoste is reportedly rooting for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed President Mugabe, while G40, is bitterly opposed to Mnangagwa’s presidential ambitions but has not publicly stated its choice for a successor.
At the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) congress held in Victoria Falls, the business representative body invited both Mnangagwa and the First Lady to the event.
Agriculture and Rural Development Authority (Arda) chairman,Basil Nyabadza, expressed grave concern over the infighting in ZANU-PF, saying it had grossly affected business.
“There is a heavy political polarisation in our nation. There is political dominance, sometimes with less courtesy. There is an element of intimidation. There is now a heavy involvement of politics in business, which naturally affects the running of businesses,” said Nyabadza.
Mudenda urged industry to push for a legal framework for the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF), which brings together government, business and labour.
The TNF has been in existence since 1998 as a voluntary and unlegislated forum in which socio-economic issues are negotiated over by the social partners.
But it has not been able to effectively deliver on its mandate due to lack of a legal framework.
“You have your TNF where government, labour and business meet. You should push TNF to have a legal framework.
Mudenda said Parliament was also ready to work with business and urged industry and commerce to use Section 149 of the Constitution to petition Parliament on laws they wanted amended, repealed or enacted.
In terms of the Constitution, petitions should be attended to not more than 21 days after they are filed.
“There is an avenue for business to petition Parliament by using Section 149 of the Constitution,” said Mudenda.
“I am a disappointed speaker (of the National Assembly). Business has not raised questions about Acts that affect business. Use it. What are you waiting for?” he asked.
“Parliament is active so that the amendment of various pieces of legislation helps achieve economic growth. Make it the new normal.”
Business leaders also expressed concern over plans to introduce so-called bond notes into circulation. Government and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe argue that the bond notes will be an incentive to exporters, but many people believe government wants to bring back the Zimbabwe dollar through the back door.
Mugaga, who is also an economist, said: “We need to be smarter about this because that’s not the best way (to ensure companies) produce products for export. Let’s correct the ease of doing business, let’s deal with corruption. Let’s look at incentives from a value addition position.”
Another economist, Albert Makochekanwa, who is deputy dean at the University of Zimbabwe’s Faculty of Social Studies and chairman in the Department of Economics said: “The big question we have is if the policy is going to be helpful. Mining sector has no control over prices, how can they be motivated? In the manufacturing industry, even if there is this incentive, local companies are grappling with high cost of production. With that, are exports going to move?”
Fabian Wallen, an economist based in the United States who attended the ZNCC congress, told the Financial Gazette that government should increase economic freedom in the private sector.
He said: “Export growth is highly dependent on the competitiveness of the private sector, which in turn is affected by factors such as labour costs and productivity levels. Thus, effective solutions should be focused on stimulating production by improving the investment climate.”
He said government should deregulate the labour market, avoid protectionist measures, and focus on fiscal and monetary policies.
“In other words, the simplest option is more of economic freedom – the reduction of labour costs, by keeping taxes on labour low and by reducing minimum wages, in combination with less strict regulations on hiring and firing costs.”