via Has Zanu PF ever cared for the people? – NewsDay Zimbabwe May 5, 2014 by Everson Mushava
“MAY I assure you that my government is determined to bring about meaningful change to the lives of the majority of the people in the country? But I must ask you to be patient and allow my government time to organise programmes that will effectively yield that change.”
That was then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe in his maiden speech on the eve of Independence celebrations in 1980.
“There are people without land who need land, people without jobs who need jobs, children without schools who need schools and patients without hospitals who need them. My government will certainly do its best to meet the existing needs in these areas. But you have to assist us by being patient and peaceful.”
Mugabe’s words, then received with pomp and fanfare, gave much promise to a people that had suffered more than a century of ghastly social and economic inequalities.
So refreshing were the words that the war-weary Zimbabweans could not but just throw themselves into months of wild celebrations.
Renowned author Chenjerai Hove summarised the 1980 Independence Day as a day where “the birds of hope have deposited new eggs in our hearts of hope.”
“It was a day of hope and pride, the arrival of a new self, a new being, a fresh flower of our human dignity,” he wrote.
Hove’s sentiments were summarily shared by every Zimbabwean then who had always cherished the idea of a new sovereign identity.
But 34 years on, Zimbabwe’s narrative seem to have changed for the worst.
While Mugabe’s admirers claim the 90 year old leader, in power since independence, had done enough to transform the lives of many Zimbabweans, his ardent critics say his government has done more harm than good to the economic legacy left by colonial government lead by Ian Smith.
Zimbabwe’s economy has continued to deteriorate after five years of stabilisation under a coalition government between Mugabe and his erstwhile rival MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube.
Unemployment is hovering above 80% while many companies continue to close shops. The country is faced with a severe cash squeeze, over 80% of the people are living on below $2 a day which, according to the United Nations standards, are judged to be living in abject poverty.
The discovery of one of the world’s biggest diamond mines in Marange and other valuable minerals around the country has failed to transform lives of millions of Zimbabweans. Government is struggling to pay its 240 000 strong workforce.
The manufacturing industry has irretrievably collapsed. Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has been traversing the globe begging for funding, but always returning home empty handed.
Economy the biggest security threat
LACK of budgetary support has hampered the success of the ruling Zanu PF government’s economic blue print, Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) which Chinamasa says needs in excess of $27 billion, seven times more than the $4,1 billion budget figures he presented in his 2014 budget statement.
Mugabe’s populist policies and policy inconsistencies have proved to be the final nail in the coffin of the country’s free falling economy. Zanu PF seems to be clueless on how to transform the economy.
With the ever increasing hardships the general populace is facing, Mugabe’s critics are now questioning Zanu PF’s policy sincerity despite its fervent claims that it is a “People’s Party” directed by the “wishes of the people.”
Zanu PF and the people; the historical perspective
TO understand what drives Zanu PF actions, it is important to understand the party’s ideology going back into history when the party was formed to launch an offensive against colonial rule.
When the 1970s liberation war was fought, using China’s Mao Tse-tung’s guerrilla warfare, Zanu PF’s military wing, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla)’s combatants claimed that the liberation war fighters were fish in water, referring to the relationship between the guerrillas and the people, known as the povo.
Water can survive without the fish, but the fish cannot survive without water. Going by this, the success or failure of the armed struggle depended on the people.
But after independence, the Zanu PF government made several decisions that reified the war veterans against the povo. First it was the War Victims Compensation Fund in 1994 and later, and then the land reform programme that saw the freedom fighters become prime beneficiaries of land.
Notwithstanding that the move created tension between the formerly inseparable “fish and water,” Zanu PF never looked back because it was a political decision taken for political expediency. Even to this day, the war veterans have been conduits to prop up Zanu PF so that it remained in power, even through violent means.
Zanu PF has been using Mao’s communist approach during the liberation war which placed people at the centre of every struggle, the reason the Zanla forces got an upper hand during the war of independence as compared to other military wings like Zipra.
Even after independence, Zanu PF continued to identify itself with the masses and most of its programmes where identified as people’s. But 34 years on, the party seems to have dumped its communist approach in favour of capitalism which has seen a few individuals, particularly Mugabe’s inner circle and close cronies becoming mega rich while the majority swim in gnawing poverty.
Observers have described the current set up in the Zanu PF governance as “indigenous capitalism.” The people are succumbing to a bedeviling cash squeeze while Mugabe’s cronies have become fat cats. Corruption perpetrated by abuse of State power is rampant and the 90-year old leader is not keen to deal with it.
The country is on its knees due to Mugabe’s “populist” policies that are just, but not benefiting all the people. Developments on the ground are cause for concern to millions of Zimbabweans who question if Zanu PF has ever cared for the people or cared for itself?
Indications showed Zanu PF was good at empowerment, but empowering its people. It is communist in structure, but capitalist in its behavior.
There is ‘no people’ to talk about in terms of action, but in soliciting support, it is the people first. The party represented the people first and self later. It has taken the party as its fiefdom.
Political commentator Vince Musewe said the fundamental focus of Zanu PF since 1980 has never been to deliver value to the millions of Zimbabweans but to entrench a one party State at all cost.
“Building the political kingdom remains their sole objective,” Musewe said.
“No economic blue print has ever worked simply because of the lack of political will to transform the colonial economic architecture inherited at independence. None, but ourselves remains their philosophy and we have seen a Zanu PF predator black capitalist class dominant in all economic spheres at the expense of all.”
Another political analyst Takura Zhangazha said: “Yes Zanu PF initially functioned with commitment to the values of the liberation struggle. But with the passage of time between independence and present day, it has functioned more to retain power than to use it in the best interests of the masses.”
Populist economic versus political policies: Zanu PF’s dilemma
WHILE Mugabe could be credited for his stubborn dedication to education after he assumed power, many blame him for his “populist” policies that were well crafted to preserve a patronage system that enabled the party’s continued stranglehold on power.
Most of the projects that his party has touted as people’s programmes have benefited only a few connected individuals as shown in the politicisation of food aid farming inputs to impoverished communities.
Zanu PF has remained in power by building a patronage system to cow people to support it for survival.
Voices of dissent have been dealt with ruthlessly as shown by the Gukurahundi massacres and the political violence that characterised Zimbabwe ahead of Mugabe’s June 2008 presidential solo run after he suffered his first electoral defeat to Tsvangirai’s MDC-T since independence.
The violence that followed March elections all, but showed Zanu PF was desperate to hold on to power, even if its policies were not marketable to the people. Zimbabwe suffered the worst economic nightmare in 2008, and the same ghost is returning to haunt them.
Since independence, Zanu PF has come up with several economic policies and political decisions. While all the political policies were implemented with vigour, most of the economic policies were dumped and replaced with new ones before full implementation.
Right from the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) in the late 80s which was dumped prematurely, most of the economic blue prints that followed suffered the same fate up to today. The same is likely going to happen with the current one, ZimAsset.
Utterances by Chinamasa that Zimbabwe needed to adopt strategies by developed countries is already a hint towards its abandonment, not to mention the discord that has rocked the party’s indigenization programme, upon which ZimAsset was premised.
Compensation of war veterans, the land reform of 2000 and the indigenisation programme, to mention, but a few, are political decisions that Zanu PF undertook and implemented with vigor, even if it meant a lot of suffering to millions of Zimbabweans.
“So if one assesses the land reform programme it resonated with the values of the struggle but was executed for expedient reasons. That is why it is now more about transfer of land from one elite to another and retaining similar land ownership structures to those of the Rhodesian settler state,” Zhangazha said.
“On the economy, Zanu PF functions from an economic commandist framework as did various African liberation movements that were strongly influenced by the five year development plan model of the former USSR.”
He said Zanu PF was more election oriented than people centred.
“It does not reflect a democratic understanding of politics, but more an electoral contest. So its economic blueprints do give it a platform from which to claim to be leading an organised government. But in most cases these programmes have only seen minimal success if any and only to be succeeded by new ones, all with the same elite-benefit-end result.
“It is safe to argue that on the economy Zanu PF is more rhetoric than people centred result.”
Dewa Mavhinga, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Chairperson, a democracy and good governance civil society coalition said Zanu PF has no track record of caring for the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans, but uses the name of the people for political expediency.
“No attempt was made to strike a balance between political and economic decisions; all economic decisions followed political considerations notwithstanding that invariably they turned out to be bad economic policies adversely impacting the livelihoods of ordinary Zimbabweans, but beneficial to the political elite,” Mavhinga said.
He said Esap, Zimbabwe’s involvement in the DRC war, the chaotic land reform programme, the hand picking of a few companies and the army to mine and sell Marange diamonds and the introduction of ill-defined indigenisation policy, among others, were all political decisions that were bad for the people of Zimbabwe, but Zanu PF elites.
But of course Zanu PF’s job of coercive control was made easy by a rather malleable, submissive and cowed population that seemed to have resigned to fate and given up the just and legitimate struggle for genuine freedom, democracy and development, Mavhinga said.
However, Zanu PF deputy director of information Psychology Maziwisa said while it was not in dispute that the country was facing economic challenges, the ugly truth was that most of the country’s problems were a a result of deliberate manouvres of sabotage by internal forces like MDC-T’s Tsvangirai.
“Tsvangirai, for example, continues to believe-and this really is a mistake belief- that the only way he can become President of Zimbabwe is if he sabotages the economy and somehow cause discontent,” Maziwisa claimed.
“This is precisely what he did immediately after losing the July 31 elections when he privately urged businesses to withdraw their funds from the banks. And that’s why today we have serious liquidity problems in the country to the extent that government is constrained in its effective implementation of ZimAsset.”