Mugabe’s reform agenda hinged on economic stability

via Mugabe’s reform agenda hinged on economic stability  The Standard by Patrice Makova September 22, 2013

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s new government is banking its survival on economic stabilisation rather than advancing more democratic reforms, analysts have said.

The cabinet has hit the ground running, as it tries to deliver on the promises Zanu PF made in the run up to the July 31 elections.

Cabinet ministers, among them Jonathan Moyo (Media, Information and Broadcasting), Obert Mpofu (Transport), David Parirenyatwa (Health), Walter Chidhakwa (Mines) and Patrick Chinamasa (Finance) have held workshops with various stakeholders in their quest to address the challenges facing their portfolios.

Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda also held a two-day strategic retreat workshop for Mugabe’s senior staffers.

Sibanda expressed government’s commitment to deliver and transform the country’s socio-economic fortunes.

But Oxford University lecturer, Phillan Zamchiya said the Zanu PF government was more interested in advancing socio-economic reforms without taking into consideration the democratic arena.

He said the agenda set by Mugabe when he officially opened the first session of the 8th parliament shows that the government does not want to amend laws curtailing freedom, such as Public Order and Security Act (Posa) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).

Zamchiya said Zanu PF knew that reviving the economy would be key to its survival, as the party seeks to stop a resurgence of MDC-T ahead of the 2018 elections.
“They want a developmental agenda which does not take into account issues such as human rights,” said Zamchiya. “They will not push for reforms that will threaten their hold on state power. But what people really want is a democratic developmental state, rather than just a developmental state which Zanu PF is pushing for.”

He said the struggle for democratisation still needed to be fought by the likes of civil society.

Zamchiya said CSOs have an obligation to press the government to implement wholesale reforms which caters for both the socio-economic and democratic development of the country.

But political analyst, Cle-ver Bere said the “new-old” Zanu PF government was no different from the one in the past.

Bere said although Zanu PF did not want a repeat of the 2007/08 scenario, where the country was “virtually ungovernable”, with record inflation, gross human rights violations and international isolation, he does not see a fundamental change in the mentality of the party.

“They will try to work as much as they can in fixing the economy or at least maintain the stability and steady growth being experienced” he said. “But I don’t see them putting any meaningful effort in democratisation.”

If anything, Bere said, a few piece-meal reforms would be implemented to appease the West to gain more cooperation.

But he said Zanu PF would still be very careful, as the party was very sceptical of the agenda of the West which it accuses of advancing a regime change agenda.

Bere said, on international relations, Mugabe was likely to tone down and seek to build bridges with old foes.

“This in my view also speaks to the need to act in a more democratic way, though Zanu PF will not open up the democratic space. They generally have the view that a more open society will in a big way undermine their hold on power,” he said.

Bere said economically, the party was likely to be more liberal, as demonstrated by its decision to allow pre-paid electricity and water.

He said there might be an increase in Eastern capital but on almost the same liberal conditions preferred by the very same West the party has despised for a long time.

Bere said although Muga-be said the indigenisation policy would be implemented with renewed vigour, the reshuffling of ministers, especially on indigenisation and mining, may signal a change from the hard-line stance to a more diplomatic stance.

“As articulated in their manifesto, the indigenisation policy remains their primary economic policy blueprint, and they will indeed continue to pursue it, albeit with a more ‘introvert’ administrator of the policy in Minister Francis Nhema,” he said.

But, Veritas, a lawyers’ grouping, said it was disappointing that Mugabe made only token references to what needs to be done to align existing legislation with the new Constitution.

It said Acts that urgently require such alignment, but went unmentioned by Mugabe, include  Citizenship Act, Posa, Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Aippa, Police Act, Defence Act, Prisons Act and Electoral Act

The Provincial Councils and Administration Act, to deal with the elected metropolitan and provincial councils, was also not mentioned.

‘cabinet must engage all stakeholders’

Harare Residents Trust (HRT) director, Precious Shumba was of the view that there was an urgency to make an immediate social, economic and political impact.

“The tone of the ministers demonstrate a belief in their missions, and at this stage it is difficult to measure whether or not they will succeed, but the desire is there,” he said.

Shumba said while cabinet ministers had hit the ground running, they needed to allow for genuine involvement of stakeholders.

The HRT director said ministers should not come to consult for the purposes of providing information, without allowing for deeper involvement of stakeholders as part of confidence-building measures.

“They have to pay close attention to the issues that are being raised by people attending their workshops,” he said. “There is not much they will achieve if they exclude the people in their diversity.”

Shumba said the seriousness with which the workshops would be taken, should be measured on the basis of implementation and the speed at which decisions were made.

He said time frames should be outlined within which to achieve set goals or objectives.

“It is one thing to come up with attractive concepts on paper, but the real issue is the programme and project implementation where results are found, providing externals like citizens to evaluate the level of progress made,” said the HRT director.