via Chaos batters Mugabe’s govt – DailyNews Live 3 August 2015
HARARE – The debilitating anarchy devouring President Robert Mugabe’s faction-torn Zanu PF is increasingly spilling into government, with the nonagenarian seemingly unable to mitigate the turmoil and ensure critically-needed policy coherence and consistency to lift the country out of its deepening economic crisis.
Analysts who spoke to the Daily News at the weekend said at the rate at which the chaos was pervading the government’s operations, as evidenced by the increasingly contradictory views and directives that were coming from Cabinet ministers, it was just a matter of time before the country’s economy collapsed altogether.
Commenting on the current wave of corporate right-sizing taking place in the country last week, Mugabe — and as is consistent with his ill-advised populist policies of the past 35 years — said his government was against the loss of jobs — but provided nothing by way of policy recommendations to keep stressed companies afloat.
The nonagenarian also warned that the law could be amended soon to protect workers, with analysts saying the president did not appear to appreciate that there would not be any jobs without viable companies.
“If the law is going to create problems for the people, that law must be amended. We do not want to see people on the streets and do not like people being fired from work. We are going to look at the law because the law is an ass,” Mugabe said.
Prominent human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga said the populist rhetoric and the policy incoherence, as seen in Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s Mid-term Fiscal Policy last week, meant that Zimbabwe was on “auto-pilot”.
“Like in Zanu PF, there is confusion in government. Look at what Mugabe is saying and what his ministers are saying and you get a sense that this country is on auto-pilot,” he said.
Presenting his Mid-term Fiscal policy, Chinamasa surprisingly expressed satisfaction with the country’s economic performance on one hand, and then went on to announce that it was time for the government and companies to face the harsh reality of the market and adjust their activities accordingly, on the other.
To compound the policy confusion, Chinamasa went on to contradict Mugabe and proposed the trimming of the government’s wage bill by a whopping 40 percent — something that can only realistically be achieved through the shedding of jobs.
Were this to happen, it would also bury the government’s much-discredited economic blueprint, ZimAsset — which among other key deliverables, seeks to create an impossible 2,2 million new jobs by 2018.
During the same week, the minister of Labour, Prisca Mupfumira, also said no one would be retrenched, with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa also assuring Parliament that government would move to amend the law to protect workers.
“If the minister (Mupfumira) was here, probably she could have told you of a legal way which is fast, that’s what you are asking, which we are pursuing to solve the issue,” Mnangagwa said after legislators had asked what the government was doing to look after workers.
However, and revealingly too, Mnangagwa said Mugabe would not use his presidential powers to stop ongoing job losses across commerce and industry as a result of the country’s comatose economy — a handy instrument that the nonagenarian used when the assets of the troubled Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) were recently facing the hammer.
Interestingly, the minister of Industry, Mike Bimha — reputedly a relative of controversial First Lady Grace Mugabe — was reported to have pragmatically given his thumbs up to the ongoing corporate rationalisations during the same week.
Addressing the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries in Gweru, Bimha said the job cuts were a sign that industry was groaning under the weight of harsh labours laws and the misfiring economy.
“Since the Supreme Court judgment, a lot has happened and we have seen many companies sacking workers. To me, it is a reflection that we had taken too long to reform our Labour Act and that such laws are rigid and not flexible for business.
“In some instances, you have a company going down and you have a scenario where workers who are retrenched are being awarded hefty packages.
“Where does the money come from? There should be flexibility when things are going down,” Bimha said.
In the meantime, and even as Mugabe continues to mouth off his populist rhetoric, it was reported at the weekend that a supermarket chain closely linked to Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, who is in charge of policy implementation in government, has also moved to right-size its operations and has let go about 100 workers.
Even parastatals such as the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara), the ailing National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and the perennially-afflicted Air Zimbabwe have also taken advantage of the recent Supreme Court ruling to release hundreds of workers.
“The reality is that you cannot fix an economy in distress such as ours through decrees. That utopian world does not exist and the government is well advised to instead go back to the drawing board and come up with pragmatic, prudent and consistent policies that will spur economic growth.
“That is the only surest way to protect jobs, not this useless populist rhetoric which has only brought misery over the past 35 years,” a Bulawayo-based analyst said.