Zimbabwean politics is going through challenging and interesting times since the end of the inclusive government and the return to one-party politics in the wake of Zanu PF’s victory in the July 2013 elections.
The challenges in the country include public policy inconsistency, directionless and tired incumbent political leadership, political uncertainty and poor economic performance, with no solution in sight in a country riddled by factional politics raging in the ruling Zanu PF, the various elements of small opposition political parties that now mainly exist in the media and equally fractured and beleaguered formations of the MDC.
When the government of national unity was formed in 2009, there was potential for economic prosperity thanks to the resumption of regional and international trade, coupled with inflows from international financial institutions and donor support for social and public services.
Under the inclusive government, the economy was firmly dollarised and it stabilised. Economic projections suggest the economy was supposed to grow by 3,7% in 2009. Offical statistics indicate that the budget deficit was expected to narrow down from 21,4% in 2009 to 19,9% in 2010.
However, since the end of the inclusive government and the victory by Zanu PF, the economy has deteriorated. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) reported that more than 1 800 workers have lost their jobs in the first quarter of 2014.
We are now a far cry from achieving the 1,2 million jobs Zanu PF promised in the last elections.
Today, the government faces a number of economic challenges, including deteriorating social and economic infrastructure, regulatory deficiencies, a large external debt burden of over US$10 billion, over 80% unemployment and a lack of investor confidence.
Unorthodox economic analysts claim Zimbabwe’s unemployment is 10%, an assertion many deem not just ludicrous but irrational if not outrightly outrageous.
This lack of confidence among investors is partly due to a distrust of President Robert Mugabe and government’s plans to carry forward its plans to indigenise the economy.
The Zanu PF government’s indigenisation policy requires that in sectors like mining, foreign investors should cede 51% of shares to indigenous entrepreneurs. In practice, this is not motivated by a desire for radical redistribution, but rather by an urge to further enrich Zanu PF elites. Effective and inclusive economic policies in Zimbabwe are notable by their absence.
The country’s economic problems are being exacerbated by the imploding factionalism in Zanu PF and MDC formations.
The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute’s views these tensions as not due to any incompatibility of ideas on the democratisation agenda, but personal political and economic ambitions playing out ahead of the parties’s respective elective congresses in December 2014.
The MDC-T, led by former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, is now defined by the politics of factionalism which has bruised and weakened the opposition party.
Zanu PF, on the other hand, is wracked by factions battling to succeed Mugabe.
Factional politics in Zanu PF has a long history, which started during the liberation struggle in the 1960s and increased significantly in the 1970s when Mugabe assumed the leadership of the former guerrilla movement.
Mugabe, who is now 90 years old, has been the leader of Zimbabwe since 1980 and the leader of Zanu PF since 1977.
The succession race in Zanu PF is dominated by two factions, one believed to be led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and the other by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Neither of these groups has more than an instrumental interest in supporting democracy and inclusive development in Zimbabwe.
Both sides are seeking control because they have accrued substantial wealth, which requires enormous political power to maintain, protect, entrench and expand. There is clear-cut ideological difference or distinct developmental democratic agenda in Zanu PF that seeks to remove the conflation between the state and the party that the Mugabe regime constructed for the past three decades.
Theirs is clearly a struggle for power within the same competitive authoritarian regime where citizens are treated as subjects. The fighting between the Zanu PF factions is worsened by Mugabe’s continuous refusal to facilitate a democratic process to elect his successor.
In recent months, factionalism has defined elections of the party’s Youth and Women’s Leagues, which were marred allegations of vote-buying, manipulation and rigging along factional lines.
Mugabe’s wife, Grace, has been elected secretary of the Women’s League — an indication that she could be looking to protect her family’s huge economic interests post-Mugabe.
However, her election has been opposed by the Mujuru camp which feels that she has been pulled into the succession politics to aid the political ascendance of Mnangagwa’s camp. From these factional wars in Zanu PF, it seems clear that these struggles are fuelled by Mugabe’s increasingly failing health caused by old age.
While Zanu PF is embroiled in this internal strife, the opposition MDC split following its electoral loss with a faction led by former secretary-general, Tendai Biti, accusing Tsvangirai of undemocratic practices. The immediate trigger for the split was a letter written by Elton Mangoma, the party’s deputy treasurer and a Biti ally, calling for Tsvangirai to resign following his electoral defeat.
For the better part of the year, the opposition party has been tearing itself apart rather than taking advantage of Zanu PF’s instability to consolidate its support base ahead of the next elections in 2018.
These ongoing power struggles within Zanu PF and MDC-T ahead of their congresses in December have serious socio-economic and democratic implications on the state.
The current factional politics in both Zanu PF and the MDC formations have led to policy paralysis within both parties.
The MDC-T, which is in serious need of a strategic advantage over government, is losing a valuable opportunity to gain electoral ground.
And most importantly, in these battles over power and prosperity, the voices and needs of ordinary people continue to be ignored. Once again, citizens have become subjects in Zimbabwe.
Bandauko is Zimbabwe Democracy Institute intern.