Eric Bloch Column

Zanu PF’s deceptive ad campaign

By Eric Bloch

THIS column seeks to avoid political commentary, except when political actions or statements have economic connotations or consequences. When that occurs, commentary becomes necessary, for

the focus of this column is supposed to be economic and financial issues.

It was with that in view that some weeks ago this column commented negatively upon the Movement for Democratic Change attack upon the 2005 Roadmap and Fourth Quarter, 2004 Monetary Policy Review of the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ). That attack disregarded a multitude of facts, misconstrued an even greater number of facts and by so doing sought to make political capital, without any concern that the already weakened business confidence of Zimbabwe would decline further.

However, for the same reasons, it is now necessary to comment upon some of the grossly appalling, deceptive and counterproductive advertisements which Zanu PF is plastering throughout the print media. Those advertisements not only detract from the very excellent advertisements recording the government’s achievements in bringing education to millions, but also destroy prospects of national unity, of greatly needed reconciliation with the international community and intensively mislead and deceive insofar as economic issues are concerned.

Few will disagree that the single greatest need of Zimbabwe is to reverse economic decline and to embark upon such substantial economic growth as will eliminate the near 80% unemployment level, the over 70% of the population struggling to survive on incomes below the poverty datum line and the almost 50% of the population’s bare existence below the food datum line.

However, the ruling party apparently has other priorities, for the keynote of the advertising campaign is “anti-Blair campaign”. Instead of addressing substantive issues of national concern, the target is an immature, childish personal attack which can only further worsen Zimbabwe’s relationships with key elements of the international community. That community’s friendship and support is critical to Zimbabwean economic recovery.

The advertising then identifies the government’s campaign weapons. The first is stated to be “getting back your land”. Implicitly, there is a contemptuous dismissal of the facts that most of the land was neither occupied or productively used prior to the colonial era. There is dismissal of the fact that the manner of “getting back the land” was devoid of justice, and in outright conflict with international law.

Even worse is that this disgraceful policy of the government has been so destructively pursued that over 300 000 farm workers, together with more than 1,2 million dependants, were displaced, rendered homeless and unemployed; maize production fell from 1,8 million tonnes to 600 000 tonnes; tobacco output critical to foreign currency generation fell from over 237 million tonnes to a little over 80 million tones; the national herd decreased by almost two-thirds; and the economy was set upon a downward escalator to collapse. The foundation of the economy was destroyed by the state and its near eradication of agriculture.

Then the advertisements pronounce that there will be “an end to racist factory closures”. The contention that such actions have occurred is spurious in the extreme. No matter how racist may be some factory owners they would not ruin themselves by factory closures, but would express their racism in other ways. Instead, all that advertising achieves is to foment racism and widen any racial divide.

The president has declared 2005 as the year of investment, and has urged the international community to invest in Zimbabwe. But a positive response cannot be motivated by recurrent attacks upon all who are not of indigenous origin (as defined by the president).

Moreover, the fuelling of racism is a breach of the Zimbabwean constitution that the ruling party claims to uphold, and business confidence and economic development cannot be forthcoming when there is state contempt for the law.

Similarly, the allegation in the advertisements that there is “racist withholding of commodities” is devoid of credibility. Not only are the accusations of racism undoubtedly greatly exaggerated, but yet again the suggestion that racists would deliberately jeopardise their business is unbelievable. That is especially so when it is recognised that, in reality, the causes of shortages are first and foremost the government-created ruination of agriculture and the inadequacy of foreign currency availability to fund essential imports.

The extent that the racist allegation is ludicrous is illustrated by the magnitude of the scarcity of petroleum products. Those products are, in the main, imported and distributed by a parastatal and by more than 60 indigenous operators. Is the ruling party seriously suggesting that they are all puppets in the hands of racists?

Surely not!

Then the advertisements promise “an end to politically motivated price increases”. It is long overdue that the government recognises the realities of the disastrous economic environment it has created. When it is the cause of wide-ranging shortages, it needs to recognise that those shortages cause price increases. If demand exceeds supply, it is inevitable that prices rise. But of even greater impact is that when commodities are scarce, the suppliers must apportion their operating costs and overheads to fewer numbers of units of those commodities, necessarily forcing price increases.

And, when foreign currency is grievously short, production volumes decline, with a consequential increase in prices of the limited quantities that are produced.

The resultant hyperinflation fuels yet further inflation, and particularly so when wages are increased to an extent of inflation, or greater. If prices do not rise in these circumstances, almost wholly the creation of government, then the commodities cease to be available in even limited quantities, factories close down, more become unemployed, and the economic collapse becomes total.

As if all the misrepresentations did not suffice, the advertisements repeated the government’s prolonged false depiction of the sanctions applied by some in the international community. The advertisements imply that those sanctions are a cause of the economic morass, or that they are targeted at the Zimbabwean population.

The actuality is that the sanctions are only directed against the governmental and Zanu PF hierarchy, being bans on travel to those countries applying the sanctions, and endeavours to freeze the foreign assets of that hierarchy.
The party propagandists strive to suggest that sanctions are more wide-ranging by drawing attention to those countries that have discontinued providing donor aid to Zimbabwe. In practice, most of the donor states have continued to provide humanitarian aid, but have discontinued such aid as was supportive to the government.The advertisements suggest that Zanu PF is achieving “faster economic turnaround”. At present there is no evidence of a turnaround, save only for a decline in inflation, which is nevertheless still at untenable levels.
The only turnaround of the economy overall is that it continues to be in a “flat spin”, on a downward spiral, although the RBZ — and not the government — is striving vigorously to bring about a positive turnaround.