Candid Comment

Mugabe’s Mr Micawber mindset

By  Dumisani Muleya

POLITICIANS are generally an optimistic lot. No matter ho

w bad the situation, they always put on a brave face and hope like the proverbial Mr Micawber in Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield  that something better will turn up.


For those who may not have read Dickens’s book, Wilkins Micawber was modelled on a person introduced to Dickens by his younger brother Alfred Lambert.


Micawber’s name has become synonymous with someone who lives in hopeful expectation.


This is certainly the case with President Robert Mugabe and his ministers these days. As Mugabe and his entourage face the political exit doors, they have become like Mr Micawber who always hoped — against hope — that something rewarding would materialise.


They have no clue about how to sort out the current economic crisis but are evidently hoping things will change! This is why over the past couple of weeks we have been bombarded with propaganda that the economy will soon recover under the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP) despite evidence of a worsening meltdown.


Evidence abounds to show that the current situation is getting worse and will deteriorate further until there are fundamental political and economic reforms.


The political superstructure and the economic base are crumbling under the weight of extended periods of misrule. Inflation is 1 193% and rising. Interest rates are skyrocketing and volatile, while the exchange rate is falling as the local currency continues to crash against base currencies. Unemployment and poverty are also deepening. There are just too many problems in Zimbabwe now and nothing at all to show — even to leaders who may want have a Mr Micawber syndrome — that the economy is on the mend.


Yet we continue to be told by government that the situation is not all that bad and NEDPP will soon make things all right. There is even a denial of the current crisis by Mugabe’s incompetent spin-doctors. The government-controlled media recently put on a brave show trying to market a daft spin that inflation does not really matter because it’s just statistics.


In this art of dissembling, we are not told why authorities think the NEDPP will suffer a different fate from other failed similar programmes such as the Millennium Economic Recovery Plan, New
Economic Recovery Plan, Ten-Point Plan, National
Economic Recovery Plan and all other such programmes.


The hard-sell propaganda is pervasive although it is very disjointed and incoherent. Mugabe last week told Beitbridge residents that their situation will now improve under NEDPP because massive development projects were underway.


Vice-President Joice Mujuru spent the whole of last week in far-flung China hawking Zimbabwe’s minerals resources which she suggested are now the bait to raise funds for such programmes as NEDPP. Mujuru said Zimbabwe was not “very poor” because it has more than 600 precious minerals.


This can’t be good reason to be optimistic. Minerals which are not mined or which are not benefiting the people — as is the case now — are just as useless as those that are non-existent.


Mugabe and his officials are in denial and have sought to bury their heads in the sand hoping the crisis will go away. They use rhetoric to pretend the situation is okay. From defining policy, to policy implementation, to trying to hide certain policy decisions or actions, the regime is clearly locked in denial and looks off-message all the time. But it continues to raise false hopes of recovery.


Instead of embarking on serious reforms, Mugabe and other like-minded old-school politicians seem to rather think demagoguery — spin-doctoring — will change things.


Taking advantage of their unlimited access to the state media, Zanu PF politicians are taking a spin at the media wheel. They seem to be trying hard to outdo each other in misleading the people that they will fix the economy and in the process perform political theatrics to get hitched to television stations and be quoted in newspapers at home and abroad.


But underneath the sludge of rhetoric that things will be okay, they betray desperation and suppressed fear that the centre is now collapsing. Listen to Mugabe speaking and the tinge of anger and extreme anxiety always escapes him. The same applies to his ministers.


While they pretend to be on top of the situation, reality always surfaces to show they are running scared. Idle talk and reveries about economic recovery will not help anything. A Mr Micawber syndrome cannot be a solution.

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