By Prof Jonathan Moyo
IF there is one thing that no responsible Zimbabwean can deny today, it is that our country is in the throes of a devastating economic meltdown coupled with the collapse of key national institutions, especially those charged with the delivery of esse
ntial services to ordinary people such as jobs, health, education, housing, transport and food.
Despite this self-evident fact, it is shocking that opinion and policy-makers across the political divide remain preoccupied with self-indulgent agendas at the expense of the resolution of the clear economic meltdown and the decay of critical public institutions that have brought unprecedented suffering among Zimbabweans.
The economy has become the main opposition to Zanu PF rule and President Robert Mugabe and his cronies have no solution to this opposition outside the brutality of a knee-jerk law and order response of ruling by terror. In the circumstances, Zimbabweans at home and in the diaspora, including the ancestral spirits, are crying out for a new vision and the emergence of those capable of fashioning that vision.
This is why Zimbabwe today is haunted by the perennial wisdom that where there is no vision the people perish.
If nothing is done to intervene as a matter of national urgency, more people will perish as some already have.
It is against this backdrop that the welcome entry (or is it re-entry) of Arthur Mutambara into national politics has been received with mixed reactions by vision-hungry Zimbabweans.
While appreciating Mutambara’s call for a broad-based united nationalist and democratic front against the ruling Zanu PF clique, neutral Zimbabweans have been surprised if not disappointed by his decision to join and lead one of the feuding and arguably weaker MDC factions when he had a golden opportunity to work on reuniting the two factions under a new nationalist and democratic vision that could also rope in many disgruntled Zanu PF members and supporters who can clearly see that Zanu PF has become a shelf political party with no democratic ideology nor vibrant policies.
Joining either of the MDC factions as its leader was not a viable premise for unity or political growth for Mutambara by any stretch of imagination from the standpoint of visionary politics.
Neither of the MDC factions needed a leader because they both clearly have plenty of leaders some of whom engineered and spearheaded the split whose only purpose, intended or not, is to give Zanu PF a false sense of comfort while the country is fatally bleeding.
What the two factions needed, and still need, as do the ranks of opposition politics in the country in general, is a visionary political broker, not leader, and Mutambara could have been that and more.
He still can be but the task would now be much harder and much more complicated yet still worthy of trying given that politics by its very dynamic nature is forever full of endless possibilities with twists and turns in which nothing is ever ruled out.
Up to now, opposition politics in Zimbabwe have been doomed by two major drawbacks. The one is the mindless preoccupation with personalities at the expense of ideology and policies and the other is the failure to understand that no opposition will ever rule this country without attracting significant membership and support from Zanu PF’s rank and file.
Before splitting into the two currently warring factions, the MDC had reached its limit in crafting an opposition propaganda based on the hatred of not just Zanu PF but also of people linked to or associated with Zanu PF.
The effect of this MDC propaganda of needless hatred combined with the violent reaction to it by Zanu PF ensured that there could not be an exodus of Zanu PF members and supporters crossing over to the MDC.
The situation is now worse with the factionalisation of the MDC: it would be foolhardy for anyone to expect hordes of Zanu PF rank and file to flock to either of the MDC factions.
Meanwhile, the vision problem is much more serious in officialdom which has run out of all steam and is now out of its depth when it comes to dealing with the ongoing economic meltdown and collapse of public institutions. The popular line in officialdom has been to confuse symptoms with causes and to foolishly declare inflation and corruption as the country’s alternating number one enemies.
While it is true that corruption is rife in Zimbabwe and that runaway inflation — which was 782% last month and is set to hit four digits this month — is making the lives of consumers and businesses hell, the truth is that both unbridled corruption and hyperinflation are symptoms and not causes of the economic meltdown.
The cause is to be found in the political system that is dominated by people without a vision.
President Mugabe and other Zanu PF leaders who imitate him have claimed that the economic meltdown has been caused by alleged enemies whose Zanu PF inventory includes Tony Blair, George W Bush, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, unnamed neo-colonialists and imperialists, the West, Rhodies and their presumed local puppets.
What is most unfortunate about the Zanu PF identification of the causes of the current suffering gripping the nation is not only that it is devoid of visionary thinking but also that it is so demagogic as to guarantee a zero policy response.
While Zanu PF leaders have a lot to chant when it comes to slogans about “looking east” and dogmas against neo-colonialists and imperialists and their regime change agendas, they notably have between little and nothing to say about what should be done technically from an action-based policy point of view. If Tony Blair is the cause of the suffering that all Zimbabweans are now experiencing, what should Zimbabweans do to or about him in order to alleviate or eliminate their suffering?
In September 2005, President Mugabe told Zanu PF supporters who had gathered outside his party headquarters to complain about the biting effects of fuel shortages that the “fuel situation would start improving in two weeks”.
But six months later the fuel situation has not improved in the country but has in fact gotten chronically worse.
The only action that Zanu PF leaders have been able to implement thus far is a crude law-and-order approach in which the ruling clique connives with some ambitious elements within state security organs to visit terror on perceived enemies under the guise of fighting alleged economic crimes which happen to be the norm among the power elite.
A case in point is the selective arrest and prosecution of individuals accused of abusing fuel facilities when the abuse is not only palpably rampant within Zanu PF and officialdom but is also but only one symptom of the economic meltdown.
Whether Mugabe and his ruling colleagues like it or not, and whether Zanu PF media mouthpieces can see or report it or not, the one fact that all Zimbabweans and the whole world can see is that Zanu PF’s Waterloo is the ongoing economic meltdown. The economy has become the real opposition to Zanu PF and the ruling party has no response because it cannot have any as the lunatics have already bolted out of the asylum.
This is why everyone else who was making a lot of noise about the situation in Zimbabwe over the last five or so years, including Tony Blair, is now playing quiet diplomacy like Thabo Mbeki. There is no initiative on Zimbabwe in Sadc, none in the African Union, none in the European Union and none at the United Nations. By the time Kofi Annan is ready to visit Zimbabwe in a few months time, Mugabe might also be ready for an exit deal due to the fires of the economic meltdown.
The initiative is now in Zimbabwe and in the economy. Zanu PF must now come to terms with the dictates of the economy and simply claiming as usual that there are economic saboteurs in our midst will not do with galloping inflation in the 1 000% range, unemployment over 90%, poverty over 95% while businesses are closing down, property rights are unsettled as education, health, housing and public transport fall apart.
No democratic government anywhere in the world has ever survived three digit inflation let alone four digit inflation now on the horizon in this country and it would be folly of the highest order for anyone in the Zanu PF leadership to dream that they will survive the ongoing onslaught from the economy.
Short of ruling through terror, which would quicken his downfall, there is just nothing that President Mugabe can now do to turn around the economy besides stepping down and allowing for structural reform of national politics in constitutional terms before the holding of harmonised presidential and legislative elections before or by 2008 when his tenure is due to expire.
If he does not allow this, he and his securocrats who are currently causing confusion in the newspapers they own or control such as the Financial Gazette and the Mirror, should be assured that Zimbabwe will go up in smoke whatever they do.
Experience from around the world, including in countries that are not democratic, has shown that when the economy becomes the main opposition, the game is over for the ruling elite and it’s time for everyone else, including members and supporters of the ruling party, to close ranks and forge a common and united nationalist and democratic front under visionary leadership in the national interest.
* Prof Moyo is an independent MP for Tsholotsho.