LAST Friday’s “million man march” in support of President Robert Mugabe showed that the Zanu PF government was bereft of ideas to deal with t
he country’s runaway political and economic crisis.
The march, organised by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, was more to do with dealing with the internal politics of the ruling party, especially the silencing of those in Zanu PF opposing Mugabe’s continued stay in power.
Mugabe was endorsed last month by the politburo and the central committee as the ruling party’s 2008 presidential election candidate, despite the fact a faction in Zanu PF led by retired army general Solomon Mujuru wanted him to retire.
In the countdown to Mugabe’s endorsement, the octogenarian leader roped in another faction entangled in the party’s succession debate led by Rural and Social Amenities minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and war veterans to fight in his corner.
Mugabe, at the helm of government since Independence in April 1980, in his address to the marchers at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, Harare, did not give one iota of policies his party intended to pursue to extricate the country from its current problems.
It was the usual rhetoric of sanctions and Western interference. It was about Mugabe the victim rather than the architect of the nation’s demise.
Less than 150 000 people, most of them bused in from rural areas, participated in the solidarity march that was intended to replicate the January 1980 gathering at the same venue to welcome the return home from the liberation struggle of Mugabe and the late Vice-President Joshua-Nkomo.
In his address, Mugabe was in his usual bombastic mode – throwing tantrums at his perceived enemies by accusing them of being the authors of the country’s current political and economic malaise.
As has become the norm with Mugabe, the veteran nationalist attacked former colonial master Britain — accusing it of trying to squeeze Zimbabweans through illegal sanctions and economic sabotage as part of the alleged regime change in the country.
Mugabe’s speech, analysts observed, was intended for Britain despite the fact that the march’s sole agenda was to support Mugabe’s Zanu PF presidential candidacy in next year’s harmonised presidential, legislative and council elections.
The analysts argued that the ageing leader failed to market himself to people who do not support his party through articulating any rescue package for the country.
Without taking blame for pursuing bad economic policies since the 1990s, the analysts observed, Mugabe claimed that there were over 400 companies in the country owned by Britons, most of them in the manufacturing sector, working to destabilise the economy and spark a popular uprising against the government.
Political analysts this week said Mugabe’s address was more of history than what his government intended to do to get the nation out of the current economic woods.
The analysts said Mugabe was like a ship’s captain without a compass and was letting the country slide into an economic implosion.
Zimbabwe’s economic crisis is characterised by a critical shortage of basic commodities, inflation above 14 000%, un-employment of over 80% and foreign debt of over US$4,1 billion.
“There were two significant events last week, the 2008 budget and the Zanu PF march,” political analyst Michael Mhike said.
“They were significant in that they were able to show Zimbabweans how their government has run out of ideas to solve the country’s crisis.”
Mhike said the $7,840 quadrillion budget was not rooted in any economic policy, while Mugabe’s speech did not offer any solution to the country’s woes.
“The budget is more of a statement of figures. What economic policy framework was the budget drafted from?” Mhike added
“We don’t have a fiscal policy at the moment. The budget is just a damp squib. Mugabe’s speech was a history lecture. What is Mugabe going to do so that inflation, unemployment, shortages of basic commodities and other necessities are resolved? What is his manifesto?”
Another political commentator, who requested anonymity, said the march was merely to silence the Mujuru camp ahead of Zanu PF’s extra-ordinary congress.
“My reading is that Mugabe — using the war veterans, the women and youth leagues — wanted to show those opposed to him in the party that he still enjoys massive support,” the commentator said.
“Mugabe’s line was very clear from his address — Zimbabwe’s problems have nothing to do with his style of leadership, but that of Britain and its allies in the West,” he said.
“The president’s interpretation of our crisis is shocking to say the least. We have authored our downfall through poor and ill-advised policies,” the commentator added.
Even in his state of the nation address to parliament on Tuesday, Mugabe did not offer any solutions to the country’s flagging economy.
In his address, the 83-year old Mugabe reminded the marchers about his favourite subject — sovereignty — to mask the ills of his government.
Over the past seven years, Mugabe’s regime paralysed the agricultural sector by implementing a chaotic land reform in 2000, more than 700 000 people were left homeless during Operation Murambatsvina of 2005 and shops were emptied during a price blitzkrieg in July this year.
The manufacturing sector has shrunk by over 66% in less than 10 years while agricultural output has fared much worse amidst admissions of multiple farm ownership and zero productivity by top government officials and ruling party politicians.
“Zimbabwe is an African country, Zimbabwe has the sovereignty, sovereignty reposed in the people of Zimbabwe,” the tired-looking Mugabe told the marchers.
“When the British pulled down their flag on the eve of Independence at midnight, between the 17th and 18th of April 1980, we, as our flag was being hoisted, became the owners of the territory now known as Zimbabwe. And we ceased that moment, in absolute terms, to be a colony of Britain.
We became a sovereign state whose sovereignty spread over the entire territory and it applies to our resources in economic terms; to all that we do in economic terms in the socio-economic sphere; it applies also to our decisions as determined in the political sphere.”
Mugabe wondered loudly why Britain’s parliament continued to deliberate on Zimbabwe as if the country was part of the UK.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Independent was told by war veterans vice-president Joseph Chinotimba and Zanu PF youths chairperson Absolom Sikhosana that the march was meant to garner support for Mugabe to be declared a life party and state president at the Zanu PF congress.
“President Mugabe is our leader for life…We are saying Comrade Mugabe is not like (Autralia’s John) Howard who lost elections. Our president has no terms, he should rule for ever,” Chinotimba said.
Sikhosana weighed in: “We are praying for the Almighty God that he gives President Mugabe good health and more days on earth so that he continues to lead our party and our great nation till death.”
So the million man solidarity march was all about Mugabe securing a life presidency and not about rescuing the country from his damaging policies!