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Congress ignored economic crisis

Orirando Manwere

LAST week’s Zanu PF extraordinary congress, which endorsed President Robert Mugabe’s candidacy for the 2008 presidential election, failed to

address the political and economic crisis facing the country and exposed the party’s continued abuse of sate resources to remain in power, analysts have said.

Zanu PF, the analysts say, continues to cling to power due to vote buying, corruption and exploitation of ordinary party members.

They alleged that Mugabe secured his endorsement after distributing cars and farming equipment to traditional chiefs and party members and used war veterans through their leader Jabulani Sibanda last month to organise the so-called million man march to garner support for him.

Ironically, the analysts observed that Mugabe told the congress to fight corruption and vote buying to ensure election of the right candidates for legislative and council elections.

Mugabe said it was the election of party candidates that often presented problems in the ruling party as prospective leaders resorted to vote buying.

The congress came at a time when the country is experiencing its worst economic crisis, coupled with an unprecedented cash crunch which central bank governor Gideon Gono, in his address to congress, blamed on unnamed top government and ruling party officials.

Despite the remarks by Gono on inherent corruption by the party and government officials, the congress failed to adopt practical measures to curb the rot except appealing to “all citizens to combat corruption wherever it occurs” as one of the congress resolutions.

The analysts said the ruling party’s congress had failed to address “bread and butter” issues affecting the country and exposed the leadership’s double standards in ensuring their continued stay in power.

University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political scientist John Makumbe said the nomination and endorsement of Mugabe was clearly undemocratic and could not be compared to this week’s ANC congress in Polokwane where members freely chose leaders through secret ballot and public debate.

“Prior to the Zanu PF congress, members were coerced to endorse Mugabe. They were not allowed to choose alternative candidates as happened at the ANC congress. This clearly demonstrates that Zanu PF is an authoritarian party where incumbent leaders ensure that they remain in power by hook or crook,” he said.

Makumbe said the congress had failed to come up with concrete measures to combat corruption following Gono’s allegations that top government officials were behind the current cash shortages.

He said the congress had also failed to review economic policies to arrest the current crisis.

Another UZ political scientist Eldred Masunungure said it was unfortunate that Zanu PF had also roped traditional leaders, who are supposed to be apolitical, into divisive politics.

“Remarks by Chief Fortune Charumbira that traditional leaders were behind President Mugabe because he had given them cars, tractors and land clearly show how the ruling party has continued to abuse state resources to get support,” Masunungure said.

“I don’t think Chief Charumbira sprang a surprise. He and the rest of the traditional leaders have been openly pro-Zanu PF.

“They have become part and parcel of Zanu PF and they have been entangled in the Zanu PF gravy train.”

Instead, Masunungure argued, traditional chiefs must have been unifying factors in their areas of jurisdiction.

“They have become partisan because of the (material) things they are being given by government. How do you expect them to allocate farming implements and inputs to people who do not support Zanu PF in their areas? There is now a “Zanufication” of society,” he added.

In a solidarity message to the congress, Charumbira — who is the president of the Chiefs Council — said the traditional leaders were happy with Mugabe and they would “go out in full force” to mobilise communities to vote for him in the 2008 elections.

Said Charumbira: “In the run up to the congress, some people from the opposition were asking me if I would be attending the Zanu PF congress. I don’t understand why they would ask such a question.

“Why don’t they understand that Cde Mugabe and Zanu PF were responsible for reclaiming the land that had been stolen from us?

“You can not be called a chief when you have no land. We will die with you. Chiefs have two responsibilities, to fight for their subjects and fight for their country.”

He said the notion that traditional leaders should be apolitical was “hogwash” and chiefs from Zimbabwe would not allow it to deter them from supporting Zanu PF in its agrarian reforms.

Chief Charumbira said chiefs were surprised that the MDC had “smuggled” the issue of the “role of chiefs” on to the agenda of the inter-party talks.

“Chiefs have been given cars and tractors under government schemes and the right to work with those in charge of Operation Maguta (a food security programme spearheaded by security forces) in the allocation of agricultural equipment procured by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe under the farm mechanisation programme,” Charumbira said.

Commenting on corruption, Masunungure said the congress had failed to act upon Gono’s remarks because the top leadership was involved.

Gono told delegates to the congress that some of the cash barons who have caused the serious shortage of cash in the country were senior government and ruling party officials abusing their mandate to lead the implementation of its programmes.

Masunungure said if the government was committed to fighting corruption, there should be arrests and prosecutions of the culprits.

“Instead, nothing has happened. Ordinary people including Zanu PF supporters are suffering, as they cannot access cash from banks. The congress shied away from discussing and coming up with concrete measures to address this problem. Zanu PF supporters left the congress angry,” said Masunungure added.

Speaking at the congress, Zanu-PF Mashonaland East provincial chairman Ray Kaukonde challenged Gono to produce a list of the alleged cash barons so that they could be brought to book.

“We want to ask what is causing these people not to be arrested…I hope heads will roll on this issue because people are suffering and production is at a standstill as they queue for their hard-earned cash,” said Kaukonde.

National Constitutional Assembly chairperson Lovemore Madhuku said Zanu PF could not talk about combating corruption because “the whole Zanu PF machinery is corrupt”.

He said the invitation of Gono to address members of the ruling party at its special congress was in itself an act of corruption and abuse of personnel from state institutions.

“Zanu PF can not talk about curbing corruption.

“You need a completely new political leadership guided by a new democratic people-driven constitution to deal with that and the rest of the factors affecting our country,” said Madhuku.

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