Can Makoni match up?

LAST week this paper carried news that former Finance minister Simba Makoni and other political luminaries such as Ibbo Mandaza and Wilfred Mhanda were planning to establish a reform wing within Zanu PF. There were

even suggestions this may culminate in a separate party.

This development will clearly address a manifest need: Zimbabwe needs a leader who can show the people how to dig themselves out of the gaping hole President Mugabe and his party have dug for them. Mugabe evidently can’t. He thinks our problems can be solved by slogans and marches.

But it must be obvious to even the most obtuse elements in Zanu PF that he doesn’t have a clue how to solve the country’s myriad problems or chart a path to recovery and prosperity.

The Movement for Democratic Change has some idea of what needs to be done. It has both policies that address immediate economic needs and a template for institutional reform that will break the mould of tyranny and fist-waving that we have come to associate with Mugabe’s blind, bigoted party.

But it needs more than a series of rallies to get the political process moving. While Morgan Tsvangirai has shown courage in facing down the dictator, he appears to have lost his stomach for the fight.

You would expect a leader and his party ahead of an election to be countering the specious propaganda of Zanu PF and its lame excuses for misgovernance at every turn. But we have heard nothing from the party of opposition.

Are they keeping their powder dry for some future encounter? It doesn’t look like it. Instead they seem to be asleep at the watch. Their agreement to amend Aippa without consulting the media is nothing short of scandalous and is already being used to good effect by the regime’s spokesmen.

Which is where Makoni comes in. He knows what needs to be done. And he has a bright and experienced team to support him. He is probably sensible in keeping his distance from the MDC at this time. He is courting a cross-section of voters and doesn’t want to be seen as beholden to a quarrelsome and divided opposition.

Zimbabweans are looking for a leader that will provide some hope for the immediate future and he provides it.

But he must come out of the shadows and plant his political standard firmly in the national soil. He needs to take on the derelict leadership of his party by setting out his policies on economic reform, reengagement with the international community, and agricultural renewal. The last thing we need are more empty slogans about sovereignty.

Once he has established his credentials and tested his support he can reach out to other political players.

But time is of the essence. Makoni has large amounts of goodwill going for him both at home and abroad. He needs to tap into those reserves and set out his electoral stall. He is an experienced administrator who is known and respected by Sadc leaders and by the international lenders we need to court.

Mugabe once described him as an “economic saboteur” because he advocated devaluation. Since then the Zimbabwe dollar has plunged to unimaginable levels.

Makoni understands that his first priority is stamping on the fires of inflation set alight by fiscal profligacy. He also knows a bit about the press having been the victim of political meddling at Zimpapers.

Much will be expected of him. Can he match up to the challenge?

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