Mugabe offers little more than insults against election rivals

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s launch of the ruling party’s 2008 election campaign last Friday has left analysts wondering whether Zanu PF is focused on any particular theme outside denigrating the opposition and their alleged Western supporters.

Mugabe’s one-and-a-half-hour speech failed to stimulate the electorate into the revolutionary mindset synonymous with Zanu PF ahead of any crucial election.

Instead the speech was punctuated with insulting language calling his opponents “sellouts”, “political prostitutes”, “political charlatans” and “two-headed political creatures”.

Usually Mugabe’s campaign launch speeches set the tone for the particular election but instead he narrowed it down to attacking individuals, exposing the serious divisions within Zanu PF following the emergence of Simba Makoni on the political scene.

Mugabe openly showed that he doubted the allegiance of party supporters including those he had invited to the manifesto launch.

“You who are here with us, I hope I trust you, all of you,” Mugabe said. “Some politicians are sellouts, political prostitutes, political charlatans and two-headed political creatures.”

Zanu PF chairman John Nkomo also echoed these fears when he said: “There is evidence of hunger for power within our ranks. We have opportunists and saboteurs who have come into the fold.”

Mugabe admitted that Zanu PF had been rocked by serious divisions especially during its primary polls to select candidates for parliamentary and council elections.

“There are struggles within the party that have taken place, and in some cases there were even wars. At the end of the day, we have this congregation with me at the head,” he said.

Mugabe’s abusive tone at the launch was a continuation of his birthday interview the previous week beamed on national television. Other than the different setting and audience, the tone of the speech was the same.

He proffered no suggestions to resolve the economic situation.

With inflation soaring above 100 580%, the 84-year-old leader also suggested that populist legislation in key economic areas like mining would restore the ailing economy.

Referring to the need for black majority ownership in mining companies, Mugabe said: “Unless we are the shareholders, we will continue to be cheated.”

The government has in the past taken over ownership of mining companies like the now defunct Mhangura and Alaska copper mines through the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.

Mining experts have attributed such closures to poor administration and an unviable operating environment.

Annual gold production has plunged over the past seven years and the country is set to lose its rights to sell gold directly to the international market, which is guaranteed by its membership to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA).

The LBMA regulations state that member countries should produce at least 10 tonnes a year to remain in the association. Last year Zimbabwe produced 6,8 tonnes of gold representing a 38% decline from the previous year. This year experts are expecting production to be as low as three tonnes because of the RBZ’s failure to pay for gold deliveries on time and power cuts.

Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono in his January monetary policy statement said gold production had been “constrained” by escalating production costs, frequent power outages, shortages of critical inputs, depletion of surface gold ore and lack of appropriate equipment by small-scale mining producers, among other factors.

Political scientists have however expressed scepticism over Zanu PF’s proposals on mining saying they would exacerbate the country’s already ailing economy.

“His proposed changes in the mining sector are a recipe for ruining the Zimbabwe economy completely,” said John Makumbe, a political analyst. “It will be like the chaotic land reform which brought the economy to its knees.”

Makumbe added that Mugabe’s taunting of political opponents was a “reflection of an expired leader”.–Augustine Mukaro/Bernard Mpofu