Comment: We Want Change Now

THE presidential issue has been settled by the June 27 run-off, Zanu PF secretary for Information Nathan Shamuyarira declared in the ruling party’s publication, The Voice.

 

“The question of power has been settled by the elections,” he said. “It should be stressed that executive power will remain with the elected president.”

Disregarding the outcome of the run-off would be “tantamount to disowning the people’s will”, the publication reported him as suggesting.

This is at the heart of the matter before the negotiators in Pretoria. While we have no doubt that President Mugabe continues to exercise executive power, whether he should be allowed to do so is a moot point. Certainly the MDC, regional countries such as Botswana, and the wider international community regard Mugabe’s tenure as procured by systematic state-orchestrated violence and therefore illegitimate. The people’s will was openly flouted.

Botswana’s Foreign minister Phandu Skelemani said just a few days ago that his country would not recognise Mugabe as head of state.

The complexion of any government of national unity or transitional arrangement will thus depend upon the resolution of this point — the structure of power.

Shamuyarira must not imagine for one moment that he can issue a pronunciamento based on the discredited June outcome and expect the nation to swallow it. Since its negotiators arrived in Pretoria the ruling party has been attempting to lay down a number of conditions including the lifting of sanctions. All this is wishful thinking. Any system that enables Zanu PF to continue abusing power will be rejected not just by the overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans but by the international community.

We had a good demonstration of the problem on Wednesday. Appearing at Gideon Gono’s monetary policy review, Mugabe warned business people that they faced emergency measures if they continued to engage in behaviour he described as profiteering.

It is now common cause that hyperinflation is the product of reckless government expenditure and the printing of money, as well as a shortage of goods. Gono would argue that he has no alternative to letting the printing press run so long as we are deprived of balance-of-payments support. But that decision by the Bretton Woods institutions is based firmly on the absence of a workable economic reform package that addresses macro-economic distortions.

Threatening the business community when they attempt to recover the costs of production will simply compound the crisis. Empty supermarket shelves are testimony to government’s economic illiteracy.

Mugabe is widely seen as the author of the country’s ills. No investor will want to come into a country with such a toxic business climate and where populist demagoguery substitutes for sound economic policy. The “people’s shops” are another example of how the local business community is prejudiced by wayward politicians.

The talks currently underway will have to grasp this nettle of power. If Mugabe and his followers cannot see the need for change and reform, and they obviously can’t, we are in for a complete collapse of the economy.

We are already getting there. As we illustrate on Page 3 of our businessdigest section today, prices are punishing. A loaf of bread that was $3 million in January is above $250 billion now ($25 revalued). A commuter bus ride to town that was $1,5 million in January and $10 billion in July, is now $140 billion ($14).

While there is undoubtedly an element of opportunism in some private- sector hikes, who gives the green light for price hikes at Air Zimbabwe, Zesa, Zinwa and TelOne? These problems will only be solved when there is a change in government.

The people voted for change in March and their will was thwarted. Shamuyarira’s remarks echo a derelict regime shocked at the extent of their loss and with no clue how to solve a crisis of their own making.

Shamuyarira’s delusions are understandable. He lives in another world. But we should not delude ourselves. The country cannot afford to have executive power remain with those who are intent upon abusing it and who are simply accelerating the pace of our national decline. That is the nub of the talks in Pretoria which resume on Sunday.

There can be no more tinkering with vice-presidents as is reportedly proposed. The last thing Zimbabwe needs is more useless and expensive vice-presidents. We want wholesale national reconstitution.

Now.