DURING a media workshop last Friday to discuss transparency and accountability in the extractive industries, the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela) indicated the key mining sector is characterised by high levels of opacity, something which has made it difficult for the country to realise meaningful revenue inflows from its vast mineral resources.
Herbert Moyo/Hazel Ndebele
Zela was adding its voice to that of many ordinary Zimbabweans who have long been saying the country is not benefitting from its resources, pointing out political and security networks were lining their own pockets through shady dealings, while bleeding the economy.
Some Zela officials told the Zimbabwe Independent on the sidelines of the workshop that one of the reasons why the government of national unity (GNU) is failing to deal with such corruption and leakages of revenues is that it is riven with serious divisions which make it difficult to stem the tide of venality.
The officials further suggested it would thus be better to have one party in government rather than a coalition as this would help ensure policy cohesion and coherence.
“There has been serious policy discord in this coalition government as Zanu PF and MDC formations have often worked at cross-purposes, much to the detriment of the economy,” one Zela official said.
“The GNU has failed to ensure sustainable economic recovery as Zanu PF and the MDC parties spent the better part of the government’s four-year existence trading accusations of corruption and fighting over indigenisation instead of implementing coherent policies and programmes to help economic rebound.
“As a panacea to the contestations around economic policy and to give investors a sense of predictability and confidence, Zimbabwe needs the next elections to produce an outright winner so that we can have a single party governing and implementing consistent policies.”
Zela’s views are in sync with those of the business community as we move closer to elections, while taking stock of the achievements and failures of the coalition government.
When it was established in 2009, the GNU quickly tried to haul the country out of the economic doldrums as it spearheaded modest recovery programmes.
Prior to its formation, political and economic upheavals had gripped Zimbabwe from around 1997 when war veterans marched to State House to demand gratuities for their role in the liberation struggle.
The resultant instability worsened when Zanu PF launched violent farm invasions from 2000, culminating in the bloody June presidential election run-off of 2008 which was boycotted by MDC-T leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, citing state-sponsored violence against his supporters.
Stronger policies and a favourable external environment supported a nascent economic recovery during the inclusive government period. Real gross domestic product growth accelerated from 6% in 2009 to 9% in 2010, before slowing to 7% and 4,4% in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
However, economic recovery had started from a low base and was concentrated on primary commodity sectors in mining and agriculture, both of which are sensitive to exogenous shocks.
Structural impediments weighed heavily on manufacturing and utilities, which used to be the locomotives of growth and employment creation.
The humanitarian situation improved throughout. The burgeoning economic recovery, erratic harvests, donor off-budget support which at one time was 9% of GDP, and increased provision of government services halted the deterioration of human development indicators.
However, the projected US$600 million from diamond revenues to support the 2012 budget never materialised, sparking a war of words between Finance minister Tendai Biti and Mines minister Obert Mpofu.
Commenting on the lack of transparency and resultant corruption in the mining sector, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), a non-governmental organisation, said diamonds were being looted by politicians and security forces.
PAC wrote in their 2012 report titled Reap What You Sow: Greed and Corruption in Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamond Fields that Zimbabwe was witnessing “the biggest plunder of diamonds” perhaps the world has ever seen since Cecil John Rhodes. Conservative estimates place the theft of Marange diamonds at almost US$2 billion since 2008.
Zela officials say such things would be better dealt with by a single party government rather than a divided coalition.
The question, however, is which of the three parties would fulfil that mandate in view of their performance during the tenure of the GNU? Should Zimbabweans look outside the GNU triumvirate?
Analyst Dumisani Nkomo said another GNU would not be the best way forward given the power struggles that characterised the tenure of the present arrangement.
While analysts say an outright victory for one party might move the country forward, they expressed fears if Zanu PF wins, its victory might roll back democratic and recovery gains so far.
“The GNU with Zanu PF as the dominant partner has been unable and unwilling to stop violence and the selective application of the law,” said Nkomo. “People obviously do not want to see their country going back to the hands of those who have ruled and ruined it for 33 years.”
Another analyst Godwin Phiri said despite their flaws, the MDC parties were better placed than Zanu PF to lead the country out of the current situation as they will still get the benefit of the doubt from the people, investors and the international community. He however said an MDC-T victory alone would be worrying.
“Unfortunately, the MDC-T’s curriculum vitae, which includes corruption in the administration of councils during the GNU, does not augur well for the future,” said Phiri. “The other MDC also suffered from too many squabbles which led to some MPs being fired.”
Another analyst Brian Raftopoulos said Zanu PF had only used the transitional respite to regroup and consolidate its comeback, without embracing democratic reforms and changing direction
While benefitting by gaining experience in government, Raftopoulos said the MDC parties have faced challenges of dealing with their organisational structures as well as corruption within their ranks.
With three months before the end of the coalition government, the options for Zimbabweans are still not clear-cut.
While another GNU may not be desirable due to policy discord, none of the parties seem to offer the desirable option on their own in terms of economic policy and development although there is general consensus an outright Zanu PF victory will leave Zimbabwe going round in circles.