Economic revival promises ring hollow

 TWO months after President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party secured a contested landslide victory, the country is showing signs of plunging into a deeper economic morass as evidenced by the continued collapse of service delivery systems including health, fuel supply, electricity, water as well as the liquidity crunch.

 

Elias Mambo

Although Zanu PF secured power on the back of promises to revive the economy through a populist theme “Indigenise, Empower, Develop and Create Employment”, there is very little on the ground to show for it so far.

 

The country is experiencing nationwide power cuts severely impacting on the domestic and industrial sectors. Water shortages, high on Mugabe’s to-do list, are worsening; there is a scarcity of drugs in public hospitals and clinics; and shortages of fuel in some towns while business continues to struggle.

With a 60-year-old water infrastructure, Harare is only managing to produce 450 mega-litres per day from Prince Edward and Morton Jaffray waterworks, against a daily demand which, due to the current high temperatures, has jumped from 900 mega-litres per day to between 1 200 and 1 500 mega-litres.

The water crisis is set to worsen before it improves as five pumps at the Morton Jaffray Waterworks were decommissioned last week to facilitate refurbishment by the Chinese, with the city council warning long-suffering residents they should brace for even more erratic water supplies for the next three years as refurbishment continues.

 

Industry’s capacity utilisation has reportedly slid by 5,3 percentage points from 44,2% in 2012 to 39,6% this year. Last week, a severe shortage of critical drugs hit Masvingo General Hospital, compromising health delivery to thousands of residents.

 

The hospital failed to dispense basic drugs such as antibiotics and pain killers, forcing patients to turn to private pharmacies and clinics which are too expensive for the majority.

 

Besides the shortage of basic drugs, Zimbabwe is also struggling to supply anti-retroviral drugs at public health institutions, compromising the health of more than half a million people living with HIV and Aids, thus forcing patients to switch to drug combinations which endanger their lives. Fuel queues resurfaced last weekend in Zvishavane, Chinhoyi and Kadoma.

 

It seems Zanu PF is already reneging on its lofty election campaign promises.

The party’s secretary for youth affairs Absolom Sikhosana was quoted yesterday as saying government would not be able to create the two million jobs in five years Zanu PF promised ahead of the July 31 polls, but was quick to blame the non-delivery and a plethora of challenges afflicting the country on sanctions.

“We are going to create jobs …, but if you followed our strategy in our manifesto, you have got to accept we will not be able to create as many jobs as we would have loved to due to the imperialists continuing with their sanctions regime,” Sikhosana told journalists at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare.

 

In its election manifesto, Zanu PF promised to create 2 265 million jobs in the next five years as part of an economic growth initiative based on the empowerment and indigenisation drive.

Public policy and governance manager at the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe, Jabusile Shumba, said the main problem is that the Zanu PF manifesto is inimical to economic growth.

“With the policy direction highlighted in the Zanu PF manifesto, there is a tendency by the market to react negatively thereby reinforcing the crisis,” Shumba said.

 

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Professor Eldred Masunungure said the mood in the country is that of trepidation. “The inclusive government set policies towards a certain trajectory which brought sanity to Zimbabwe, but now the majority of people are crippled by fear of the unknown,” Masunungure said.

 

“People cast their eyes back to 2008 and relive the experiences of that era, hence there is fear as social services are declining. The coming in of a new regime, known for its own shortcomings, is bound to create uncertainties in all sectors (of the economy) coupled with the elections results that were not generally accepted across the political divide.”

Masunungure added that the current situation is a reflection of instability due to the policy direction that Zanu PF said it would take in its manifesto.

However, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said the current crisis will be resolved soon and the reason for the decline of services could be sabotage from those on the losing side of the July 31 general elections. “Yes, there is generally a decline in services, but we hope things will change soon as investors gain confidence in the Zanu PF government,” Gumbo said.

“There is also the possibility of sabotage from those who generally feel the poll results were not favourable to them because you can ask yourself why a sudden change in electricity availability when we used not to have such problems. One cannot rule out sabotage,” he said.