NOW that the dust has really settled after last year’s disputed general elections one would have thought attention would have shifted firmly to fixing the precarious economy, but nothing much seems to be happening.
Editor’s Memo by Dumisani Muleya
Well, there has been the crafting or in fact rehashing of old economic blueprints to come up with ZimAsset, but like many analysts have said the document is unhelpful because it is founded on wishful thinking, not realities on the ground. Just like promises in the Zanu PF election manifesto, it is pie in the sky.
Our leaders need to offer more than pie in the sky when they talk about economic and social issues.
The nation can’t hold out for the idealistic. People need to be realistic. What is needed is not high-sounding blueprints, but workable policies and programmes of action.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has been running around since his appointment with a begging bowl. He has been to the United States to engage the Bretton Woods institutions, South Korea, Kuwait and China.
But his shuttles have not yielded anything tangible so far, leaving the country reeling from the deteriorating liquidity crunch. Zimbabweans, once again down in the dumps after a short reprieve during the inclusive government era, and businesses are equally feeling the pinch. Companies are closing down at a frightening rate, while workers are losing jobs en masse.
The ZCTU, the main labour movement, says at least 75 companies did not open in January after the festive break. Up to July last year, over 700 companies had shut down in Harare since 2011. Many cities, particularly Bulawayo, are now ghost towns. This shows the economy is fast shrinking and things are getting worse. Government officials look weak or paralysed, unable or unwilling to act.
The situation seems even gloomier after Chinamasa failed to get anything from his best bet China, besides other countries he had sent a distress signal to, even though he claims a “comprehensive financial aid package” is still being negotiated with Beijing.
People are getting really angry and agitated about the economic situation. While that is the case, it was always wishful thinking to believe anything other than economic stagnation if not outright regression would face the nation under President Robert Mugabe’s continued rule.
Central to Mugabe’s failures has been corruption and incompetence since 1980. This was exacerbated by rent-seeking, patronage and poor governance, as well as toxic leadership and unworkable policies which badly ruined the whole economy.
If Mugabe, whose endgame remains a mystery, doesn’t change his ways, the economy won’t recover. Last September at the UN General Assembly in New York, he missed a great opportunity to send the right signals to the world to show Zimbabwe is now open for business when he instead railed against his Western adversaries over sanctions, shouting “shame, shame, shame” the US and the UK, this and that.
So it was wishful thinking to anticipate Mugabe, even with his dubious election victory behind him, would change.
And if the economy does not soon improve, as it seems it won’t, things will get tougher, public unrest and attendant repression might resurge and the politics will become poisoned again, probably with ugly consequences as the current transition reaches its acme.
While keeping the multicurrency system will maintain relative macro-economic stability, Zimbabwe will largely remain on a plateau of stagnation or slide backwards, as it is already doing.
The situation will only change when Mugabe goes. Even when that happens, things may get worse before it gets better, if ever it does, which it will. After Mugabe, a change of political culture, governance and policies will be sine qua non for democratic and economic headway.