SEVEN months after President Robert Mugabe appointed a bloated 26-member cabinet, there is nothing to inspire confidence and hope that the ruling Zanu PF government will deliver on its promise to revive the ailing economy, creating more than two million new jobs for unemployed Zimbabweans, as the economy remains stuck in the doldrums.
While the economy is fast deteriorating and the country increasingly burning, national leaders from the ruling party and the official opposition MDC-T are more absorbed in factional infighting devoid of ideological and policy content.
This is particularly true in the case of Zanu PF, whose leaders are locked in power struggles to succeed 90-year-old President Robert Mugabe ahead of the party’s elective congress in December while economy is sinking back into the doldrums.
Zanu PF is divided into two main factions, reportedly led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who are vying to replace Mugabe.
Even if Mugabe says the two are not the only ones in the running to succeed him, the party is largely divided along those lines.
Factional subtexts and themes are never far from the surface even in the ongoing fight against corruption informed by attempts to revive the economic following shocking reports of graft, tender manipulation and exorbitant salaries at state institutions and local authorities.
Instead of joining forces to fight corruption, Zanu PF leaders started fighting along factional lines on the issue.
To compound matters, the MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai is also currently gripped by internal strife, stymieing it from performing its proper role — that of official opposition.
Two rival factions led by Tsvangirai and party secretary general Tendai Biti are on each other’s throats over the issue of leadership renewal, preventing it from focusing on critical and urgent issues, especially the state of the economy.
The economic picture is gloomy. The outlook remains bleak as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for 2013 was estimated at just 3%, representing a dramatic plunge from 10,5% in 2012.
In recent years, and thanks largely to the unity government, Zimbabwe’s economy had been on a recovery path after more than a decade of calamitous decline characterised by hyperinflation that eventually led to the demonetisation of the local currency in 2009.
Government is dire straits. Zimbabwe’s recurrent expenditure rose to 96% of revenue collected in January, according to figures from Treasury, thus crowding out critical capital projects.
Tax revenues at US$266,6 million were lower than the target of US$278, million, while total expenditures for the same month amounted to US$235,9 million, according to the same figures.
Treasury attributed the declining revenues to company closures, the under-performance of the mining sector on the back of fluctuating mineral prices on the international market and a shorter working period due to the annual shut down which extended to part of January.
This leaves no illusions among Zimbabweans as to the enormity of the task of turning around the economy following a more than decade-long decline which shrunk the economy by 47%, according to economists.
With the end of the inclusive government after the controversial July 31 general elections victory by Mugabe and Zanu PF, guarded expectations were that the new government would implement at least some of its high-sounding policies — which it claimed had previously been frustrated by the coalition government — to ensure economic recovery.
Zanu PF’s election manifesto, premised on indigenisation, promised to stimulate economic development through, among other things, “creating value of US$7,3 billion from the indigenisation of 1138 companies across 14 key sectors of the economy and over US$1 844 223 157 000 created from the idle value of empowerment assets unlocked from parastatals, local authorities, mineral rights and claims”.
The party even promised to solve Bulawayo’s perennial water problems by 2018 through the completion of the much-awaited Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, first conceived almost a century ago, to bring water to the city from the Zambezi River.
However, eight months after its electoral triumph against a backdrop of these lofty promises, nothing has changed, except for the worse. Instead of trying to fulfil their promises, Zanu PF leaders are absorbed in factional wrangling as the party’s December congress, which many hope will settle the succession issue, draws closer.
Even Mugabe appears fed up with the factional fighting as indicated by his recent pronouncements in his home area of Zvimba that neither of them is a shoe-in to take over from him.
“People will choose who they want. It is not just these two (Mnangagwa and Mujuru),” said Mugabe last Friday at Murombedzi Growth Point, adding, “The day I retire, people can choose any other leader they think is the best candidate.”
The concern is that the succession issue has become an all-consuming issue of Zanu PF party stalwarts who will stop at nothing to fight their opponents to gain advantage in the race to succeed Mugabe, even if this means sacrificing the people and country’s interests.
Consequently, the economy continues to nosedive with over 800 companies closing in Harare alone by the end of last year.
More have applied to close despite Zanu PF’s promise to create more than two million jobs over the next five years to 2018 under the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset), which needs US$27 billion to implement. Mugabe’s government has after the elections failed to secure funding, even from its close ally China.
Even the fight against corruption has been sacrificed on the alter of factionalism and political expediency.
Some analysts say even the corruption revelations are fuelled by factionalism. Analyst Alexander Rusero said the disclosures have more to do with factions trying to discredit and outmanoeuvre each other rather than any genuine desire to root out corruption, partly hindering economic progress.
“All these corruption revelations, as well as reports of deputy ministers firing salvos at their ministers or even MPs doing the same to ministerial colleagues, are a clear sign that factional and personal scores are now overriding major concerns of national development,” Rusero said.
Rusero’s assertion that corruption is just another battleground on which the factional battles are being fought appears to borne out by complaints by those in the Mujuru faction that the likes of former PSMAS CEO Cuthbert Dube and suspended ZBC boss Happison Muchechetere are being targeted because of their perceived allegiance to Mujuru.
Accusations and counter-accusations of corruption were being thrown among Zanu PF members only last week, with the party’s Hurungwe West legislator and Mashonaland West provincial chair Temba Mliswa accusing Information minister Jonathan Moyo of belonging to the Mnangagwa camp, saying he is using the state media to fight the ruling party’s factional wars.
But Moyo immediately dismissed Mliswa’s claims, saying his mandate was national and that he did not belong to any faction.
Mliswa took his parliamentary crusade even further, attacking Transport minister Obert Mpofu, perceived to be aligned to Mnangagwa, accusing him of corruptly amassing a huge personal fortune.
Another analyst Charity Manyeruke, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, said factional fights within Zanu PF are playing a big part in the government’s failure to focus and deal holistically with more pressing economic issues.
“It is normal to have cliques in political parties,” said Manyeruke, adding “but those cliques should not be allowed to overshadow the bigger picture, which is that of ensuring economic development in Zimbabwe.”
Manyeruke said government has so far failed to inspire confidence in the economy or attract new investors.
“We have not seen much work being done to attract international investors despite having so many sectors like agriculture and mining which could stimulate investment. It seems we also have a big problem in inspiring confidence to those investors who are already there,” said Manyeruke.
“The government must put a lot more effort in crafting good packages to attract investors.”
Rusero said Tsvangirai’s handling of the MDC-T’s leadership renewal debate showed his party was also more concerned about sideshows than national issues.
“The leadership squabbles in the MDC suggest that the party leaders take their selfish concerns more seriously than those of the people in general — mainly the economy.
More significantly, Tsvangirai’s handling of the conflict poses a simple question: how will he deal with his opponents, should he ever gain control of the coercive state apparatus?” he said.