LAST week’s reports that Zanu PF is already preparing for elections due in 2018 would be a source of consternation to millions of long-suffering Zimbabweans still waiting for the party to deliver on its electoral promises.
Zanu PF came to power in last year’s harmonised elections on the back of promises to create over two million jobs, “enforce the transfer to local entities of at least 51% controlling equity in all existing foreign-owned businesses … and empower indigenous entities to hold 100% of equity to start up or take over strategic enterprises across the economy, especially in key sectors such as mining, tourism and agriculture”.
There was also a promise to revive the moribund education and health sectors which at one time were among the few success stories of the Zanu PF government with literacy levels rising to above 90% in the 1990s and ordinary folk accessing free primary health care.
But now it seems the party whose government is reeling from a liquidity crunch would rather spend scarce funds importing campaign materials like T-shirts, head-and-waist gear for the 2018 elections at a time even most of its supporters are wallowing in poverty.
“We did very well in 2013 because we started the preparations early while our MDC colleagues were enjoying the trappings of their new-found power in the inclusive government (2009-2013). We will use the same formula,” said a senior party official adding, “We learnt from the 2008 experience where we narrowly lost the parliamentary elections and the first round of the presidential contest to the MDC-T.”
It is critical to adequately prepare for elections — after all one of the goals of any political party is to acquire and maintain power.
But given the grave socio-economic situation the country finds itself in, the big question is whether Zimbabweans have not become the unfortunate hostages of a Machiavellian political party driven by the single-minded pursuit of retaining political power.
Despite all the rhetoric about implementing electoral promises, the situation remains dire and, if anything, indicators suggest the country is experiencing a resurgent economic malaise.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for 2013 was estimated at just 3%, representing a dramatic plunge from 10,5% in 2012. For the first time since Independence in 1980, government is struggling to pay civil servants and there is uncertainty over when the next pay check will come as the pay dates are now being frequently moved.
Treasury has attributed the declining revenues to company closures which have shrunk the tax base, and the under-performance of the mining sector on the back of fluctuating mineral prices on the international market.
Consequently, the majority of Zimbabweans have been reduced to abject poverty while unemployment levels have soared to over 80% as the country, in the 1980s and 1990s, regarded as the breadbasket of southern Africa, is now a “basket case” heavily dependent on imports and humanitarian aid.
Nowhere has this “basket case” scenario been more graphically illustrated as it has been at the Chingwizi holding camp in Masvingo province where the government has been failing to provide for the thousands of families evacuated following flooding in the Tokwe-Murkosi Dam basin.
A visitor to the sprawling dusty camp is certain to be greeted by mastheads of foreign NGOs like Oxfam while government and local NGOs take a backseat in this unfolding tragedy of human suffering.
These are the issues that the Zanu PF government should be expending its meagre resources on, but it would rather keep the country in permanent election mode as observed by political analyst Dumisani Nkomo.
“The (Zanu PF) party is keeping the country in a perpetual election mode and this has had a detrimental effect on development as state resources are being channelled towards the party’s programmes,” said Nkomo.
“ZimAsset (the country’s latest economic blueprint) and all other economic blueprints are going to remain elusive especially as they require the same funds which are being channelled to internal party activities.”
ZimAsset requires about US$27 billion to implement and it is difficult to imagine where that money will come from as the international community continues to sit on the fence waiting for Zanu PF to implement outstanding electoral, media and security sector reforms seen as crucial for democratising the country.
The international community also wants to see the reversal of the law requiring foreigners to cede 51% shareholding in their companies to locals, consistence and predictability to the country’s economic policies.
It is these demands of the international community rather than unwillingness on the part of Zanu PF that are responsible for its failure to fulfil its electoral promises.
Another political analyst, Godwin Phiri said: “Key international partners like the European Union have been very clear on the need to complete the democratisation process as a pre-condition for the resumption of full relations. They have also been clear on the need for clarity and even reversal on demands that foreign investors cede 51% of their investments to locals.”
He added: “It is a conundrum for Zanu PF because their power is based on maintaining strict control on the electoral, media and security sectors. This goes against the democratisation demands of the international community that it is indispensible as it is only this community which can avail substantial development assistance.
They (Zanu PF) are also under pressure to reverse the indigenisation policy which is one of their key frameworks for popular support.”
Clearly, the country will continue to experience a downward spiral — a decline which could be averted if Zanu PF puts national interest ahead of its political ambitions. Tragically, this is happening at a time the opposition, which would have kept Zanu PF on its toes, is in disarray, torn by internal strife.
“At least Zanu PF can prepare for elections, but the MDC-T cannot even do that as it is deeply engrossed in internal leadership squabbles. With the rate at which the party officials are filing legal suits and counter-suits, the party is unlikely to remain a viable alternative to Zanu PF,” said Nkomo.
In the meantime, hard-pressed Zimbabweans can only cast covetous eyes at the gleaming latest Zanu PF campaign vehicles branded: “Team Zanu PF 2018”.