IN its latest report Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), says for Zimbabwe to avoid prolonged uncertainty and possible crisis, Zanu PF should conclusively decide at its December congress who will replace President Robert Mugabe were he to be incapacitated or decide not to seek re-election in 2018.
The report also states that Zimbabwe is now an insolvent and increasingly failing state, which Mugabe is failing to fix.
The think-tank says a year on, Zimbabwe faces multiple social and economic problems, spawned by endemic governance failures compounded by a debilitating ruling party succession crisis.
“Both Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) are embroiled in major internal power struggles that distract from addressing the corrosion of the social and economic fabric,” says the report, titled Zimbabwe: Waiting for the Future.
“Zimbabwe is an insolvent and failing state, its politics zero sum, its institutions hollowing out, and its once vibrant economy moribund. A major culture change is needed among political elites, as well as commitment to national as opposed to partisan and personal interests,” reads the report.
But like the proverbial man who leaves his burning house to pursue a rat fleeing from the flames, Zanu PF has since its election victory in July 2013 been prioritising internal fights while the economy haemorrhages.
To show that economic issues are taking a backseat, the Zanu PF politburo, which is the de facto supreme decision-making body between congresses, has discussed the economy only in three meetings since the party won re-election, despite claims that the economy is now a standing item on the politburo agenda .
Zanu PF has been preoccupied with its internal fights at the expense of finding a solution to the country’s economic crisis, with local research group Econometer Global Capital stating industry capacity utilisation is seen averaging between 27% and 29% by year end, with estimates it stood at 33% in the first half of the year.
This was confirmed by Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha who told a Doing Business Reform strategy meeting organised by Word Bank in Harare last week that the economy remained hard-pressed by an unsustainable high debt, massive disinvestment, de-industrialisation, low productivity and a rampant informal sector.
“These challenges have exacerbated the high levels of unemployment and the liquidity crisis we are currently facing,” he said. “Key to note in our discussions today is the low capacity utilisation and productivity levels estimated at 30% in June 2014 by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and this could be worse than the reported levels.”
At the current level of company closures, retrenchments and job losses, Econometer says unemployment would have topped 92% by year end with most companies intensifying staff rationalising exercises.
More than 600 workers have officially been retrenched since the beginning of August, with at least 15 companies having applied to close shop during the same period, but these have been put on hold for various reasons.
But as Zimbabweans wallow in poverty, the acrimonious internal fights are deepening ahead of the Zanu PF congress in December and are increasingly playing out dirty in the public and even in the state-controlled media despite repeated, hollow-sounding threats from Mugabe this had to stop.
Hopes of a quick economic turnaround as promised by Zanu PF during campaigns ahead of last year’s general elections have faded as the political elite burns midnight candles plotting against each other in a race to succeed Mugabe.
Zanu PF is currently locked in a nasty factional battle pitting Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa as the fight to take over from Mugabe continues in the absence of a clear party succession plan.
Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said Zanu PF would rather spend more time addressing threats to Mugabe’s continued reign than improve the lives of the people.
“During the constitution-making process, Zanu PF sat for 51 hours, discussing and shredding the draft constitution into pieces because it threatened state power,” Ruhanya said.
“Zanu PF does not take chances on that which affects their power. If it cared about the economy, by now it would have sat for days deliberating on it and some people including Mugabe, should have resigned for presiding over a failed state.
“The ongoing raging battle in Zanu PF has increased the poverty levels of the general populace. It has become a scandalous affair, doing nothing to arrest poverty among the people.”
Zanu PF promised over two million jobs and an improved economy during the build-up to last year’s elections, but since its election victory marred by rigging allegations, the economy has shown renewed signs of stress.
The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that fears abound government may soon fail to meet its civil service salary obligations that gobble up more than 70% of state revenues.
Zanu PF is deliberately diverting people’s attention from the failing economy, according to analyst Earnest Mudzengi.
“What Zanu PF is doing is a deliberate move meant to divert people’s attention from the failing economy,” Mudzengi said.
“The party has no viable solutions to the obtaining economic crisis so it creates tension within its structures so that it may be seen to be busy trying to resolve its crisis first then the economy later.”
The Zanu PF government is also under growing pressure from the International Monetary Fund to cut back on luxury and superfluous spending based on patronage politics — such as continually buying expensive vehicles for cabinet ministers and funding Mugabe’s endless overseas trips — and live within its means in order to balance the primary fiscal budget.
This comes at a time traditional chiefs are demanding new vehicles and a review of their monthly allowances.
The IMF mission, led by Domenico Fanizza, told government last week to stop extravagance or spending money it does not have. Of the US$3 billion import bill in the first half of the year, most of it was on duty-free government imports, highlighting costly consumption.
As the economy continues to take a nosedive, Bimha recently set up a Doing Business Committee (DBC) whose aim is to investigate factors dampening the country’s economic activities, but some economist would argue that the economy’s problems are well know and documented, but what is lacking is the political will to solve them.
As if to confirm this, DBC chairperson Maureen Chitehwe this week said “what comes out of our efforts is that Zimbabwe needs political will to improve the country’s deteriorating business environment”.
“It’s not just about sitting in an office and making a list of what needs to be done and carrying on. It is about identifying what needs to be done, deciding how to do it, getting the relevant skills and … giving it a timeline. That is what political will is about to me,” she said.
What is clear is that the succession dogfight is unlikely to let up until Zanu PF’s congress in December, much to the continued detriment of the country’s moribund economy.