Zim economic crisis: Lack of leadership now self-evident

ZIMBABWE is currently facing a national crisis rooted in the dearth of leadership, eliciting political, social and economic instability of extraordinary enormity.

Strangely, Zimbabweans have looked everywhere, but nonetheless incessantly miss this glaring and obvious reality, much to their unrelenting suffering.

This is the sad truth which has now come to the fore for all of us to grasp and perchance take a lead in delivering a remedy.

The absence of leadership is unambiguous in government where public officers find comfort in expending energy and time in self-centred power retention fights as well as in the fragmented opposition that fights about “who and how” to convene a national dialogue platform intended to deliberate on the fast declining economic situation.

Lack of leadership also manifests itself in the church, which, true to fashion, enjoys harvesting resigned citizens and in the divided civil society. Surely, it is obvious that Zimbabwe is in serious deficiency of a visionary and people-centred leadership.

The leadership deficit in trade unionism is clear. This once vibrant sector looks enmeshed in whether to confront or to dialogue with government in respect of unpaid bonuses and the employer’s reluctance to meet agreed working conditions.

President Robert Mugabe can rant and rave as much as he likes, he can even posture as a voice for the Africans, but for as long as his countrymen live in squalour, he must know that he is an embarrassment to Africa. His failure to handle the raging succession issue, which has divided his party, is a black spot on his legacy.

The extent to which Mugabe wheedled illegal alterations to his party’s constitution to further centralise power on himself would leave any dictator across the globe green with envy.

His replacement of party members with his single decisive vote for the election of new party leadership in the presidium puts to question the legitimacy of such leadership.

With this kind of leadership running the affairs of the country, should anyone be surprised as to why there has not been progress on the implementation of the new constitution? The resistance seems clearly to be the result of the fact that the new constitution confers ample rights and freedoms to citizens and therefore impedes the wishes of the Zanu PF ruling elite.

Is it not extraordinary therefore that Zimbabweans expect this regime to deliver public services and to eliminate corruption within government institutions, given the kind of leadership that it is? Unashamedly, issues of corruption are raised only to serve the power retention agenda and are therefore targeted at specific persons.

The so-called government’s economic blueprint, ZimAsset, the country’s latest economic blueprint, appears stillborn as government appears incapable of raising the US$27 billion or so to fully implement. The empowerment drive has so far benefited mostly the rich elite much to the chagrin of the poor majority.

And so, from the Zanu PF leadership, little if anything can be expected. In any event, the question of legitimacy stemming from the contested outcome of the July 31 2013 elections marred by rigging and systematic disenfranchisement claims, rules out an economic turn-around in the short term.

Mugabe is old, frail and deserves a rest after almost 35 years of uninterrupted rule. New Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa is constrained by Mugabe politics and is unable to bring about any meaningful political and economic reforms, lest he is labelled a sell-out bent on grabbing power from Mugabe.

To get a full appreciation of this challenge, it is crucial to look beyond the failed Zanu PF government, since national leadership is not a preserve of the ruling party.

First, let’s look at local authorities that we interface with on a day-to-day basis. Poor public service delivery has become a national tragedy. Our roads are in a sorry state, while the provision of clean water has become a pipe dream. Just where are the city fathers?

It is common cause that there has not been any difference between the central government and local government in terms of provision of service delivery and elimination of corruption. There is no leadership and political will at both levels.

Civil society should play the watchdog role on government, being the voice of the voiceless and the have-nots.

The differences in the broader civil society movements have certainly not been ideological, nor have they been on the national agenda. Sadly, are personality and power-driven.

Lack of delivery by central government, local government and indeed by the opposition parties has not attracted any coherent rebuttal from civic society. Shouldn’t we in fact be thinking of a platform or process to watch over the “watchdog”, given that there is a clear absence of leadership in this arena as well?

As I have already observed, the church that is expected to provide sanctuary for the suffering masses through the much-needed spiritual guidance and leadership, has tended to follow a well-established routine giving the resigned masses a mirage of hope and whiling their time as they wait to eventually meet up with their heavenly father.
Zimbabwe needs a complete renewal of leadership at all levels. That way we can start afresh and begin to find solutions to our myriad challenges.

Shonhe is a public policy analyst and writes in his personal capacity.