DESPITE Zanu PF blaming lack of delivery during the country’s Government of National Unity (GNU, 2009 to 2013) on policy clashes and inconsistency, governance confusion remains a remarkable feature of the Zanu PF government which incidentally has abjectly failed to deliver on most key promises.
In the latest such episode to rock President Robert Mugabe’s government, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa was publicly dressed down by his boss after announcing the broke government had suspended annual bonuses for the civil servants until at least 2017 — a move which won Chinamasa plaudits from economic analysts.
Chinamasa, flanked by Information minister Jonathan Moyo and his permanent secretary, who is also Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, made the announcement — hardly surprising given Treasury’s financial struggles — at a press conference on April 13, as it seeks to contain its ballooning wage bill and create fiscal space.
However, during Independence Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium on April 18 in Harare, a furious Mugabe shot down the announcement saying he and his cabinet had not been consulted.
Fuming, Mugabe said what Chinamasa did (announcing bonus suspension) was so “disgusting” as it was never brought to him, cabinet or to any of his vice-presidents for approval.
“I want to make it clear that the report which was in the newspapers that bonuses were being withdrawn is not government policy,” said Mugabe.
“The cabinet did not approve that at all and the Presidency never was consulted on the matter. We were never consulted the three of us, that is myself and the two vice-presidents and we say that is disgusting to us and it will never be implemented at all.”
In the face of such fire, Chinamasa beat a hasty retreat by apologising for his “procedural mistake”, but also took the opportunity to paint a gloomy picture of government’s purse and in so doing defended himself.
These policy contradictions and infighting are a throwback to the acrimonious GNU era when policy contradictions were the order of the day, thus stifling progress. The unity government comprised Zanu PF and the MDC formations, one led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the other by Welshman Ncube.
Mugabe and his Zanu PF officials frequently blamed the lack of progress on the MDC formations, especially that led by MDC-T leader and then prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe even demanded early elections to end “the three-headed creature”, at one time claiming Tsvangirai and then Finance minister, Tendai Biti, were stalling government operations including the constitution-making process, funding of the Grain Marketing Board to pay farmers, among many other accusations.
Notably, while launching his re-election bid in Bulawayo, Mugabe slammed Biti for worsening the de-industrialisation of Bulawayo by allegedly refusing to release funds to revive the country’s second largest city.
Most people though believed Biti neither had the funds nor the power to hold on to them, dismissing Mugabe’s accusations as politicking. Mugabe promised Zanu PF government would have a unity of purpose to deliver on wide range of pre-poll promises including job creation and infrastructure development, but the economy has been on free-fall since Zanu PF coasted to a controversial victory with a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
While Mugabe blamed the MDC formations during the GNU, Tsvangirai cited Mugabe and Zanu PF as a stumbling block to the revival of the economy. “Conflicting policies on investment and indigenisation by different government ministries and departments is confusing and scaring away both local and foreign investors,” Tsvangirai said during the coalition government.
However, despite a new Zanu PF government courtesy of the July 2013 general elections, discord in government exploded into the public domain last year when Agriculture, Irrigation and Mechanisation minister Joseph Made publicly refuted pronouncements by his deputy on the GMB’s lack of capacity to pay farmers and the deplorable state of the nation’s silos.
On the damaging indigenisation policy blamed for spooking foreign investors and lacking consistency, Chinamasa last year said government would be moving away from a straight-jacket approach on indigenisation.
The 51/49% mix would remain an aspiration, but the empowerment policy would be implemented on a case-by-case basis, he said.
Barely a month later, new Indigenisation minister Christopher Mushowe came out guns blazing saying Zimbabwe was not begging for investment and investors willing to venture into the country must respect its laws.
“The investors should not look at us as beggars. They should not expect us to give in to their demands. Those who want to come and invest in Zimbabwe must come and invest in Zimbabwe under the laws of Zimbabwe and surely they will get more than the value of their investment,” he said.
Mushowe’s rant was despite the fact Zimbabwe remains stuck in a stubborn economic crisis that has spawned de-industrialisation, with more than 85% of the population unemployed. Shrinkage of revenues to Treasury has left government struggling to pay the public sector.
Mugabe has sought to clarify the controversial indigenisation policy — which has destabilised the economy and divided his officials — saying while the 51/49% equity model Zanu PF has been pursuing remains the framework, there will be flexibility in other areas outside the resource-based sectors.
The policy is being amended to give line ministers power to approve indigenisation plans for sectors under their purview, with the Indigenisation ministry only issuing compliance certificates on the recommendations of line ministers after their assessments, amid fears this would fuel rent-seeking.
Prior to that former Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema had fierce run-ins with Moyo over the contentious policy.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said policy discord in Zanu PF and government started way back in the late 1990s.
“Most of their economic policies have been fraught with inconsistencies and at times policies openly contradicting each other. Who can forget the time when the country was desperate for foreign currency, but at the same time we were trampling on property rights and seizing farms thereby making would-be investors who would bring the forex develop cold feet,” Saungweme said.
Analysts said even during the 1980s and 1990s there were policy clashes between the liberal and socialist wings of Zanu PF and the government.
Even if Zanu PF’s manifesto in 1980 contained one-party state and socialist principles supported by Mugabe and those who were in Maputo, there was a wing led by the likes of ex-Finance minister Bernard Chidzero and Eddison Zvobgo who did not believe in such things. Zanu PF itself and thus its government was divided over the ideological and policy question, hence the muddling through from Independence up to now.
Economist Godfrey Kanyenze asserts the ongoing discord in government reflects lack of social cohesion on various issues which include indigenisation, foreign direct investment and the re-engagement (of the international community, especially the West) process.
“The discord shows lack of harmony in government and this happens when there is no political will and courage to deal with the structural reforms which are necessary for economic growth,” Kanyenze said.
“We are witnessing a crisis of political expediency versus promoting national interest. What happened with the bonus issue reflects a leader of the state does not want the reform agenda and choose to play to the masses.”
“The economy needs a reform agenda which may not be favourable to hardliners like the current leadership and this causes confusion.”
Clearly, government cannot afford policy clashes and inconsistencies at a time it badly needs foreign direct investment to halt de-industrialisation which has been showing signs of quickening amid massive company closures, retrenchments and job losses.