PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will officially open the Zanu PF conference in Victoria Falls today amid a cloud of economic implosion characterised by company closures and job losses amid failure by his party to fulfil its unrealistic electoral promises that include creating 2,2 million jobs by 2018.
Although the economy will be discussed at the conference whose theme is “Consolidating people’s power through ZimAsset,” no tangible solutions are expected from the conference without resolving the thorny issue of leadership renewal and succession which are at the centre of the economic and national crisis.
It is likely that the conference will be another expensive talkfest clouded factional fights, while the country reels from a debilitating liquidity squeeze, low capacity utilisation and job losses prompted by company closures and retrenchments.
This comes at a time of intense fighting within Zanu PF, with party stalwarts tearing at each other through endless votes of no confidence. The most recent purges being the removal of Women’s League spokesperson Monica Mutsvangwa and secretary for administration, Esphinah Nhari.
The Zanu PF conference also comes at a time Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has been forced to slash growth estimates from the ambitious 6,1% in 2014 to a modest 1,5% this year. Since the 2013 elections, the economy has regressed with no sign of improvement despite government’s latest economic blueprint, ZimAsset, hurriedly put together after the 2013 general elections. The blueprint requires funding of about US$27 billion, rendering it impracticable for a country reeling under a US$10,8 billion debt overhang.
Presenting a US$4 billion 2016 national budget last month, Chinamasa projected a 2,7% growth of the economy on the back of the mining, tourism, construction and financial sectors. He also projected a 1,8% growth in agriculture, 1,6% growth in mining, 2,1% growth in manufacturing and 4% growth in tourism.
This is in stark contrast to the reality on the ground, with continuously missed revenue targets on the back of a disastrous agricultural season which will force government to import 700 000 tonnes of maize burgeoning the country’s import bill, rapidly falling mineral prices, increasing power shortages and lack of significant investment due to toxic policies such indigenisation.
MDC-T MP for Bulawayo South Eddie Cross said the negativity of Zanu PF parliamentarians over Chinamasa at the post-budget seminar held for MPs this week does not bode well for deliberations at the party conference.
“I was quite shocked by their very negative attitude towards the proposals of Chinamasa,” Cross said. “For instance, the Lima plan (to repay debt owed to international financing institutions such as World Bank) was repudiated.”
He said if the position of most Zanu PF MPs at seminar is adopted by the leadership at the conference, it would result in “the complete collapse of confidence” in the country. Cross warned that this could also result in the “evaporation” of Chinese support which also largely hinges on reforms and leadership renewal. Chinamasa is fighting a lone battle in Zanu PF in trying to bring about measures that will help stabilise the economy. Cross said Chinamasa probably has more support from opposition parties than members of his own party.
Economist and former Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Oswell Binha said the focus on improving the country’s economy has been overshadowed by issues revolving around succession issues in the run up to the Zanu PF conference.
“The conference should deal with critical economic issues, not personalities,” Binha said.
“I am not confident that they can focus on long-term planning on the country’s economy at a time we have spent more than we have accumulated, and failed to re-integrate ourselves into the community of nations for rehabilitation and recovery.”