Politburo meddling disruptive, fuels market discord

ZANU PF Politburo bigwigs are on a renewed collision course with the state over their continued entanglement in government business.

Candid Comment Faith Zaba

A fresh power struggle is emerging in Zanu PF, with Politburo officials, who were retired from government to the party headquarters, flexing their muscle and making decisions, which could lead to economic suicide.

It has since emerged that the initial decision to shut down the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and ban mobile payment platforms came from the Politburo, leading to Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Nick Mangwana issuing a decree to that effect. This was done without consultation with Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and the regulatory authorities.

The statement sent shockwaves across the country and beyond, especially as it came from an organ of the ruling party, rather than from the regulatory authorities.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John Mangudya had to intervene and hurriedly issued a statement the following day, which watered down the Mangwana statement, by directing that individual transactions would continue. This meant mobile money services would continue uninterrupted for the general public.

It seems the interference is being driven by loss of confidence in the technocrats appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to resolve Zimbabwe’s tragic economic downturn. The Politburo members are panicking as they fear losing power through social unrest. Such moves signify desperation, where economically illiterate party officials make reckless decisions that could cost the country an investment like Old Mutual Limited.

However, the Politburo was not done. It issued a statement announcing that a proposal had been made at a meeting on Friday to “eject” Old Mutual from the financial system.

“The Politburo welcomed the decision to eject Old Mutual from the financial system of this country and the closure of EcoCash agents who had caused runway inflation through illegal parallel exchange rates,” Zanu PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa said on Tuesday.

This caused confusion in the financial sector, as Old Mutual is a blue chip stock.

The Politburo’s combative posturing could push out Old Mutual Zimbabwe. If Old Mutual Zimbabwe leaves the market, this could further scare investors. Foreign direct investment into the country has plummeted from US$717 million in 2018 to US$259 million last year.

The meddling of the Politburo comes as no surprise, given the large number of former ministers that sit on the body, perhaps struggling to adapt to life outside of government. Politburo’s posturing undermines ministers’ bid to turn around the economy.

Zanu PF has squandered the goodwill of long-suffering Zimbabweans and this interference not only damages the country, but the party itself. Chinamasa, a former finance minister, should know that this kind of interference will cost the country.