The gloves are off; Zanu PF is in election mode and like a rock rolling down the hill nothing can stand in its way. Sadly this change of mood comes after a good run in which captains of industry and commerce had begun to warm up to the ruling party’s style of leadership often giving it rave reviews.
The government had been getting kudos for introducing the foreign currency auction system in June last year which was mainly credited for stabilising the local currency against foreign currencies such as the US unit to which it has been trading at around 84 for a long time. Parallel market rates had also stabilised although they remained a pain in the neck. Inflation, as a result, had been on a downward trajectory since its hyperinflationary high of 837% in July last year.
That one intervention in the economic dynamics of the country had helped industry retool and fill up the country’s shops with mostly locally produced goods unlike in the volatile past where shelves sagged under the weight of foreign goods, which locals could hardly afford. The retail sector seemed to love the new development as it came with more consumer spending.
Many other facets of the economy were on a good curve, including infrastructural development which has seen some of our most important roads getting a facelift.
Sceptics had always doubted this would last, to the extent of saying even the stability of the currency was a mirage manipulated to portray a pseudo-success.
There have been many negatives in the past three years, the suppression of civil service salaries being the most grotesque of them, the ripple effects of which include the near collapse of the country’s once-world-renowned education system. But the goodwill that the government was beginning to enjoy almost outweighed the negatives.
But not any more!
Events of the past few weeks have shown that the goodwill might well have been misplaced. We have seen the use of the law to suppress dissent with most of our youthful opposition politicians thrown behind bars for voicing their disgruntlement with how things are being run. Many analysts have averred that such high-handed tactics do not cow the youths into submission but, in fact, have the opposite effect. We might as well be seeing the genesis of the radicalisation of the youth and no one knows how this might pan out.
The rule by statutory instruments will continue to be a blot on the ruling party’s bed sheet. The SIs have totally taken over the role of parliament and have morphed into a kind of rule by decree. They have affected, mostly negatively, every facet of our society from by-elections to how we are supposed to carry on our day-to-day activities.
As the 2023 elections approach the country is going to get more of these. Although in the past some of them have been well intentioned, now the pace at which they are coming has become a threat to the values the country holds dear and the reforms everyone looked forward to in the hope of strengthening our democracy.
The word “lawfare” has entered our lexicon as civil society seeks to do the work of parliament by bringing to public scrutiny government decisions. But as more and more cases get to the courts as we approach the elections, more and more will the underbelly of government be exposed, much to the detriment of its desire for rapprochement with the international community.
The election mode should not be allowed to compromise the few good things that had begun to make Zimbabweans see some light at the end of the tunnel.