TWO and half years away from the next general elections, Zimbabweans are already in polls mood.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
The environment indicates fra-ntic activity as 2018 draws nearer.
Following its contested poll victory in 2013, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF government laid down the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset), a product of the party’s election manifesto.
Zim Asset promised two million jobs but thus far the only jobs Mugabe has been able to create are ministerial and the trinkets that come with the “jobs-for-the boys” scheme.
Mugabe’s arch-nemesis Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC produced the Jobs, Upliftment Investment Capital and the Environment (Juice) and later came up with the Agenda for Real Transformation (ART). These also promised jobs, liberal laws related to labour, as well as investment inflows.
But tellingly, Tsvangirai’s ART talks of micro-managing the family unit.
“Formulating the resource allocation formula for the global budget to manage family size and to reduce poverty levels, improve local revenue generating capacities, and functions provided within districts that service provincial or national, communities. At the same time, this should ensure that effective output relative to inputs and meeting key policy goals are rewarded,” the document says. The party says it has better alternatives to Zim Asset.
After seven years of skirting, Mugabe last month decided to speak to Zimbabweans directly through a State of the Nation Address in which he summarised Zim Asset into a 10-point plan that was roundly rejected across the political and social divide as a wish-list that would, like its maternal parent, not change anything socially or economically.
Mugabe also talked the neoliberal language, including labour reforms amid criticism that his government triggered the massive job-losses that followed the infamous July 17 Supreme Court ruling.
In between the shades of grey, Mugabe does not want to be seen as swallowing hook, line and sinker neo-liberal policies. He sticks to the irreversibility of the land reform programme, but surprisingly begins to throw in nuggets of indications that the obnoxious Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act could be “negotiated on a sector-by-sector basis”. This would have been taboo three years ago in Zanu PF.
The response to Mugabe’s 10-point plan was swift and came from his protégé, former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who published her own manifesto, Blueprint to Unlock Investment and Leverage for Development (Build). It was a direct attack on Mugabe’s own plan to rescue the economy and Mujuru, who politically grew up under Mugabe’s wing to become the country’s second in command, has returned as an opposition leader.
Her policies speak to the cries of the opposition in the past 15 years. She now wants an investigation into, not only human rights abuses of the past, but also a re-look at the emotive land reform programme.
Mujuru’s manifesto claims she is ready to lead from the front to undo the damage and two months ago she apologised “for my part in the impoverishment of our people and whatever pain they have gone through”.
Before people were done critiquing Build, Former Finance minister Tendai Biti — now leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) tabled his Holistic Programme for Economic Transformation (Hope).
Biti was part of the MDC-T that crafted ART and Juice, hence his Hope is ideologically no different from the MDC-T blueprints.
In this document, Biti decries the state of the economy. He blames both Zanu PF and the opposition which he has been an integral part of, having served as secretary-general of the MDC-T under Tsvangirai for nearly a decade.
“For more than three decades, the Zimbabwean state has been hijacked by a militarised criminal elite that has redefined and perfected multiple evils of patronage, clientelism, plunder, and corruption.
“Indeed, successive Zanu PF governments have in fact exacerbated the challenge of inequality, dual economy inherited at independence, while at the same time creating a totally unfree and intolerant society, where people live in perpetual fear,” said Biti.
“The Zimbabwean society is now charaterised by a high level of mistrust, decadence, hatred and a complete break-down of the social contract.”
Biti specifically points to the period following the July 2013 elections as one that has “defied gravity and created a fallacy and atrophied state, characterised by dislocation in the ruling elite, divided and disempowered opposition, total collapse of the formal economy and the emergence of extreme level of poverty, hitherto unseen”.
He poked holes at Zim Asset as “muddled, irrelevant and technically unsound proposal incapable of implementation”.
Critics have argued Zim Asset will require no less than $27 billion to implement, while Mujuru does not indicate how her policies will be funded, at least in the brief that she presented to the public.
Mugabe has looked to China for fiscal support to finance his programmes with no joy. The so-called mega-deals signed early this year have remained on paper and the manner in which the State media celebrated Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote’s intention to pour into the country about $600 million in a cement plant betrayed the desperation of government.
The PDP under Hope, “intends to renew Zimbabwean politics through a smart brand of politics based on sustainable ideas and politics of accommodation”. The party says Zimbabwe’s economic challenges have shifted their social base from the traditional working population with formal jobs.
“Zimbabwe now has over 68% of its population relying on artisanal mining and peasant agriculture in rural areas. At least 90% of the population depends on informal trading and vending in both rural and urban areas following the collapse of the economy from 1997 onwards and an inevitable fall in jobs since then.”
From the existence of a dual enclave economy, low gross capital formation, absence of savings, craft competence or capacity and accountability to a massive debt overhang, Biti identifies these as among a litany of economic structural deficiencies that require immediate attention. Grinding poverty, liquidity challenges, lack of foreign direct investment and social safety nets, add to the grid-lock that Zimbabwe finds itself in.
According to Biti, the introduction of the Zimbabwe Emergence Stabilisation Programme (ZESP) to be administered by a National Transitional Authority (NTA), in a post-Mugabe environment that he warns against, could explode into chaos, including a possible coup.
“Post-Mugabe Zanu PF will be so tattered, divided and weak that the party can only effectively run this country either through violence, cohesion and brutality,” the PDP leader said.
The NTA, according to Biti’s blueprint, would attend to the restoration of the “social contract, national vision, renewal and rebuilding through a holistic programme of national justice, reconciliation, peace building, tolerance and moral rearmament”.
Biti, who has already indicated that he will be embarking on a continental diplomatic offensive, called on Sadc to recommit to its role as curator of Zimbabwe as mandated at an extraordinary summit of 2007.
As expected, Biti, a proponent of “we eat what we gather” policy, calls for a stop to unbudgeted expenditure.
To allow for investment inflows and job creation, Biti proposes repealing the “investor offending” Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act and conversion of the informal sector into “registered Small to Medium Enterprises” that are recipients of targeted training and funding”. Like Mujuru’s Build, Hope also proposes the respect of property rights and provision of title to land for new farmers.