Bad boy tag blocks economic rebound

ELECTION results will start trickling in today and, bar a few surprises here and there, there are not likely to be any major shocks. Whatever the surge in popularity of the opposition over the past two weeks, President M

ugabe has fixed the electoral system to ensure his party’s retention of power.

All the dead voters, the military personnel, those who registered after the closure of the voters’ roll last month, together with the gerrymandering of constituency boundaries and disenfranchisement of thousands of MDC supporters will ensure victory for political corruption. It is likely to be the same old stale Zanu PF government again for the next five years. Even if they lost the popular vote, as they did in 2000 but kept their seats thanks to a supine judiciary, they would still face Zanu PF’s built-in majority of 30 nominated seats.

After all the excitement wrought by the polls has evaporated and the results have been confirmed, Zimbabweans will be going back to their woeful lives of poverty, unemployment, food shortages and all the other ills associated with this dying regime that won’t let go despite its manifest inability to solve a single one of the country’s problems.

The most worrying home truth about the Zimbabwean tragedy is that there is no white knight riding in to save the situation. The Zanu PF government which has been in power for the past 25 years has remained encrusted in liberation war dogma which has blinded President Mugabe to the realities of changing world politics. His election campaign was steeped in the mantras of the 1970s — the last time he was successful at anything!

For, make no mistake, Mugabe has been an unmitigated failure as a post-liberation leader.

Mugabe has resorted to the most extraordinary pettiness in his campaign against Tony Blair — arguably a successful leader whose country’s GDP has grown to place it as the world’s fourth largest economy at a time when Zimbabwe’s has shrunk by 30%.

Blaming Blair for our problems simply draws attention to Mugabe’s failure to manage a modern economy and implies the British premier should occupy State House if Mugabe loses!

If he wins, one would expect Mugabe to consolidate his anti-Blair victory to pull the country out of its current morass. This week Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono, an undisguised imbed of the Zanu PF ruling order, was quoted in the state media as saying the country was on the path to good times. He forecast foreign currency inflows of US$3 billion, a further retreat in inflation and a revival of the export sector. The targeted inflows for this year stood at US$2 billion but it is doubtful if half of that amount will be achieved, especially in the absence of balance-of-payments support.

Gono has been on the path to Nirvana since he took over as central bank governor in October 2003 but there are many who doubt whether that road will take the country to its promised land. There is a major food deficit due to crop failure this year. It is estimated that US$70 million is required for food imports. The manufacturing sector which relies heavily on yields from agriculture will witness massive job cuts due to the scaling down of production.

By its own admission the government does not have the capacity to deal with the crisis in the health sector where poorly equipped hospitals are teeming with patients who in some instances cannot even get a simple Aspirin. The HIV and Aids scourge which has lowered life expectancy to a mere 33 years has exposed the reversal of one of the great achievements of the post-Independence era — a properly funded healthcare system.

The drought this year and a poorly co-ordinated and funded ARVs programme are likely to exacerbate the conditions of those afflicted with the scourge. Look out for a dramatic increase in the numbers of the homeless.

Humanitarian assistance has started to dry up as NGOs and international donor agencies with offices in Harare have been harassed by the government which accuses them of using aid money to fund the opposition.

And we can be sure that as soon as the last observers have left the country the police will be quick to return to their bad habits of arbitrary arrest and detention without trial.

The current state of affairs in Zimbabwe is illustrative of a country crying out for international help in solving its myriad problems. The “we-can-go-it-alone” attitude or the Look East policy — in which Mugabe believes Zimbabwe’s salvation lies — have not helped deal with the country’s immediate needs: jobs, food on the table, affordable healthcare, and housing.

All these things depend upon effective governance, something Mugabe and his delinquent party are evidently incapable of delivering.

The international community, especially those with deep pockets, will not be coming in to rescue Zimbabwe as long as Mugabe elects to remain the international bad boy. That quest to be another Fidel Castro is hopelessly redundant and is making Zimbabweans poorer by the day.

Mugabe’s arthritic mindset which sees anyone who differs with him as an enemy is a major threat to any economic rebound.

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