Key issues to watch out in new year

ZIMBABWE faces a critical year in 2013, with many key events that could determine the country’s future.

Report by Nqaba Matshazi

After being bogged down by talk of elections and the constitutional reform process, which are due to be complete next year, 2013 promises to be a make or break year for the country’s faltering fortunes. Here we look at the key events and how they are likely to impact on the country and what effect they might have.

Copac Draft
In February parliament resumes sitting and the Copac draft is largely expected to dominate the agenda. This session of parliament was supposed to handle a number of reforms. However, it has been bogged down by infighting by the inclusive government parties. Acceptance of the draft is a key reform that Sadc has prescribed to the inclusive government. Despite token resistance from legislators, the principals are likely to have the final say on what goes into the draft. A consensus has so far been elusive, but the parties should find one or the draft is dead in the water. President Robert Mugabe (pictured right) has warned that his party is willing to go for elections without a new constitution.

Referendum
Once there has been an agreement on the Copac draft, a referendum is likely to follow, although this is not guaranteed. The last referendum, in 2000, was key as it was a test of power for Zanu PF, as it indicated that its support was on the wane with the opposition gaining ground. However, none of the parties can use the plebiscite as a test, as all three would have agreed on the outcome and whipped supporters into line. In this case the referendum will simply be procedural more than anything and will not be a marker for anything.

21st February Movement
While there might be scorn about recognising this date, since it’s Mugabe’s birthday, history has proven that the president uses such occasions to pronounce national policy. The date is important, as Mugabe may announce election or referendum dates, hence it remains key on Zimbabwe’s political calendar.  More importantly, Mugabe turns 89 and questions linger whether he will be able to withstand the gruelling election campaign. Recently, Mugabe has taken on a punishing schedule that has taken him to several cities in a short space of time and this, observers say, is to prove he has the staying power and that he can hit the campaign trail. It is no secret that Mugabe and Zanu PF are targeting the youth vote, and they may use this occasion to announce populist schemes to promote their drive.

Primary Elections
While primary elections are seen as a democratising process in most parties, in most cases they have proven to be divisive. MDC-T is already in the eye of a storm after it came up with a confirmation process ahead of primary elections, causing disquiet. The MDC on the other hand says it will come up with a stringent process to plug defections that have threatened to cripple the party. But it is in Zanu PF where the process will probably be dramatic. Mugabe has spoken against imposition of candidates and how the party is going to respond to this will be key.


Elections in 2013

Mugabe and his Zanu PF party want elections in March, but with outstanding reforms like the constitution still to be in place, this is highly unlikely. However, there is a threat that Mugabe may forgo the constitution and announce an election date without consulting his coalition partners.

Elections should be held next year, at least by October, but questions remain if Zimbabwe would have aligned its laws to the new constitution, if the draft is adopted. The country’s immediate future hinges on a credible election and all parties have committed to this. This election will most probably be Mugabe’s swansong and he wants to leave a mark.

However, his nemesis, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai believes he can win a free and fair election anytime. Investment prospects are anchored on how well the country can manage its electoral process.

Banking outlook

Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono’s term comes to an end. Gono has been a divisive character for the inclusive government, with the MDC-T maintaining he must be fired, while Mugabe has stood by his man. The MDC-T alleges that the central bank governor has been the author of the country’s economic demise. Gono oversaw record hyper-inflation, bank failures and demise of the Reserve Bank as the lender of last resort. As he leaves the post, Gono leaves a mixed legacy.

The indigenisation drive, crusaded by Zanu PF and Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, will be at foreign banks’ doorstep. Critics say this will sound the death knell for the fragile banking sector, while Zanu PF says this is a key step in ensuring Zimbabweans are the owners of resources. The indigenisation drive has already been to large mines, although the way it is being implemented remains murky.

UNWTO Summit

The August summit is Zimbabwe’s best chance to shake off the pariah state tag. If everything goes smoothly, then the country’s tourism will get a much-needed kick start. However, preparations have been shambolic, a conference centre that was to be built is nowhere to be seen and questions remain if the country will be able to accommodate all the guests. Success of the summit, to be co-hosted with Zambia, depends largely on how Zimbabwe handles its political processes, with elections and a referendum due next year.

Arthur Mutambara
The Deputy Prime Minister has been another divisive character in the inclusive government and next year may just be the end of his political career.

Mutambara has remained in the inclusive government largely thanks to the benevolence of Mugabe, the indecisiveness of Tsvangirai and last ditch Supreme Court appeals.

Mutambara lost leadership of the MDC to Welshman Ncube but has refused to quit as the deputy premier. The robotics professor lost two High Court appeals and proceeded to the Supreme Court.

However, Mutambara has not built a political base and it is highly unlikely that he may return after elections, unless he joins the MDC-T or Zanu PF, which is highly improbable. But ever so confident, the former student leader has advised that he still has a role in politics.

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