The economic meltdown triggered by monetary and fiscal reforms that were recently unveiled by the government exposed teething problems in the ruling party’s newly created structure led by former ministers, which is envisaged will direct public policies.
The big interview BY VENERANDA LANGA
After the value of the bond notes crashed on the black market, triggering fuel shortages, price hikes and closure of businesses, Zanu PF issued a statement claiming Finance minister Mthuli Ncube had not consulted the party before announcing the policies.
The statement was interpreted in some circles as a sign of discord between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the Zanu PF politburo, now manned by fulltime secretaries that include former ministers.
However, Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu (OM) told our senior reporter Veneranda Langa (VL) in an exclusive interview on Friday that they were just “persuading the authorities to explain things”.
The former Home Affairs minister also spoke about prospects for dialogue between MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa and Mnangagwa as well as his relationship with former president Robert Mugabe. Below are excerpts from the interview.
VL: You have said your investigations revealed “a hidden hand in the economic situation prevailing in the country”. Why have you not taken action against the “saboteurs”?
OM: I am not the one who said that. Actually, it was the Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, who said so. You need to ask him.
VL: Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya, when they unveiled the monetary and fiscal interventions, said some of the reasons behind the economic mess were excessive government expenditure and the abuse of Treasury Bills. Is your investigation now challenging those assertions?
OM: We are not investigating anything. Zanu PF members need to know the rationale behind the measures that government is taking so that they understand exactly what government is now aiming to achieve.
How can we investigate ourselves?
What we are doing is just persuading the authorities to explain things, which members of the public are not clear about.
What is actually happening now is positive because I hear that the bond note value has actually strengthened because of some of these austerity measures that were taken.
It is a question of making people to understand. It is not the party, which should have a say about it, it should be government that is supposed to explain, and they are prepared to explain why certain things are being done.
Government is actually trying to put measures, which will be supported by reforms to rationalise the economy.
VL: Will Zanu PF ever take blame for the excessive expenditure since it is the governing party?
OM: We are a party in government and have assigned people to deal with issues of over-expenditure and rationalisation of the civil service and other areas that are gobbling up the national budget.
That is being done by both the party and government, and there is no blame that we are going to take.
We are rectifying those areas and we are not being persuaded by anyone to do so.
We are doing it on our own accord to ensure that there is transparency in government expenditure and monitoring it.
We are looking at coming up with a stable currency, which will not confuse people.
Just three days ago there was chaos in the market and people did not know the proper United States dollar to bond rates, but all those areas are being rectified by government in order to come up with measures that will not burden the people of Zimbabwe, including those in rural areas.
VL: Why is the new administration sounding as if it was not part of what happened in the country under Robert Mugabe leading to economic ruin?
OM: I do not know about that, but this chaos in the country started a few days ago.
What I can say is that the new dispensation is operating normally in a lot of areas.
It is just that when certain pronouncements are made they cause panic, but the party and government have been explaining to the people about the actions we are taking to turn around the economy.
I do not know about Mugabe causing economic ruin. We [new dispensation] have been running government for over a year.
I do not want to be talking a lot about the past because currently we are correcting everything that was done wrongly before to make things normal.
VL: Is there any chance that the austerity measures unveiled by Ncube will be reviewed after consultations with Zanu PF?
OM: Austerity measures are reviewed from time to time. As a party, we have several policy documents that have always been reviewed.
For example, we have gone from ZimAsset to the Transitional Stabilisation Programme and this is normal.
We are not just reviewing economic measures simply because it has to be done; we are guided by international, regional and local trends and developments within the region.
So, it is a process for government to keep reviewing policies.
VL: Mnangagwa appointed some technocrats like Ncube from outside Zanu PF. How do you expect them to relate with the party going forward?
OM: We are relating well with the technocrats. The party now has full-time members, and very senior members in the politburo that have been in Cabinet for a long time to ensure that this transition is smooth.
We have also stressed to the technocrats that there are political elements in whatever they do, as well as economic and social elements.
Zanu PF is the guiding party to government and so it is imperative that it needs to involve technocrats so that the country works again.
We are in power because of the people and due to what we promised in our manifesto, which attracted people to the party.
As the governing party, we need to give the people their demands. We were elected because of the promises, which need to be implemented and so we also roped in the technocrats.
VL: Does the new structure where Zanu PF employs fulltime personnel, including you who want to direct government policies not result in two centres of power; that is, the politburo and Cabinet?
OM: No, there is one centre of power. The party is supreme, and the party is run and headed by the president who is also the one that governs.
So, there cannot be any conflict between the two. All these are guided by the authority of the president, who derives his majority from the party.
It may not be understood by some people, but it is normal and is done in countries like Angola and Namibia. We are learning from them.
We have a team right now, which is in South Africa, and another will be going to Angola and China to learn how to implement this, and that is the way to go.
We may not have done things properly before because of lack of that arrangement where senior party members and the politburo had no input.
We had people who were senior politburo members and ministers and it was difficult to shift functions, but now there is a key mandate whereby we are full-time party members to ensure that we remind those in government to ensure they follow what the people want.
VL: Some have interpreted your statements about Ncube’s policies as a direct challenge to Mnangagwa as the appointing authority. What is your comment on that?
OM: Those are social media falsehoods. Mnangagwa is our president and what he is doing is what the party subscribes to.
Zanu PF is a very much organised party, and such social media messages will not affect the party’s resolve.
We just remind each other of what we should do or what should be done for the people.
How can we go against the president? Whatever the president says we follow.
VL: Has the party spoken to the president concerning its reservations about the policies and if so, what was his reaction?
OM: Our spokesperson SK Moyo issued a statement about the party’s view on the policies last week.
Of course, we talk about those issues as a party and once Moyo issues a statement, it means that the statement is a result of deliberations with the president and the party.
VL: The recommendations you propose to tackle price increases and closure of companies failed under Mugabe. Why do you think they will work now?
OM: We have been discouraging people from taking the law into their hands. We are saying that everything should be done in accordance with the law.
We have been explaining to people so that they give us time to implement their ideas.
We are discouraging people from unilaterally increasing prices because there are people moving around, especially in Bulawayo, threatening closure of companies and that is illegal.
There are proper procedures being undertaken by government through its organs and no member of the public should take things into their hands.
We are a law-abiding country. The president said whatever stage we are going through is meant to stabilise the country.
VL: During his recent visit to the United Nations, Mnangagwa said he was ready for dialogue with the opposition, but in your address at the caucus for MPs you said Zanu PF does not need the opposition. Is that another sign of discord?
OM: I did not say that we do not need the opposition. I actually said there are no vacancies in Zanu PF because we were given the mandate by the people to run the country, and the president has always said that Zimbabwe is open for dialogue and participation by Zimbabweans.
However, Mnangagwa is not doing so because he is failing to run the country.
He is a magnanimous and capable president, who wants to involve every Zimbabwean in the development and growth of the country.
He is not saying so because he is unable or that he has no manpower to lead.
He has opened his hands to all Zimbabweans to join Zanu PF to ensure the development of the country.
Zimbabwe is a vast country, and we have been embracing all in rebuilding it to ensure that there is democracy and that we are ready for investment.
If the opposition wants to be part of development, then why are they not saying so rather than just to expend energies on issues that derail our development?
We are busy working on the development of this country through the efforts of the president and government to ensure the country reverts to normalcy in terms of investment.
VL: Have you made any contact with Mugabe since his ouster and do you have any regrets about the role you played in his removal?
OM: Yes, I met Mugabe when the African Union chairman was on a courtesy call. As Zanu PF, we respect the old man.
The country respects him so much and I do not think that there are hard feelings on Mugabe.
All the things that were done on Mugabe were not personal — they were issues of national importance.
If you look at how Mnangagwa handled him in a dignified manner — and that Mnangagwa has not said any disparaging words about Mugabe — it shows that there are no bad feelings.
The party position is that we view Mugabe as our old man and founder of the revolution, and we consider him as such. We just want him to rest well together with his family.