No section of the Zimbabwean community enters the New Year with its task so acutely defined as ruling Zanu-PF’s. That task is to deliver on the party’s electoral promises of 2013. The expectations are high and the options limited.
It is less than two years before the country goes to the next elections in 2018, according to the Constitution, and Zanu-PF must justify to the same electorate why it deserves another mandate to rule Zimbabwe.
We raise these matters early enough to show that while the year is still new, the tasks at hand are the same as they were last year.
The past year is one Zimbabweans want to forget quickly. It was a year of economic hardships going well beyond Zimbabwe’s borders, mostly affecting developing countries dependent on the export of raw commodities. Many breadwinners lost jobs because of a shrinking formal economy.
Those with artisanal skills and industrial experience were able to adjust to the new environment where they had access to capital to set up on their own in the “new economy”. The heaviest shock hit those equipped with liberal arts and humanities degrees who either could not find a job or lost it. Generally, these have low adaptive skills in a harsh economic environment.
In the midst of the foregoing, President Mugabe thanked Zimbabweans for their resilience. This was in the hope that things might turn out differently this year although current indicators of an unprecedented drought point to a food deficit worse than what we went through this past year.
But the major reason we raise the issue of priority tasks confronting Zanu-PF advert to what seems to be consuming the ruling party since its December 2014 National People’s Congress.
The party has been mainly focused on internal disputes to the almost total exclusion of the electoral promises of 2013. Factions have taken centre stage ahead of service delivery. This has put the country in another election mode, with party officials jostling for strategic positions near the centre of power.
The issue of corruption in Government and parastatals has not received the attention it deserved in the past year. This has led to frustration as people feel Government is paying lip service in the fight against the scourge in the absence of arrests and prosecution of suspects.
Towards the end of the year there was another disturbing development: public wrangling over the indigenisation and economic empowerment policies by Cabinet ministers. This gave the impression of a house divided.
These public spats were more damaging in that they created the impression of disagreements on key policy issues. There are those in and outside the party who have fought on the side of foreign interests as far as indigenisation and black economic empowerment go. These get a tantalising pat on the back as so-called moderates or reformers.
Against these are the much maligned so-called hardliners who insist that Zimbabwe must reap maximum benefits from its resources. While such descriptions are often blown out of proportion by agents of foreign interests, there should be no such confusion in Government. Ministers should speak with one voice outside of Cabinet.
Unfortunately, that has not always been the case. Constant talk of reviewing the indigenisation and economic empowerment laws has emboldened foreigners and locals opposed to the policy to keep pushing Government into reverse gear, hence frequent references to policy inconsistency and need for clarity.
The ultimate aim is to force Government to abandon those empowerment policies in exchange for direct foreign investment and the creation of temporary jobs, both of which cannot be quantified, and therefore a gamble because many variables can be manufactured where certain targets were not met, all of it blamed back on Government itself.
The ruling Zanu-PF was elected on the strength of its indigenisation and economic empowerment policies and should pursue these with boldness, and without appearing to want to appease those fighting it. What is needed is to build local capacity to add value, which should allow the products to compete in an open market. Investors can’t dictate terms of how they want to exploit our raw materials.
In addition, the deals signed with China, Russia, Brazil and the Dangote Group must begin to show their shoots. The issue of energy and other infrastructural developments cannot be overemphasised in the New Year.