Innocent Ruwende and Nyemudzai Kakore—
THE European Union yesterday dismissed claims by opposition activists and NGOs that there was a leadership crisis in Zimbabwe, saying Government was strong and able to steer the country forward through the implementation of poverty reduction strategies such as the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation. Responding to regime change lobbyists at a forum organised by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition at a Harare hotel to discuss the economy and economic sanctions, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Aldo Del’Arricia chided the civil society leaders and opposition politicians for their adversarial approach to Government.
“On the matter of supposed leadership crisis in this country, let me tell you this, luckily we don’t have a leadership crisis in this country because we have the same people we have in the party and Government.
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“If we had a leadership crisis there would be chaos. We still have a leadership, we still have a leader who manages to keep at bay and under control these forces that are very much contradictory.”
Mr Del’Arricia advised opposition parties and civic society to be constructive in attitude and less confrontational when dealing with Government.
The EU envoy schooled the civic society activists who had denounced Zim-Asset, for alleged lack of a funding strategy, saying Zim-Asset was an economic blueprint that was very much work in progress.
“You are talking about Zim-Asset, but l have the impression that you are bashing Zim-Asset or ridiculing Zim-Asset as if it was a development policy or a poverty reduction strategy,” he said.
Mr Del’Arricia said Government, and in particular the Ministry of Finance, understood the need to operationalise Zim-Asset, hence they were calling on the African Development Bank to provide assistance which would transform Zim-Asset from a blueprint to a development strategy document.
“Zim-Asset is just a blueprint, it’s work in progress and I think that the Government and particularly the Minister of Finance knows very well that the work is not completed and they are calling on the African Development Bank in particular, in order to provide technical assistance. It will commit it to go from a blueprint to a development strategic document which means to take into consideration the resources which are necessary, and to take into consideration the risks which are there and how to handle these risk, a chronology,’’ Mr Del Arricia said.
He rebuked the NGOs for “living in the past”.
“The civil society has a role to play but I have the impression that you are a little bit anchored to the past where instead of seeing NGOs one perceives AGOs, Anti-Government Organisations. And if you start catching the flair of the time, the trend, there is an opening to be worked upon.
“But we had four ministers (Cdes Emmerson Mnangagwa, Patrick Chinamasa, Jonathan Moyo and Joseph Made) sitting with more than 150 representatives of civil society, Churches, trade unions, Parliament to discuss about the national indicative programme of the European Union. We did not conclude it, it was Minister Chinamasa who did it,’’ he said.
Turning to proposed amendments to the Electoral Act, Mr Del’Arricia said Government’s commitment was evident in the willingness of Justice Minister Mnangagwa to engage.
“We had all the discussions about the electoral law, and we know what happened. The message of the Minister of Justice was not that ‘Okay thank you very much for your opinion, I am not bound to take into consideration, let’s forget it’. He said, ‘let’s go step by step, we remain open and there would be further amendments before the end of the year and your opinion will be taken into consideration.’ So catch this trend, have a constructive role, maybe less confrontational but I think his comments, at this meeting here, are very important,’’ Mr Del’Ariccia said.
He said things were going in the right direction between Zimbabwe and the EU.
Mr Del’Arricia said the EU and Government had been engaging since 2009 when the inclusive Government was formed and since then, the bloc had been coherent and constant in its response.
During the discussions, former legislator Cde Patrick Zhuwao hailed the statements by Mr Del Arricia.
“I think the EU ambassador is coming to terms with reality on the ground and I think this needs to be understood from the context of the fact that we have a Constitution we developed as Zimbabweans that was widely accepted and that formed the basis of an election and that has been accepted and we have a Government that is in power,” he said.
“The reality of the situation is that civil society needs to move from being anti-government to developmental organisations, that is basically what the Ambassador is saying.”
Mr Del’Ariccia was responding to some participants, among them political scientist Dr Ibbo Mandaza, MDC-T’s Engineer Elias Mudzuri and economist and director of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ) Dr Godfrey Kanyenze, who had called for a change in leadership as a way of solving the country’s problems.
Dr Kanyenze said Government had so many plans, but very few developmental goals.
“Zimbabwe is an example of a state in capture,” he said. “The assets are now a political bag of the elite.
“Experience suggests that Government has been long on planning and short on implementation, with regular changes to the programme, policy incoherence and inconsistency and even reversals.”
Dr Mandaza accused the country’s crop of politicians of failure.
“The problem we have is that of leadership, we need to change the Government,” he said.
But economist Dr Moses Chundu said the regime change agenda was “an old, tired script overtaken by time and events” urging the civic society to lobby for the reform of laws to back up good policies.
“Between now and 2018 we have a Zanu-PF Government and so what the Ambassador is saying diplomatically is where there is an opening, co-operate with this Government and do not be trapped in the regime change agenda as a tired mantra,” he said.
An economist with one of the NGOs, who spoke to The Herald on condition of anonymity, said he had earlier on advised his colleagues against criticising Zim-Asset for the alleged lack of a funding strategy saying what they were calling for could only be found in a development plan.
“You can’t have a funding strategy in a blueprint, that detail is put in a development plan. More so a country under sanctions would be foolish to publicise its funding strategy as that will enable the sanctions-imposing countries to sabotage that strategy. In fact, Zim-Asset, recognises funding as a sub-cluster,’’ the economist said.