Zimbabwean economy takes the battering of Zanu PF succession woes

BICKERING among factions in ZANU-PF that are jostling to succeed President Robert Mugabe, has thrown spanners into the party’s restructuring, thereby dealing a hammer blow to on-going efforts meant to rescue the country’s economy from the abyss.

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By Andrew Kunambura

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mujuruPreviously seen as the continent’s most promising economy, Zimbabwe has been thrust into the throes of a crisis of major proportions.

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At the epicentre of it is a deepening liquidity crunch, caused in part by collapsing industries and the absence of meaningful external support, especially by way of balance of payments support from multilateral lenders.

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Nothing brings home the gravity of the situation than Treasury’s failure to pay civil servants on time.

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Observers, however, see the factional fights in the ruling party as distracting its leadership from focusing on bread and butter issues.

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To all intents and purposes, President Mugabe has been left all alone to deal with the crisis, as members of his inner circle expend their energies on fortifying their political bases behind his back.
\nThe succession conundrum that resulted in the dismissal of his former number two, Joice Mujuru, from both government and ZANU-PF has overshadowed efforts to mend the country’s economy.
\nEver since the party romped to victory in the July 2013 polls, it has struggled to douse the succession fires, slumping into a full-blown crisis towards its congress late last year, and immediately after, when Mujuru and some of her key allies were booted out of ZANU-PF for attempting to stage a palace coup on the incumbent, or even plotting to assassinate him.
\nIn the aftermath of the December 2014 congress, the party had sought to put its squabbles behind by restructuring its organs. The process, which started in March, has not been smooth sailing.
\nLed by Saviour Kasukuwere, the party’s commissariat had preferred a bottom-up approach, whereby the cells were to be restructures first, going upwards.

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A month after the exercise started, a number of provinces are battling to wrap up cell verifications on time, including in ZANU-PF strongholds, which has never happened before.

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This is likely to have a snowball effect on the subsequent stages of the exercise, thereby undermining the economic prospects for the country.

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Sharp divisions among party bigwigs are holding back the process, confirming the existence of factional fights which President Mugabe had sought to bury by dismissing Mujuru and her key backers from the party.This week, Kasukuwere, the party’s national political commissar, dismissed claims that the restructuring had veered off rails.

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He said: “Whoever is saying the process has stalled has no idea what they are talking about. We have asked those who are yet to complete the cell verification to do so to allow us to move forward. Nothing can draw us backwards.”

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Despite his declaration, party insiders told the Financial Gazette that the cell verification has raised a lot of dust, opening a new wave of recommendations for expulsions and suspensions to be considered by the party’s supreme decision-making body in between congresses, the Politburo, at its next sitting.

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Some of the provinces that have failed to conclude the cell verification on time are Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo and Bulawayo.

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The cell restructuring should have been completed by today.

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In Mashonaland East, Seke, Hwedza, and Goromonzi are yet to verify their cells and the province has thus failed to meet the deadline.

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To get the process back on track, Kasukuwere has a mountain to climb.

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Instead of flying into the storm at the risk of inflaming the simmering tensions, the commissariat unit, according to ZANU-PF insiders, has made a tactical retreat to enable the party’s leadership to concentrate on major international events lined up for this week.

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Zimbabwe is hosting the extraordinary summit of the Southern African Development Community, which opened in the capital yesterday.

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In Bulawayo, the second city, the country is hosting the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, which opened on Tuesday.

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Once these major events are out of the way, attention will shift back to the restructuring, which now mirrors a theatre of ambitions for those aspiring to succeed President Mugabe, when the time for him to pass the baton comes.

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ZANU-PF has had two long running factions led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mujuru.

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Despite Mujuru’s ouster, factionalism has refused to go away.
\nIf anything, the dynamics in ZANU-PF now point to as-yet-to-be clearly defined political hand which is also aspiring for top office.

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While President Mugabe has not given a hint as to when he is likely to leave office, this has done very little to kill off ambitions in his party.

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Otherwise meant to rejuvenate the party ahead of the 2018 polls, the exercise is in jeopardy in certain parts of the country where infighting among ZANU-PF factions has been more pronounced.
\nThe re-organisation of the party, bogged down in its early stages, can only produce more twists and turns as it progresses into the top structures of the party.

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The environment under which the restructuring is being done has been poisoned as well by by-elections across the country scheduled for June 10, in 16 constituencies.

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As had been the case with other internal party elections, the by-elections have been characterised by intense competition for tickets to represent the party in Parliament.

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The polls will put a further strain on the fiscus, which is faced with an estimated US$40 million bill to conduct the exercise.

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Zimbabwe’s economy continues to suffer from structural flaws with overall aggregate demand weakening as company shutdowns intensify.

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The symptoms of the crisis include high loan default rates, reduced lending by banks, thinning disposable incomes and company closures.

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With inflows of foreign direct investments remaining dire — worsened by the decline in commodity prices — the situation calls for radical measures, according to analysts.

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Political analyst, Ibbo Mandaza, said the economy was collapsing mainly due to the misplaced priorities and too much emphasis on consolidation of power.

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“Politics has disrupted any efforts to restore the economy. There is so much emphasis on the incumbency, security of political positions and maintenance of law and order. These things have sadly taken priority over sound economic policies as evidenced by the confusion in government over the bonus issue,” he said.

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Political commentator, Rashweat Mukundu, concurred that the paralysis in terms of policies to direct the economy forward and transform the fortunes of the impoverished masses has been caused by needless conflict.

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“We need to acknowledge that the leadership has been absent minded to economic issues because of their pre-occupation with securing political power for a long time now and everything at hand points to the fact that there is no end to that trend anytime soon,” he said.

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“The result of this has been a complete social decay as evidenced by lack of jobs, families struggling to make ends meet and widespread suffering of the populace,” he added. – Financial Gazette