Economy left to burn as fight over non-existent Presidency post spirals

RECENT criticism by regional leaders of the mismanagement of Zimbabwe’s economy by President Robert Mugabe’s government underlines the negative effect the ruling party’s succession battle is having locally and abroad.

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by The Irish Times

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succession

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At a heated summit in Harare in early May it was suggested that rather than blame South Africa completely for the latest xenophobia outbreak to grip that country, Mugabe should fix his country’s broken economy to curb the immigration of its citizens.

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It is estimated that up to three million Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa alone over the past 15 years to escape either Mugabe’s oppressive regime or the nation’s near 90 per cent unemployment rate.

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After a few years of stability the economy went on another downward trajectory after the coalition government came to an end in July 2013 following the election victory of Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.

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However, the ongoing succession battle in the ruling party that came to a head last December has virtually ground economic activity to a halt.

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During the party’s elective conference that month vice president Joice Mujuru – said to be more popular in the party than other succession rivals – was thrown out for allegedly plotting to oust Mugabe.

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Political purge

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For years it was believed that Mujuru and then justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa were vying to take over from the aging Mugabe, so when the latter was promoted it appeared he had a clear advantage in the succession race.

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Since then Mugabe has sacked from government and the party numerous senior Zanu PF members suspected of supporting Mujuru, further weakening the faction aligned to her in the movement.

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Still, party members with an eye for power have begun forming new coalitions in a bid to fill the voids left by those cast aside.

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So the work the government should be doing to revive the economy has come to a standstill as politicians jockey for positions instead of implementing economic policies.

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The political purge is also undermining the private sector, as businesses and politicians in the country are inextricably linked.

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Recalled Hurungwe West legislator and former Zanu PF Mashonaland West chairman Temba Mliswa is one of the victims of the purge.

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Speaking to The Times Mliswa denied he was part of the Mujuru camp, insisting he was an innocent caught up in power plays within his party.

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“I am a victim of factionalism and lies were told [about me] to the leadership of the party,2 he said.

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“I had a good relationship with Mujuru. There is nothing wrong with that.

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“There is a difference between respecting the office [of the vice president] and supporting the individual.

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Mliswa says vice president Mnangagwa is supported by the party’s war veterans, second vice president Phelekezela Mphoko, and other long-standing influential party members.

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“These are comrades who understand the struggle [war of independence],” he said, “but now we have the young Turks faction.”

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“These include [environment minister] Saviour Kasukuwere, [information minister] Jonathan Moyo, and [local government minister] Ignatius Chombo,” he said.

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Zimbabweans who spoke about the measures needed to steer the economy back to growth expressed little consensus on the issue.

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However, all agreed that while Mugabe remains in power, nothing will change. But at 91 he cannot go on indefinitely so a successor will emerge, sooner rather than later.

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Infighting

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It has been widely reported that Mujuru was viewed as a potential reformer by Mugabe. This contributed to her downfall, as he would not tolerate any revision of the controversial indiginisation and land reform policies, as they facilitate his patronage system.

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Although the opposition Movement for Democratic Change still retains significant support in urban areas, it has been unable to wrest power away from Zanu PF in four electoral attempts.

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The prevailing belief is that the party will also struggle to do so at the next general election, given the ruling party’s propensity for rigging polls.

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Newzimbabwe.com recently reported that MDC donors had called on party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to unite with Mujuru, or risk losing financial support, in a bid to provide a stronger challenge at the next poll.

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The donors were frustrated by the MDC’s continuing failure to dislodge Mugabe. By-elections on June 10th may give some indication if this is still a possibility.

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Some argue that little real reform would take place under Mujuru if she became president, as she was at the forefront of the corruption that Mugabe’s patronage system facilitated, and there is no evidence she would change.

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They insist that despite Mnangagwa’s chequered past – he is allegedly responsible for overseeing the Zanu PF-orchestrated violence during the 2008 general elections that left hundreds dead, for instance – he had the strength to bring corrupt party members back into line and steer the economy on to a growth path.

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If Mnangagwa ascends to the party presidency when Mugabe eventually goes, and is able to make a positive impact then Zimbabwe’s economy may well bounce back.

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However, he may never get the chance if Mliswa is to be believed.

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“This infighting will ultimately lead to its [Zanu-PF’s] demise,” he said. “There is no governance, corruption is at its worst and these guys [the young Turks] are accumulating huge amounts of power.”

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This article was originally published by The Irish Times.