Will Zimbabwe be toasting to 31yrs of self-rule or moral decline?

OPINION – As Zimbabwe celebrates 31years of independence on 18th April, succession concerns have re-surfaced amidst reports of deep divisions as the biological clock ticks loudly for the Supreme leader and those in his inner circle.

A Mugabe ally Jonathan Moyo once declared ‘ Zanu-pf does not have any ‘rule-bound, transparent and democratic succession plan’.

Volatile and unpredictable

Media reports suggest that ‘the situation around Mugabe is getting very volatile and unpredictable largely due to what is happening in the Middle East and North and West Africa’, (Timeslive ‘Knives out for Mugabe’,17/04/11). While this may be seen by the naïve as purely a Zanu-pf problem, it is actually a Zimbabwean problem because without a smooth transition from the ageing leader, there can be no guarantees of political stability in a post-Mugabe era.

What is more curious about the power-games behind the scenes is the current position of Mugabe’s propagandist Jonathan Moyo who once observed when he was his critic that it was ‘the God-given truth that their boss is made of weak human flesh and has a temporary spirit just like the rest of us and is therefore not immortal. In view of Mugabe’s clear old age, he can succumb to the inevitable’, (Time running out for Mugabe to step aside’, http://prof-jonathan-moyo.com).

Dishing out patronage

Jonathan Moyo accused Mugabe of creating a crisis by ‘dishing out patronage which he confuses with patriotism .. and breeding cronysim and instilling fear all over the place’. In a rare statement of courage, Moyo claimed that no-one ‘wants’ to build bridges with Mugabe to help him escape consequences of his misrule.

‘As things stand’, he wrote, ‘all hell would break loose and there would be blood on the floor should Mugabe not wake up tomorrow precipitating a presidential election within 90 days. Zimbabwe would be on fire under these explosive conditions.’

Moyo argued that when made aware that Zimbabwe could slip into anarchy and chaos within 90 days of Mugabe meeting his God, his propagandists and securocrats take the delusional view that the country’s security forces have an unparalleled capacity to maintain law and order by nipping any trouble in the bud as they did during the dreadful Operation Murambatsvina.

Delusional security men

He warned: ‘What this means is that there are some delusional security men in our midst who do not understand how, for example, the Soviet Union, East Germany or apartheid South Africa collapsed when their security agencies were among the world’s most feared and most notorious in terms of their brutality.’

Contrary to claims of success peddled by the regime’s propaganda in the areas of indigenisation and land reform, factual revelations suggest otherwise. For example, the exemption of Chinese firms from the controversial indigenisation regulations means there is one law for everyone else in Zimbabwe and another law for the Chinese. Furthermore, on realising its errors, the Zimbabwe government has bowed to pressure from timber producers and agreed to evict thousands of illegal settlers from the country’s prime timber plantations in the eastern districts (Fingaz, 15/04/11).

Prime land

Critics argue that Mugabe and his allies own 40 percent of prime land in Zimbabwe and in particular him and his wife own 14 farms, worth at least 16 000 hectares in size (Zimonline, 30/11/10) and that by 2009 Mugabe and his family had amassed a secret personal farming empire comprising about 12 large commercial farms (Timeslive, 17/10/09). After the collapse of the Zanu-pf leadership code the gap between the rich and poor within the ruling party has widened. One striking example is that of the poor living conditions at Geneva flats in Harare’s surburb of Highfields where a correspondent of the Financial Gazette said a family of four shared a room that is divided by pieces of cloth or cardboard boxes since independence. On the other hand a good source of assets owned by the inner circle appears to be court records of their divorce cases.

Messy divorce

For example, in a messy divorce, one of Mugabe’s Ministers, Ignatius Chombo was said to own 15 motor vehicles, 2 houses in Glen View, 2 flats in Queensdale, a property in Katanga Township, a stand in Mount Pleasant heights, 4 Norton business stands, 3 Chinhoyi business stands, 4 Banket business stands, 1 commercial stand in Epworth, 2 residential stands in Kariba, 1 stand in Ruwa, 1 stand in Chinhoyi, 2 stands in Mutare, 2 stands in Binga, 4 stands in Voictoria Falls, 1 stand in Zvimba Rural, two residential and 2 commercial stands in Chitungwiza, 2 stands in Beitbridge, 20 stands in Crow Hill, Borrowdale 10 stands in Glen Lorne, 2 flats at Eastview Gardens, 1 flat at San Sebastian Flats in the avenues and many more (Zimbabwemetro, 05/11/10).

Recently, one of Mugabe’s allies, Sylvester Nguni was reportedly fighting tooth and nail to keep his ex-wife’s hands off his millions which include eight houses, a South African flat, and a Norton plot, one house in Borrowdale, two in Mandara, two in Alexandra Park, one in Newlands, one in Norton and a flat at Northfields in the avenues among other accumulations of wealth (The Zimbabwean, 08/04/11).

Sadly, as some people celebrate, the tragic legacy of Mugabe’s land reform programme is represented by the recent death of the‘White African’ Mike Campbell who led a historic legal battle against Robert Mugabe in the regional human rights courts.

Food shortages

Ironically, Zimbabwe is facing food shortages and has reportedly stepped up maize imports from Zambia (RadioVop, 02/03/11). Major sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy have operated at 40% capacity since 2006, starting with the freight industry which was operating at about 40 percent in October 2006 as a result of ‘continued dislocation of macro-economic fundamentals’ (Zimbabwe Independent, 20/10/06).

As of September 2010, quoting the London-based researcher GFMS Ltd, the state owned Herald newspaper reported that the gold sector was operating at around 40 percent of installed capacity and that it required US$4 billion to ‘re-capitate its energy sector to boost output of the precious mineral’.

Zimbabwe’s trade deficit widened last year as imports outstripped exports by US$2.4 billion according to Zimstats. Like a patient recovering from a deep coma, the country is emerging from an economic slump in which the economy contracted by more than 50 percent from 1996-1998 peak of US$ billion to about US$2.5 billion in 2008 (The Herald, 07/04/11).

Strong earnings

While manufacturing counters on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange reported strong earnings during the year ending 31 December 2010, there was not much cause of celebration as capacity utilisation was still below 50 percent having increasing from 10 percent in 2009 to 43 percent in August 2010 (Financial Gazette, 31/03/11). With unemployment at 70 percent, erratic power supply and poor governance, the country will need to heed the warnings by industry experts to shelve the indigenisation campaign in order to improve the investment climate and tourism.

Political Governance

Similarly there is an urgent need for the country to improve political governance and create an environment that is conducive for free and fair elections. According to media reports hundreds of people were Thursday force-marched to attend the burial of the late Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) deputy director-general, Menard Muzariri, at the opposition prefers to call ‘the Zanu-pf cemetery in Harare. Contrary to Muzariri’s hero status , political parties and civil society groups in Matabeleland allege Muzariri was involved in the Gukurahundi killings in which at least 20 000 civilians mainly Ndebeles who supported PF-Zapu were killed by the Fifth Brigade (Timeslive, 17/04/11; The Zimbabwe Mail, 17/03/11).

As some Zimbabwean ambassadors and their guests would be lifting their glasses in a toast to 31 years of independence shouting ‘Bottoms-up’ many sober displaced nationals would be asking: "Will Zimbabwe be toasting to 31 years of self rule or moral decline?

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London, zimanalysis2009@gmail.com