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more confident Zanu PF is still struggling to reinvent itself
Games, Business Day
October 21, 2013
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on the Business
Borrowdale Road in Harare’s more up market suburbs, it is
hard to miss the long row of posters sporting a photo of a young
Robert Mugabe. The picture on the poster, erected before this
year’s poll but already proclaiming Mugabe president,
has been dug out of the archives, showing a man about 20 years younger
in a ham-handed attempt to convince voters he is not too old for
But it has not
been so easy to erase the past when it comes to Zimbabwe’s
economy. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries said this month
the manufacturing sector remains in crisis, with average capacity
utilisation plummeting to 39% in 2013, from 44.2% in 2012 and 57%
blames the country’s economic ills on western sanctions, now
that the political opposition is no longer a convenient scapegoat,
the factors causing this are much closer to home. They include cheap
imports, reduced demand for local goods, limited capital to replace
dilapidated equipment, erratic power supply and lukewarm investor
faces funding problems of its own, with a shrinking tax base and
rising recurrent spending. Mugabe’s election promise to cancel
municipal debts has put severe strain on municipalities.
As the ageing
Mugabe faces what may be his last term in office, he wants to restore
his legacy, battered by years of abuses. This seems to have given
him an incentive to get the economy back on track. The party already
appears to be climbing down on its radical indigenisation policy,
with a more sober minister now in the portfolio, and priority sectors
have been identified to drive growth.
targets are being set and there is selected targeting of key officials
for corruption. For example, the former head of the state-owned
minerals body is being investigated after Mugabe fingered him for
receiving a $6m bribe from a Ghanaian investor. But many senior
politicians who have been rumoured to have their fingers in the
mining pie remain untouched - for now.
With the threat
of political takeover removed, the party seems more secure. There
seems to be a more sober attitude to economic revival than the country
has seen from this party for a long time. The government last week
launched a new economic blueprint, which targets the doubling of
economic growth to more than 6% by next year. Skeptics dismiss this
as old wine in new bottles, a favoured Zanu-PF tactic. The party
has launched about a dozen economic turnaround programmes since
2000 and all have failed on the political expedience and self-interest
of those appointed to implement them.
dollar survived as long as it did because politicians had access
to preferential exchange rates to the dollar and arbitration made
them extremely rich, not because it was good for the economy.
party faithful deny the reintroduction of the currency is on the
cards, it is hard to know how else the state can pay for its costly
election promises, such as improved public-service salaries.
After 33 years
in power, questions have been raised on what Zanu-PF will do to
raise its citizens out of poverty that it has not done before. It
has already started picking the brains of business for new ideas.
While that is a positive step, this is a party that has long been
anti business and mistrustful of the private sector, seeing companies
as "agents of the West", who are against transformation.
are not rushing forward with their money. Mugabe continues to lash
out at many countries, particularly traditional investors in developed
markets, and there is little trust there. But there are no short
cuts to economic transformation. It will take a lot more than empowerment
rhetoric and airbrushed posters to convince anyone that this party
has reinvented itself.
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