Kudos to Charamba for exposing Zanu (PF)

Ever wondered why President Robert Mugabe’s successive governments have always stepped on the wrong pedal as far as running the economy is concerned? You must have listened to George Charamba when he appeared on Star FM last Friday evening.


Mugabe’s mouthpiece, who doubles as the information ministry spokesperson but hardly veils his loyalty to Zanu (PF), struck me with a rare show of candidness when he went on air to talk about the putrid scandal rocking our parastatals and the Premier Service Medical Aid Society. Charamba admitted that most of the individuals seconded to sit on parastatals’ and other boards to represent government interests had no clue of what they were there for. They were incompetent and tended to sleep on the job, he granted, and let state enterprises and other boards get away with murder.

The main reason for that, according to him, is the fact that Zimbabwe has always been a political, “rather than entrepreneurial” state. Since 1980, as Charamba said, the nation has been seized with power contestations while the economy and business were relegated to the periphery, with the skimpiest regard for good corporate governance. In other words, Zanu (PF) has been putting power before its citizens’ stomachs. That was the plumpest admission from the man who obviously knows the real Mugabe. Charamba maintains that his boss’s government is rechristening itself and would be shedding its Machiavellian tendencies in favour of a new deference to economic and entrepreneurial prudence. I am not listening to that yet, as there is hardly any evidence to support it. Patrick Chinamasa, for instance, has already told us that he will be completing the final destruction of the formal economy to replace it with non-tax-paying tuck shops and backyard businesses. But there is no proof of economic prudence in that, is there?

Of course, I digress. Charamba must be applauded for his official confirmation of the basic reason why Zimbabwe is in such a pathetic situation. Despite the abundance of human and natural resources, we have been turned into a nation of beggars – the world’s laughing stock, because our leaders cannot see beyond their mucous political noses.

When you look back over the years, a whole range of instances demonstrate the short-sighted, selfish and fatal culture by Mugabe and his lieutenants to preoccupy themselves with power at the expense of the citizenry. You then start to appreciate that almost every policy decision they came up with was premised on political self-preservation rather than national development. And was made against a background of gross incompetence and ignorance.

Take the 1997 decision to grant war veterans Z$50,000 gratuities, for example. That decision had nothing to do with the promotion of the welfare of those who participated in the liberation war. It will be remembered that Mugabe was initially opposed to the formation of a distinct movement of former freedom fighters, arguing that a far larger section of the population contributed in one measure or another to our liberation. But pressure kept mounting and he had to placate them in order for the sitting government to survive, hence the gratuities.

It didn’t matter that the gratuities would offset a fiery spiral of inflation, the pangs of which we still feel today. Power was the be-all and the end all, the ends that justified the ends, so to say. And then there was the unilateral decision by Mugabe to send our troops to fight on the side of Laurent Kabila in the DRC. Economists and industry warned against that. In the end it benefited only a handful of Machiavellians who were interested in flaunting their muscle and lining their pockets. Needless to say, local businesses, just as in the case of the post-Renamo insurgence, did not make any meaningful deals after the DRC war, and the politicians didn’t care.

The fast track land redistribution programme was NEVER about empowering landless Zimbabweans and revolutionising the economy. It was a backyard tool that those in Zanu (PF) used to fight for their turf. Thanks to the war gratuities, the DRC deployments and the ill-advised Economic Structural Adjustment Programme of the mid-nineties, the economy was already on a free fall by 1998, creating fertile ground for an alternative political option that established itself in 1999 as the Movement for Democratic Change.

The mass protests and subsequent birth of the MDC shocked Zanu (PF) to the marrow and, for a while, the party did not seem to know how to deal with the political threat that had just emerged at a time local civil society was also becoming a force to reckon with. Thus, when the villagers from Svosve protested as a way of showing their displeasure at the slow pace of land reform, some spin doctors and strategists in Zanu (PF) rushed to the podium, claiming that, suddenly, they had discovered that hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans were landless and needed to be empowered.

That strategy was supposed serve two purposes: to divert attention from the prevailing economic mess and to appeal to a support base that was fast receding. Zanu (PF) dismally failed in the former because it actually courted more negative attention to the economy due to the untidy and violent manner in which the programme was conducted.

You can give the party credit on the second purpose. It used the land reform programme to vilify the MDC as a puppet of the west whose kith and kin it said had been driven off the land, mostly because the opposition party was critical of the exercise. It has to an extent attracted some sympathy from certain areas of the international community, in addition to desperate Zimbabweans, who now believe the lie that Zanu (PF) champions black empowerment.

I hail Charamba, again, for telling us that his boss’s governments have always tended to be partisan, rather than looking at competence, in making crucial appointments as in the case of parastatal boards. That, surely, must explain why we have people like Joseph Made, Webster Shamu, Dzikamai Mavhaire, Obert Mpofu, etc, in cabinet. It’s about who will serve their political masters best, not who is most competent for the job. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

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