Africa Watch

Zimbabwe’s degeneration continuous

Some surprises in Mugabe's SONA
Mugabe's SONA.jpg

Zimbabwe’s worst drought in 100 years is confronting the already economically battered country with almost inevitable famine which will also impact on its neighbours. (Read more)

Its maize harvest is expected to fall by 53% compared to 2014. Aid agencies estimate conservatively that at least 1.5 million Zimbabweans will need food aid later in the year as a result.

As reported two weeks ago, Zimbabwe’s employment figures have dropped to what it was 50 years ago.

As a direct result of an imploding and mismanaged economy the Mugabe government now intends to reduce the civil service by at least 40%, which could see another 200 000 Zimbabweans losing their jobs in the near future.

Most of them will probably join the ranks of the only growing occupation in Zimbabwe, street vending, to compete in the already oversaturated informal sector.

Mugabe’s shock

Against this extremely bleak and woeful background President Mugabe shocked most of his struggling countrymen when he during a recent address to a ZANU-PF women’s league meeting said that “no Zimbabwean was suffering.”

“But what is it that the people are suffering from? Didn’t we give them land?” Mugabe asked.

Many Zimbabweans will agree with political analyst and University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, that Mugabe is placing the blame for the economic misery on the people of Zimbabwe for failing to utilise the land he gave them to improve their lives.

Masunungure said Mugabe knew the magnitude of the people’s suffering, but indirectly wanted the people to blame themselves.

 “He is saying; I am not guilty. I have done my part. I gave you land, so what else do you want from me? Take it from there; it is the foundation for prosperity.”

It is part of the defensive posture of ZANU-PF Masunungure argues and concludes that the government will always find enemies from without rather than from within.

It sounds familiar.

Mugabe uses the old excuse in Africa which has also become the refrain of the Zuma government. Shift the blame elsewhere and we (the government) are exonerated from all our failures and bad policy.

Rejection

The response in Zimbabwe is overwhelming critical. One Zimbabwean daily newspaper, echoing the view of many Zimbabweans, wrote: “Mugabe’s populist policies are directly responsible for the political and socio-economic mess that we are now stuck in. What we find nauseating is the fact that Mugabe believes Zimbabweans should be rejoicing because of the underutilised land, which to him should be the answer to the suffering of the millions in this country.

“Mugabe’s thinking is an attack on the right-thinking Zimbabweans and an affront to democracy. There is no doubt that Zimbabwe is in a fix and the sooner Mugabe admits responsibility for what is happening, the better for the country.”

Mugabe’s failure

Last Tuesday President Mugabe delivered his State of the Nation address (SONA), the first since 2007 when Zimbabwe experienced hyper-inflation and its dollar crashed to record lows.

Out of character, and clearly jaded, President Mugabe mostly read his 25 minute long uninspiring and unconvincing address. Incredulously told the people of Zimbabwe that the country was readying itself for a "major economic take-off."

The rest of the SONA however, belied the promise. Besides generalisations and vague 10-point economic plan, it is evident that he and the ZANU-PF government are pinning their hope on China to help Zimbabwe to turn the economic crisis around by signing bilateral deals in several sectors, including roads, water, mining, tourism and agriculture.

Critics maintain the president’s speech was much ado about nothing only confirming that Mugabe showed he was “clueless” of how to take the nation forward. The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute described the SONA as devoid of any meaning and out of touch.

What did cause a stir was his remark that he welcomed western re-engagement in Zimbabwe’s economy, the first such a statement in a decade and a half of strained relations with the US and Europe.

He also called for strengthened ties with multilateral institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB). The IMF and other multilateral lenders have, however, ruled out funding to Harare unless it clears its arrears to the tune of US$9 billion first and embarks on a serious reform process.

Land policy setback

The recent positive development for food security – an announcement that certain white farmers could retain their farms – however suffered a setback with a later announcement that 23 more white-owned farms have been earmarked for compulsory acquisition.

This announcement came despite a lack of money for compensation and recent assurances by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa that the remaining 200 or so white commercial farms would be spared the controversial land reform program.

Hendrik Olivier, CEO of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) expressed his surprise at this latest decision on the 23 farms, saying it does not make sense to him.

According to Olivier most of the farms being targeted for compulsory acquisition are not suitable for crop farming but ranching and will further worsen the country's food shortages.

Disconcertingly, Olivier’s concern of a new ZANU-PF orchestrated drive to dispossess the remaining white farmers was confirmed by government sources. According to one source, “Government will target white farmers, who are easy, vulnerable targets, but refrain from seizing foreign-owned properties, because doing so would scupper chances of receiving much-needed financial assistance from Western countries and multilateral institutions like the IMF and WB.”

Paralysis                  

The state of affairs in Zimbabwe right now can only be described as one of a country in paralysis. And every citizen, including the leadership, seems clueless because the future is less predictable than before.

The consequence remains of the utmost concern for Zimbabwe’s neighbours, particularly South Africa.

In a recent article Eddie Cross, a well-known opposition member and commentator on Zimbabwean affairs wrote: “I estimate that up to 5 000 people a day are now crossing our southern borders into South Africa – more than 40 000 a week or 2 million people this year. Some will return but the majority will stay and seek new lives.”

He concluded: ”Can South Africa take such an additional burden at this time? I think not.”

by Garth Cilliers

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