7 April 2006

Zimbabwe: Govt Spooks Run Economy

IN an implicit recognition of the deteriorating economic crisis, government has established emergency sub-committees under the shadowy Cuban-style Zimbabwe National Security Council (ZNSC) to run the economy as part of measures to arrest a worsening meltdown.

Official documents reveal that the state security establishment will run the economy as it cross-cuts the emergency sub-committees that have been set up to perform a rescue operation.

This confirms the view that the Central Intelligence Organisation and the Joint Operations Command which comprises the intelligence service, army, police, prisons and registrar-general's office, now effectively run the country and are involved in a gamut of issues from security to the economy.

Government bureaucracy is already heavily militarised.

The Cuban economy is run by a Council of State assisted by committees, although the government has devolved some authority to ministries and enterprises in recent years.

The move, sources said, exposes growing desperation within government over the deteriorating economic crisis.

Observers said this week the latest development validates the view of a growing police state in Zimbabwe run by the security apparatus.

The command economy, they said, will become more entrenched again as shown by the return of price controls this week.

The ZNSC, chaired by President Mugabe, and the existence of which was first revealed in this newspaper, instructed chief secretary to the president and cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, at a meeting on March 17 "to establish sub-committees that will provide technical inputs covering various structural and sectoral issues".

Sibanda is also chairman of the newly set up Technical Committee of Experts which will coordinate activities of the ZNSC, a key part of the recently established National Economic Development Priority Plan.

The Sibanda team duly formed its taskforces under the National Economic Recovery Committee (NERC) at a meeting held on March 20.

There have been numerous economic recovery plans, all of which have failed.

Recent studies have shown Zimbabwe has the fastest-shrinking economy in the world - outside of a war zone.

The economy has shrunk by 10% in 2003, 4% in 2004 and 7% in 2005. Negative growth is also expected this year.

It also has the highest inflation in the world at 782%, followed by Iraq at 40%. It is feared inflation will soon hit the 1000% mark.

NERC taskforces include those on foreign exchange mobilisation and utilisation chaired by Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, agriculture coordination, inputs supply and food security (chair: Col Christian Katsande and Simon Pazvakavambwa), domestic and international resource mobilisation (Willard Manungo), tourism, image and communication (Ray Ndlukula), "Look East" promotion and implementation of programmes (Ambassador Joey Bimha), human skills identification, deployment and retention (Dr Washington Mbizvo), distressed companies rehabilitation (Katsande), restructuring of public enterprises and local authorities (Ray Ndlukula), economic surveillance and protection (Melusi Matshiya), and imports substitution and value addition (Gono and Katsande).

The ZNSC sub-committees include the agriculture coordination, food security and corporate farming taskforce to be run by the ministries of Agriculture, Energy, State Security, Justice, Water, Transport, Economic Development and 32 other various organisations.

Its mission is to revive agriculture destroyed by the chaotic land reform programme.

The domestic resource mobilisation and investment promotion sub-committee comprises the ministries of Finance, Economic Development, Energy, State Security, Industry, Local Government, Justice, Science and Technology, Water and seven organisations.

Its mandate is to mobilise resources and promote investment.

The foreign currency mobilisation sub-committee has the ministries of Finance, Economic Development, State Security, Tourism, Industry, Mines and the central bank, among other organisations represented.

"The sub-committee has a task to mobilise a minimum of US$2,5 billion in the next three months from March," documents say. "It will have to put in place measures to ensure adequate and constant supply of foreign currency into the economy."

The inputs supply taskforce has 10 ministries represented - including State Security - and 15 organisations to "enhance capacity utilisation in all sectors of the economy".

The tourism and communications sub-committee includes the president's office and six ministries, including the Attorney-General's office. Its mission is to revive tourism and enhance economic relations with other countries.

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