3 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Naïve Opposition, Clueless Zanu-PF


AS the New Year unfolds, it is customary to reflect on the highs and lows of the past year, hope for better fortunes while making resolutions for the year which research suggests are rarely kept.

Zimbabweans are reflecting on a particularly difficult 2013, as the post-July 31 general elections witnessed a resurgence of mostly government-authored economic ills that have dogged the country for over a decade.

As feared, hopes of an economic upturn under a Zanu PF government revelling in a fresh mandate faded soon after the polls as more and more companies closed shop, throwing thousands of workers onto the streets to join the unemployed estimated at above 80%. Some firms downsized, retrenching tens of thousands of employees -- a trend set to continue. Not to mention the worsening liquidity crunch which saw some banks fail to meet financial obligations to clients, with occasional violent consequences.

The ravages of the economic malaise were much in evidence during the festive season -- a particularly low-key affair as hard-pressed Zimbabweans had little to spare, and business bemoaned unseasonable inactivity. It is thus a no-brainer that improved socio-economic fortunes figure prominently on most people's 2014 wish-list, as they indeed have for many consecutive years.

While it is clear Zanu PF appears clueless as to how to set the economy back on the recovery and growth paths, it must have come as a shock when, out of the blue, this week the opposition MDC-T party warned Zimbabweans to brace for fresh polls "to be held soon", claiming it was clear Zanu PF has failed to stop the economic meltdown gripping the country. While the MDC-T has a point on Zanu PF's habitual failure to translate high-sounding election pledges into delivery, its call for elections is nothing short of delusional, and will rightly find no takers.

As for Zanu PF yielding to the economic meltdown, the MDC-T must think again. Zanu PF presided over world-record inflation figures that climaxed in 2008, but stubbornly still felt it was the only party that could revive the economy.

The sooner the MDC-T accepts the results of last year's elections, despite the flaws, the better as this would allow it to move on and re-strategise while playing its part in helping find a solution to the country's socio-economic malaise.

From 2009, the country was in election mode, with Zanu PF seeking early elections to end the unity government without implementing reforms. This proved costly to the economy as investors and business adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

In any case, the MDC parties did not emerge from the unity government smelling of roses where delivery is concerned, with some of its members tainted by corruption. And despite allegations of Zanu PF rigging in the last polls, the MDC-T superintended preparations for the elections and was therefore to some extent complicit.

Clearly, Zimbabweans are caught between a bungling, naïve opposition, and a clueless ruling party, which cannot make for an auspicious 2014.

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