SW Radio Africa (London)

2 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Chinamasa Ropes in Security Chiefs On Economy

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has turned to security chiefs in his frantic search for a solution to the country's economic mess, media reports suggest.

A Friday Zim Independent report said the minister briefed the Joint Operations Command, which comprises heads of the army, police, and the intelligence on April 17th.

It is no secret that the finance minister, a lawyer by profession, is out of his depth on economic issues which he now wants dealt with as a security matter.

In March, rumour circulated that ZANU PF leader Robert Mugabe was seriously considering sacking him and replacing him with blue-eyed boy Gideon Gono.

During the meeting with the service chiefs, Chinamasa reportedly told them that he had looked East and West for a bailout but had been snubbed by all the traditional lenders, including ZANU PF ally China.

He repeated the remarks at a business indaba in Bulawayo last week when he said Zimbabwe's credit record is so bad that no-one wants to lend to the country.

"Whether we go to Zambia or to Malawi, it's the same thing because we are indebted to these countries. We are on our own and we have to be more innovative," Chinamasa said.

Retired army major Giles Mutsekwa said by turning to the service chiefs at this key moment, Chinamasa had shown that they are the party's centre of authority.

"Service chiefs control the politics in ZANU PF and now Chinamasa has confirmed that they also run the economy," said Mutsekwa.

"They control mining and all of the country's resources. Maybe Chinamasa is trying to get them to channel the proceeds from these sectors to Treasury."

Or perhaps as the main players in the business and economic sector, the service chiefs were beginning to feel the effects of the burning economy," said Mutsekwa, who is also the MDC-T's secretary for defence.

Political observers say the country's deepening economic mess is a symptom of the crisis of legitimacy that the ruling party plunged itself into when it stole the ballot.

"We will keep saying it, that they rigged the elections, but now they are failing to rig the economy," the MDC-T's Mutsekwa added.

Economist Godfrey Kanyenze said the only solution to the economic problems lies in ZANU PF transforming the way it is governing the country.

"Many lenders are waiting to see how Zimbabwe performs on the IMF debt clearance plan agreed on last year before they can part with their funds," he said.

Kanyenze said despite the agreement, the government is failing to implement resolutions that will put the country's economy on the road to recovery and as such, no-one wants "to throw their money into a pit".

"When an IMF team visited early this year to assess progress they found that Zim had ignored some of the issues agreed on. Issues such as reducing the public sector wage bill and minimising the vulnerabilities in the banking sector," Kanyenze said.

The ZANU PF government owes international finance institutions $10 billion. The World Bank expelled the country in 1999 over its unsustainable economic policies. The IMF suspended the country in 2001 and subsequently expelled it in 2005 after the ZANU PF regime stopped servicing its debt.

When Chinamasa took over as Treasury chief after his party ZANU PF's disputed 2013 poll victory, the economy was relatively stable.

Many attribute this stability to the hard work of MDC-T official Tendai Biti, who was the Finance Minister during the life of the negotiated coalition government.

In just nine months the ZANU PF regime, which constantly clashed with Biti over his insistence on fiscal discipline, has driven the economy back to the brink through corruption, reckless spending, and failure to implement sound policies.

The country is also suffering from a lack of investment, with weekly company closures, job losses, capped by hostile indigenisation policies.

Recent utterances by Mugabe, Chinamasa and Indigenisation Minister Francis Nhema suggest that they may be rethinking the policy used to claim a 51% stake in foreign-owned firms, but this has not been backed by any amendment to the law.

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