This is an abridged version of the article Zimbabwean Politics in the Post 2013 Elections Period: The Constraints of 'Victory' by South Africa-based academic Brian Raftopoulos.
THE euphoria of Zanu PF's election victory in 2013 was shortlived and subdued. The beginning of 2014 witnessed the launching of a revealing debate on corruption in the party-state from within Zanu PF, by the party's controversial Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Jonathan Moyo. This was not the first time the problem of corruption had been raised within Zanu PF, as the war veterans had raised the issue in the 1990's. However in what became known as the 'salarygate' scandal, Moyo confirmed media reports that outrageous salaries were being paid to heads of certain parastatal bodies.
As examples Moyo noted the Chief Executive of the Public Service Medical Aid Society, who drew a salary of US$230,000 per month, while middle managers in the organisation were earning between US$15,000 and US$30,000 per month. Moyo's attacks followed his suspension of the Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation in 2013 for earning a monthly salary of over US$40,000 while employees of the organisation had gone for six months without pay.
Another example of these salary levels soon followed in the City of Harare where the Town Clerk earned US$37,642. Moyo railed against the 'false, corrupt salaries' in the public sector, and declared that: "We have got to see the new thinking and the politics that inform the new economy, that is not being afraid of doing and saying the right things." The State run Herald newspaper, now led by one of a group a new editors appointed by Moyo, wrote an editorial condemning this 'deplorable state of affairs', asking why arrests were not yet made, and stating that:
Put plainly, most of these parastatal heads and their minsters have failed in their fiduciary duty and have no moral or ethical reason to remain in their posts a day longer.
It very soon became clear that this debate was not only about attempting to show a new face to the world, but perhaps more importantly, about the succession battles within Zanu PF. At a Provincial Women's Conference in February 2014, Deputy President Joice Mujuru, viewing Moyo as the mouthpiece of the Emmerson Mnangagwa faction in the party, warned her audience to 'be careful' about reports on corruption in the parastatals, as this was 'another tactic being used by those keen to destroy the country.' Mugabe who, throughout his tenure as head of Zanu PF, has fuelled the politics of ethnic balance in Zanu PF, and ensured the provincialisation of potential contenders to his leadership, pontificated to his party members:
But it's terrible, even to have your name mentioned as leader of a faction. It's shameful. You must go beyond that and say you belong to the people as a whole ... You see the danger there is? There, we are having to fight this apparently without very much of success because people want to be seen first and foremost as regional leaders and not as national leaders ... That is what we are fighting against and I am going to fight against this one quite blatantly because that is what is destroying the party.
At the funeral of National Hero and former Minister of Information, Nathan shamuyarira, Mugabe launched an even more vitriolic attack on factionalism in his party, and more specifically, branded Jonathan Moyo as 'the devil incarnate' and a weevil 'in our midst', 'our minister of information wanting to put people one against another.' An irate Mugabe, intimating his intention to assert his authority once again over party processes, exclaimed:
This is an angry time, time of real anger as he (Shamuyarira) leaves us. He leaves us - me in particular- when I am terribly, terribly disappointed by some of our leaders.
In May 2014 the Government and the private sector crafted a National Code of Corporate Governance in an attempt to begin to deal with 'salarygate' declaring, as an interim measure, a cap of US $6000 for top earners in State Enterprises and local authorities. Yet it is difficult to accept that Zanu PF is deeply committed to this fight against corruption, both because it is so deeply embroiled in the party's succession politics, and the Zimbabwean state has a long history of not confronting this issue comprehensively.
While corruption scandals have been a feature of Zimbabwe politics since the 1980's, the politics of the crisis period in the 2000's and the changes in the architecture of the State that accompanied it, including the loss of State capacity and professionalism and the consequences of informalisation, new forms of elite accumulation and patronage, brought a new intensity to state corruption.
Thus it would be naïve to think that the 'devil incarnate' or any other key elements within Zanu PF had suddenly stumbled across the problem of corruption. Indeed former MDC-T Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals in the coalition government, Gordon Moyo, stated that the information that Moyo was 'revealing' was well known to the government in the period of the Global Political Agreement.
All these issues, according to the former Minister, were well known to the coalition government, but Zanu PF would brook no policy interventions by the MDCs, seeing its mandate as largely to nullify the efforts of the ruling party's GPA partners. Indeed parastatals have long been used as part of Zanu PF's patronage network in the public sector, and the recent appointments of politicians and former ambassadors as new board members to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), despite the recent furore within Zanu PF over abuse of public sector positions, confirms the continuation of this trend.
The battle over corrupt State bodies represents a part of the broader economic challenges that the Mugabe regime faces. These include: an unpayable external debt, an adverse balance of payments position, capital flight from banks and the stock exchange, a national budget consumed largely by recurrent expenditure, a massive need for infrastructural development, and a GDP rate that has declined from 10.5 % in 2012 to just over 3% in 2013. The manufacturing sector has, for over a decade, been confronted with major obstacles such as working capital constraints, power and water shortages, ageing equipment and low domestic demand.
Additionally because of dollarization the Reserve Bank admitted that it had no instruments to provide the fiscal stimulus to deal with a drift towards a deflationary economy. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa is under no illusions about the Herculean task that faces him and his government. In a statement in May 2014, Chinamasa made it very clear that the government was 'very alive to the fact that systematic engagement with all nations will be key to unlocking funding' and dealing with the country's tight liquidity problem. In line with the government's continued negotiations with the IMF, 'geared towards macro-economic stability,' Chinamasa proclaimed:
In short Zimbabwe is open to Foreign Direct Investment from all Nations of the World, whether these be in the North, South, East or West ... Let the message go out loud and clear that Zimbabwe is ready to re-integrate into the global economy. Zimbabwe is looking for new friendships, new opportunities while consolidating old ones. We are looking for mutually beneficial economic relationships not confrontation. We are too small a country to pursue a policy of confrontation.
This move back to a discourse of 'normalisation' is not the first attempt in the crisis era from about 2000. In the post 2003 period attempts were made to seek an accommodation with international capital. However given the persistent questions around Zanu PF's electoral legitimacy and the continued hope that the MDCs would be able to defeat Zanu PF in an electoral contest, these attempts were curtailed by the sanctions measures put in place against the Mugabe regime by Western countries.
The greater acceptability of the 2013 elections, notwithstanding the continued reservations of the EU and the US, and the greatly weakened state of the opposition, changed the balance of forces in the country and allowed for a new dialogue to emerge with the international players. Equally important, the recalcitrance of the economic impediments facing Zanu PF, and the waning efficacy of its empowerment discourse in the face of these tribulations, forced a change in the tone and policy positions of the victorious regime.
While the government is still negotiating an investment deal with the Chinese for an estimated US$10 billion based on the securitisation of Zimbabwe's gold and diamond reserves, even Mugabe's closest ally has spoken out against the government's inconsistent policy positions. Based on their own experience, the Chinese are well aware of the need for suitable and evolving institutions and the need for long-term political stability. In the face of Western and business criticisms around its empowerment programme the government softened its rhetoric, particularly around its Indigenisation programme. A Policy Framework for the latter was first put in place in February 1998 and revised in October 2004, to deal with the historical imbalance of indigenous ownership in areas other than low value and low profit sectors of the economy.
This process culminated in the enactment of the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act (Chapter 14.33) in March 2008, with the main objective of the Act being to 'endeavour to secure that at least 51% of the shares of every public company and any other business shall be owned by indigenous Zimbabweans.' In February 2010 the government promulgated the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment (General) Regulations. These provided that all businesses with a net asset value equal to or above US$500,000 located in Zimbabwe should put in place plans that would result in 51% of the shares in the company being transferred to indigenous shareholders within five years from the date of operation of the regulations.
Moreover the regulations required affected companies to submit a structure of their shareholders and a plan for empowerment implementation within forty five days after the regulations came into effect. In response to the many criticisms over ownership issues and the application of the regulations to different sectors, Mugabe attempted to allay the fears of investors by stating the government did not have either nationalisation or expropriation in mind, but rather that 'any equity that an indigenous person takes up will be disposed of at fair value.' Chinamasa further qualified the position by noting that there would be no one-size-fits all position and that the threshold of indigenous ownership would be decided on a sector-by-sector basis.
Furthermore the investor would have the power to choose the local partner and determine the share price. In order to increase the competitiveness of the economy the Minister of Finance also promised more flexible labour relations through the amendment of the Labour Act Chapter 28.01 to deal with constraints in retrenchments, terminal benefits, downsizing, working hours and arbitration. As part of the process of increasing labour flexibility, the Government also announced its intention to re-establish Special Economic Zones, formerly known as Export Processing Zones in the ESAP period, where enterprises would be allowed to operate under more flexible special regulations.
Donors such as the governments of the EU have shown some recognition of the new messaging emerging from the government. Evidence of this is the move away from the 'restrictive measures' and the promise that Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement will be lifted barring any new major human rights violations in the country. The EU is currently preparing a country cooperation programme that, while not including budgetary support because of the dire state of public finance management by the State, will be composed of support for health, rural food security and governance, priorities jointly agreed to with the government.
An additional significant development is that in 2013 Mugabe signed an interim Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU that will, if effected, add to the liberalisation impetus currently underway in the current period. These developments are taking place notwithstanding the EU's discomfort at the mixed policy messages still coming out of the state, including the ambiguities of the Indigenisation legislation, the violation of Bilateral Investment agreements in the land occupations of conservancies in Chiredzi and Triangle in May, and Mugabe's boycott of the EU Africa summit in Brussels in 2014. Investing in Zimbabwe, according to the Australian Ambassador remains akin to 'swimming in Zambezi between Crocodiles and Hippos.'
The mixed policy messaging of the Mugabe regime can be attributed both to the challenges of seeking fuller international re-engagement while holding on to its empowerment programme, and the tensions within Zanu PF about how to proceed with such a re-engagement. The tropes of sovereignty, liberation history, regional solidarity and empowerment have been integral to Zanu PF's political imaginary and 'language of stateness', in both the party's 'practical languages of governance' and the 'symbolic languages of authority'. However the exposure of the limits of the state's capacity to effect its indigenisation programme has led to the dual strategy of seeking a rapprochement with the West, while promising to export the Zimbabwean model to the SADC region.
The grandiose promises of the discourse of Zanu PF's nationalism has, more than ever under the severe structural limitations of the current period and perhaps with his eye on the emergence of Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters on to the South African electoral stage, pushed Mugabe to seek to promote his project and seek complementary policy initiatives from the region, as he moves towards his tenure as Chair of SADC. The view that SADC increasingly views Zimbabwe as an 'anchor state' that could have more influence over bilateral and regional politics, is likely to provide a further stimulus to these ambitions.
The resonance of this ambition also draws on the common interests and perspectives shared by the liberation movements in the region. However whatever the long-term potential of Zimbabwe's land reform and the 'accumulation from below' model (and the challenges around this remain monumental), in the near future the desperate budgetary requirements of the State are likely to see the persistence of schizophrenic policy pronouncements linked to a gradual drift towards re-engagement with the West.
The post-2013 election period has witnessed several significant developments in Zimbabwean politics. While Zanu PF have presided over the implosion of the MDC-T, the complete marginalisation of the smaller MDC formation, the largely political irrelevance of the newly formed NCA political party, and the disorientation of the civic movement, the ruling party has also been marred by renewed internal factional struggles and widespread reports of corruption. Moreover the radical rhetoric that marked Zanu PF's election campaign has once again given way to a combination of such rhetoric with a new movement towards neo-liberal policies and re-engagement with the West.
The "constraints of 'victory' " have become clear as Zanu PF struggles to find a path through the daunting economic and political challenges that confront it in the new era. A major factor that favours the ruling party is the fact that it is attempting to deal with these tasks in the presence of the debilitating weakness of the once formidable Movement for Democratic Change. Once again the task falls on the civic movement to rethink its structures and forms of interventions within this new context, and to provide the vibrancy required to re-imagine political alternatives for the country. However in doing this the civic movement should never lose sight of the real advances and contributions that were made by the MDC, which permanently changed the political landscape in the country.
Brian Raftopoulos is Director, Research and Advocacy at the Solidarity Peace Trust.