14 December 2018

Zimbabwe: Editorial Comment - Early Presidential Endorsement Well-Conceived

The endorsement of President Mnangagwa as Zanu-PF's sole candidate for the 2023 Presidential race ahead of the 17th Annual National People's Conference, which began with a Politburo meeting on Tuesday, has been badly misread by sections of the media who view the move as cheap politicking.

President Mnangagwa has been endorsed by the party's main wing, Women's League, Youth League and Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association in all provinces.

Local private media and some South African newspapers have interpreted the endorsement of the Zanu-PF First Secretary well ahead of the next elections and hard on the heels of the July 30 polls as a deviation from President Mnangagwa's promise to put business ahead of politics.

They also view the resolution as a move to consolidate power in light of factional politics within the nationalist party.

While this narrow and pessimistic view is expected of the pro-opposition press, it is largely based on ignorance, if not malice.

The Daily News on Monday quoted Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst, saying the Zanu-PF conference was "nothing but a gathering of bigwigs planning to consolidate power".

Not to be outdone was South Africa's Sunday Times, in an article which read in part: "Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa will this week go to the annual Zanu-PF People's Conference in Esigodini with his head held high, despite an acute economic meltdown in the country worsened by fuel and cash shortages and a dampened public mood over the slow pace of economic reform."

Our colleagues are missing a very important point. The endorsement of ED and his administration is Zanu-PF's way of saying: "You are doing a good job; you can continue to make long-term plans for the economic turnaround of the country."

Political stability is a major pillar of economic development and investor confidence.

The eurocentric democracy which we have adopted as Africans has come with the burden of instability and a lack of forward-thinking as a result of too much mathematical focus on limited terms of office. Nobody has ever explained the magic of two Presidential terms besides the fact that that's what obtains in the United States of America.

Yes, two five-year terms are not enough! This does not, however, mean we are against the two-term limit or advocating for its abolishment.

What we are saying is that perpetual election mode tends to divert attention from addressing urgent economic challenges affecting ordinary people to focusing on winning elections and power in the developing world. Elections can be a curse.

It is in this light that a reformed Zanu-PF, in which economics comes before politics, is dealing with the issue of succession sooner rather than later. In this scheme, ED can continue with his economic reform agenda until 2027 without the distraction of leadership challengers.

To understand this fundamental point, let's rewind to March this year when something important happened in the world's fastest growing economy. China's National People's Congress approved constitutional changes that included lifting the two-term presidential limit.

These reforms were set in motion at the 18th party congress held in 2012.

Since President Xi Jinping assumed leadership of the Communist Party in 2012, economic development has reached unprecedented levels.

In a bid to maintain continuity (and not political power) the Communist Party extended President Xi's stay in power.

This effectively means the Chinese leader can plan well beyond 2023 when his second term was meant to end. While there is a thin line between politics and economics, the endorsement of ED as the Zanu-PF Presidential candidate in 2023 must never be read as "cheap" politics. It may be politics, but it was well-conceived to have politics serve the greater economic development agenda.

Zimbabweans don't eat elections. We need higher industrial productivity, which is only possible with greater policy stability and certainty.

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