Many Zimbabweans say they are not expecting much to change in 2016 from the previous years in terms of economic improvement that would better their lives.
Most instead predict another year of more company closures, delayed payment of salaries and even the same sporadic supply of water and electricity.
Though 2015 saw a wave of international and regional delegations coming to the country to sign what has been described as mega deals with Russia, China and even Nigeria in the form of billionaire Aliko Dangote, the concern for many is lack of tangible proof on the ground that the deals will manifest into something they can see and touch.
But United Kingdom Zanu-PF chairperson, Nick Mangwana, who participated in a panel discussion with director Dr. Pedzisai Ruhanya of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said his party will ensure a better year for Zimbabweans in 2016 going forward, because of the policies it is putting in place, like its five-year economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zimasset), launched in 2013.
“We expect to turn around our economy the moment our infrastructural development project kicks off, we expect there to be a turn around. That’s the major thing on the economic front,” said Mr. Mangwana. “As a party we have to deliver there is no question about that.”
Asked why Zanu-PF has not been more successful in improving lives for the majority of Zimbabweans, during its 35-year rule, Mangwana said it’s a matter of time.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, of course,” said Mangwana, adding that a lot has been achieved during that time. “Its 35 years of progress, there has been a lot of progress in Zimbabwe.”
How are they are going to operationalize a policy which is premised on $27 billion, on less than $5 billion budget?”
But Ruhanya challenged the progress Mangwana mentioned or even the success of Zimasset, which he said Zanu-PF championed to claim its election victory in 2013.
“Yes, Zanu [PF] won the 2013 elections, let me not put any assertions to their victory,” he said, noting that “in 2013 they had a policy called Zimasset, which is premised on $27 billion budget to run the course of that policy in five years. But if you look from 2014 until now, they are putting up a budget of less than $5 billion, which is a clear failure of the policy.
“How are they are going to operationalize a policy which is premised on $27 billion, on less than $5 billion budget?”
To this Mangwana clarified. “The $27 billion is infrastructural development, which is happening. It’s not bags of money that is supposed to come carrying $27 billion. So far we are on the pathway to get that $27 billion. How many deals have we signed with China, how many deals have we signed with Russia? All that goes toward that $27 billion.”
Where is Dangote for instance? He came, they sang, but are we enjoying?"
Pointing to the economic stagnation in the country, however, Ruhanya questioned the tangibility of the deals, which he said are not visible in the country, including the construction of new roads.
He said many of Zimbabwe’s deals are mere agreements on paper.
“In terms of operationalizing them [deals] putting up resources to run them, it’s not there. Where is Dangote for instance? He came, they sang, but are we enjoying? Where are the fruits of Dangote?” quizzed Ruhanya.
“The Chinese have come, signed several deals, what is the empirical, tangible, observable evidence of those deals you are talking about, Mr. Mangwana. They are not existent,” Ruhanya said.
Ruhanya further doused any expectation of more investment coming into the country, given the divided state of the ruling Zanu-PF party, as well as apparent dissent in the country’s military and security sectors.
“Investors will not come into an economy where the political elite or those who run the affairs of the state are not in agreement, or always fighting. But the danger we face today, not only as a state but also Zanu, there now seems to be less of a consensus within the apparatus of the state, as how the state should be run, particularly in the context of the involvement of President (Robert) Mugabe’s wife, Grace,” said Ruhanya.
If Zanu-PF was such a dictatorship, you would not have so many people trying to strategically position themselves for power, or in anticipation of power."
But Mangwana dismissed what has been described as unprecedented divisions in his party, which resulted in the ouster of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and many others accused of aligning with her to overthrow President Mugabe, as signs of the party’s healthy democracy.
“It is the vibrancy of the party that makes us have all that debate, all these machinations, is because it’s a mass-based organization where the people, have voice,” said Mangwana.
“If Zanu-PF was such a dictatorship, you would not have so many people trying to strategically position themselves for power, or in anticipation of power. You would not have so many internal contestations.”
But Ruhanya argued that it’s a question of time before citizens show their displeasure at the Zanu-PF government, which he says has continued to disappoint and disillusion many.
Look at the 2008 elections. There was never a person, including Mr. Mangwana who thought that the head of state would be defeated in an election."
He said Zanu-PF is vulnerable politically as a result, and could see it lose an election as it did in 2008 against the Movement for Democratic Change party, led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
“Look at the 2008 elections. There was never a person, including Mr. Mangwana who thought that the head of state would be defeated in an election. That Zanu would lose a parliamentary election, that all the municipalities and virtually all the municipalities in this country in 2008, Zanu would not win one. It was on the background of debilitating crisis which we are currently facing,” said Ruhanya.
Mangwana said in 2018 voters are likely to vote for Zanu-PF again, as in the past.
“Now he’s [Ruhanya] saying Zanu-PF is going to be thrown out of power. The people have got the right to do that, that’s all about democracy,” said Mangwana.
“When we go into 2018, the people can make their choice, like the choices they’ve made before, which were Zanu-PF.”