HARARE - With a mere two years to go to Zimbabwe’s next national elections, Zanu PF’s pie-in-the-sky 2013 election promises are coming back to bite the governing party, with the economy continuing to tank and bleed tens of thousands of badly-needed jobs every new year.
This comes as analysts say Zimbabwe has once again hit the depths of humanitarian and economic despair that were last experienced in 2008, when the country’s seemingly unending political crisis precipitated an economic meltdown of monumental proportions — which culminated in the death of the Zimbabwe dollar and mass emigrations out of the country.
This is notwithstanding the fact that in the lead-up to the disputed 2013 elections, President Robert Mugabe’s party promised to create 2,2 million jobs and build hundreds of thousands of homes for the poor by 2018, which has come to fruition.
Economic and political experts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the recent human trafficking scam associated with some Kuwait nationals also showed that Zimbabweans had now become so desperate that they were willing to do anything, no matter how dangerous, to survive.
Only last week, the Harare Magistrates’ Courts charged a Kuwait embassy official with human trafficking — after about 200 local women had allegedly been lured to the Gulf region country where they were turned into slaves.
And instead of attending to the country’s worsening political and soci-economic crises, Zanu PF bigwigs are embroiled in their party’s mindless bloodletting, in which a faction loyal to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is engaged in deadly factional and succession wars with a group opposed to him succeeding Mugabe.
Veteran economist John Robertson noted ruefully that the failure by the government to provide the jobs that it had promised Zimbabweans had led to heightened desperation on the part of most citizens.
“When a government fails to cater for its people, the people find a way out. Some of the methods people have adopted to secure incomes are nothing short of bizarre. But then again, these are not normal times,” he said.
Political commentator Francis Mukora said Zimbabwe had reached “ a point where the Zanu PF leadership must now own up to its failures and admit to the whole nation that they lied about creating 2,2 million jobs”.
When Zanu PF said it would create 2,2 million under its five-year economic blueprint, ZimAsset, critics and economists alike all said it was impossible to achieve that — citing policy inconsistencies in government, the economic melt-down, corruption and the resurgence of political violence.
“We are only one-and-a-half years away from 2018 and yet not a single job has been created. On the contrary, close to 60 000 jobs have been lost since mid last year,” Mukora added.
According to ZimAsset, the economy was supposed to grow at an annual 6,2 percent growth rate until 2018, but economists say the country has only been averaging 1,5 percent since 2013.
“A target for the Zimbabwean economy to grow by 2,7 percent as stated by the Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa in the national budget presentation for 2016 will prove to be an over ambitious target . . . hence investment spending will be constrained due to weaker producer prices,” the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce said in its 2016 economic outlook released last week.
Available information also shows that tens of thousands of people continue to lose their jobs due to ongoing company closures, with the most affected economic sectors being the clothing, engineering, furniture, metal, tobacco, textile, chemicals, food, agriculture, catering, and pulp and paper industries.
And with at least 300 000 graduates being churned out by Zimbabwe’s universities each year — the future remains decidedly bleak for millions of the country’s citizens, with no solution in sight coming from the faction-riddled Zanu PF.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the latest statement from Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao that the government would close all foreign-owned companies that fail to pay empowerment levies from next month was misguided.
“Zhuwao’s statement is the height of crass insanity and vindicates the PDP’s position that there are no genuine reformers in Zanu PF, but only looters and grabbers.
“The indigenisation and empowerment model will only ensure that the already corruptly-rich in Zanu PF get richer, and no serious businessperson will invest in this country, while thousands more people will lose their jobs,” he said.
Mafume added that the indigenisation and empowerment framework would not work at a time when more than 90 percent of the working population was out of employment.
“Zanu PF’s poisonous indigenisation law will also affect the few remaining big companies such as Delta, Innscor and Zimplats that are operating below capacity due to high operational costs coupled with serious power cuts.
“Therefore, to add additional taxes on these companies is unsustainable and some of them may choose to shut down completely than pay the government levies,” he said.
The analysts said the only difference between then and now was that supermarkets were currently full of goods unlike eight years ago — although very few Zimbabweans are able to afford the goods as joblessness and poverty levels in the country increase exponentially.
All the analysts who were interviewed put the blame for the country’s escalating political and economic crisis at the door of Mugabe and Zanu PF, saying the ruling party had more appetite for its mindless factional and succession wars than resolving Zimbabwe’s myriad challenges, and advancing the lives of long-suffering citizens.
Respected academic and political commentator Ibbo Mandaza said with Mugabe in power, there was little hope of the economy reviving any time soon.
“I hope it’s not going there (to 2008) and I hope something can be done. Clearly, we need a political solution, but as long as Mugabe is there, there is no hope,” he said bluntly.
Robertson said the situation currently obtaining in the country was already “statistically worse” than that which prevailed in 2008.
“I think we’re back to 2008, and in some cases it is actually worse than 2008. On the employment front, the number of people who are unemployed now is worse than we had in 2008.
“Statistics show that we actually have the same employment figures as we had in 1968, almost 50 years ago. While two million jobs were supposed to be created, we only have about 700 000 people employed, of which half of them are employed by the government,” Robertson said.
He said the only reason why most people appeared not to realise the depths of the damage to the bleeding economy was that there were no shortages of goods in shops.
“The purchasing power for 2008 seems to be higher than now because wages were being paid and people had money to buy goods, though the goods were not available. Now people do not have money, but goods are available,” he added.
Economists have also told the Daily News that average incomes in Zimbabwe were now at their lowest levels in 60 years, and that more than 76 percent of the country’s adult population was having to make do with less than $100 a month.
This, the economists said, meant that poverty levels in the country had reached “numbing levels”, amid indications that the situation would continue to worsen as Mugabe and his Zanu PF government also continue to demonstrate their inability to fix Zimbabwe.