When things fall apart

When all things Fall Apart

Eddie Cross

6 May 2018

During the Government of National Unity (GNU) [2009-2013], the master minds behind the ruling Zanu PF party spent much of their time planning and plotting how to regain total control of the State from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The GNU had been in place for four years and things had stabilized, and a sense of normalcy had returned to the country after the precipitous crash between 2000 and 2008.

Arrogance is a very dangerous trait – the most dangerous part of this human failing is that it can deceive you into thinking you can do it alone, or you have the capacity to achieve what you set out to do, no matter what. Well these guys set out to trounce the MDC in what was a very “smart” way and when they maneuvered the MDC into a national election in 2013, they were able to virtually control who won what and, in the end, they took a two thirds majority in the Lower House and the Presidency for 5 years. We are back, they crowed!

Then it all started to unravel – the markets decided they did not like or trust the old power brokers and the economic recovery which had started when the GNU was floated in [February] 2009, vanished. Revenues to the State declined while that old man [former President Robert Mugabe], who was back at the wheel of the Zimbabwe Bus, insisted that everything he mandated happen – even if it meant printing money again. No lessons were learned from the [Gideon] Gono [governor of the Reserve Bank from 2003-2013] era. The budget deficit spiralled out of control reaching US$2,5 billion in 2017 or 40 per cent of State expenditure. Cash vanished, inflation resumed and is accelerating. Spending power is again declining, and workers are restive and on strike.

Then Zanu PF itself began to fall apart. Started in the early ‘60s, Zanu had gone on to fight the liberation war with their Zapu compatriots and to win the struggle for Independence in 1980. With the support of Britain, who wanted a smooth and relatively peaceful transition, Zanu won the election in 1980 with an overwhelming majority. Zapu conceded defeat and the political forces that had participated in the transition simply vanished.

In a campaign from 1983 to 1987, Zanu simply crushed Zapu in a program they called Gukurahundi – now defined by the United Nations as a genocide. Mugabe, sitting on top of a one-party State, went on to amend the Constitution to give himself more and more power. As his arrogance grew, so did the mistakes he made multiply. Budget deficits averaged 9 per cent per annum – three times a sustainable limit, the national debt grew inexorably, the economy stagnated and then in 1997 he conceded a program of reparations to the veterans of the [independence] war and entered the Congolese civil war on the side of [President Laurent] Kabila.

The multilateral institutions withdrew, and the isolation of the Mugabe-led regime began – slowly at first and then rapidly once the fight with the democratic forces in the country, led by the MDC, began in earnest. Human and political violations accelerated, and the rule of law collapsed. Still the monolith of Zanu PF seemed invincible – standing over all national affairs like an all-powerful institution. They rigged elections and got away with it, they controlled [the State-owned] media and forced rural peasants and farmers to support the Party, come what may.

But the MDC and the markets refused to concede defeat, both continued to fight back with their limited resources and capacity. The Zimbabwe dollar declined in value, revenues to the State – the fuel of this monolithic State apparatus declined, and inflation rose inexorably, eventually overwhelming the regime and forcing Zanu PF for the first time to concede defeat and share power.

Then came 2013. We are back they crowed!!

Not so. The Old Man of Zimbabwe politics continued to make mistakes and the one key mistake he made was to sideline the very people who had taken back the control of the State from the GNU and the MDC. They decided that they could not take this lying down and in 18 months began a campaign to put themselves in a position to take power from the Old Man. The first casualty was Vice President Joice Mujuru, she was dumped by the wayside along with her supporters and Emmerson Mnangagwa took her place, but in the process let the evil genie out of the bottle in the form of Grace Mugabe.

She took charge of Marange with its diamonds and organised to skim money off the fuel account which gave her nearly half a billion dollars a year to fund her own campaign for power. That was not what the ‘Mandarins’ in Zanu had in mind at all.

With her husband at her side she ran a campaign to derail the Mandarins’ plans and take over from her husband when the inevitable happened. Mnangagwa was poisoned at a rally and then fired from the post of Vice President. He fled the country and when he came back, the Mandarins executed a plan they had conceived several years before, and, in a week, Mugabe was out of power and Zanu PF had new leadership. The country rejoiced and in the euphoria of the events, the new regime took control and was gradually accepted.

But in the process, what was left of the once all-powerful Zanu PF Party, was torn apart. The younger members of the leadership who had not been in the war of Liberation, were swept out of the Party and many had to flee into exile. The older generation – many of whom had never known any leader but Mugabe were stunned and alienated. I watched astonished and thought “what is left?”

The new President promised all the right things and initially a carefully planned 100-day program was rolled out with much fanfare. The reaction locally and abroad was astonishing and shows just what awaits us if we do the right things and get a government that is once again respected and accepted internationally. Investors poured in with over 50 000 foreign business visitors in the first few months, many governments made announcements of support if the new regime delivered on its many promises. Even the USA suggested that the tough restrictions on doing business with Zimbabwe might be eased.

Then the wheels started coming off the bus. Internal conflicts in the new government emerged. Vice President [Constantino] Chiwenga was flexing his muscles and demanding changes to the direction set by the President – the very small coterie that supported Mnangagwa was insufficient to really impact on the wider roots of the Zanu PF Party and last week, when the Party held primaries for candidates to contest the elections due to be held in 90 days’ time, the Mnangagwa loyalists lost out wholesale to all those he had alienated in his journey to the pinnacle of power.

Zanu PF is disintegrating before our eyes.

To compound their difficulties, the [Nelson] Chamisa [MDC leader] train is well out in front and running smoothly – although a pest called [Thokozani] Khuphe [a former vice-president of the MDC] is bugging him. He has just swatted her aside and I really see no role for her in the campaign that lies ahead – we have 127 registered political parties contesting and I doubt if all 118 of these, not associated with either Zanu PF or the MDC Alliance, will gain more than 5 per cent of the vote.

The reality is that this country is heading for an election in 90 days or less and the ruling Party is falling apart. We always knew our politics was a bit like white water rafting, but this is ridiculous.

Eddie Cross

Harare, 6th May 2018

Eddie Cross is a renowned Zimbabwean economist and founder member of the mainstream Movement for Democratic Change party led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai. Mr Cross is currently the Policy Coordinator General and Secretary for Local Government.

Cell:      +263 772 227 144

E-mail:  egcross@africaonline.co.zw

Website:  www.eddiecross.africanherd.com