By Bernard Chiketo
Zanu PF stands accused of a heinous genocidal civil war that is estimated to have claimed over 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, suspicious deaths by accident of numerous political figures, abductions and disappearances. The bottom line — its human rights record is inexcusable.
Its lack of respect for human and property rights saw it sanction violent land seizures that left Zimbabwe a pariah state and totally ruined the economy.
It invited sanctions on itself and former president Robert Mugabe’s confrontational foreign policy approach placed the final nail on its coffin.
It was a curse to both business and the suffering ordinary citizenry. An embodiment of black on black oppression. The personification of evil — and failure.
When Mugabe’s henchman threw him in a dump and took over after his and his wife’s excesses in a soft coup, opinion was divided, although urbanites completely rejected that Zanu PF had shifted a gear.
After President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa — a feared strongman who led a faction of the ruling party under Mugabe — took over, he has been repeating that his administration will focus on economics ahead of politics.
While most of Zanu PF’s more entrenched critics dismissed his reform of the unpopular indigenisation laws, bringing back value to land tenure, forgiving tax sins, re-engaging with the West while pledging to respect human and property rights as political theatre, many believe him.
They feel a reformed Zanu PF would be better for stability than a vindictive and long persecuted opposition party.
To the surprise of many, even the white community and corporates appear to favour Mnangagwa ahead of the opposition MDC.
But their reasons are clear. Those who want to set up their businesses or resuscitate broken industries don’t trust a labour-backed party.
“Its emphasis will be on workers’ welfare and not supporting industrial growth. They will push wages up and drive some businesses under,” one business owner said on condition of anonymity because the presidential contest is yet to be resolved.
They fear the fate of South Africa’s tea farming sector that was completely ruined when the African National Congress (ANC) came into power with strong backing from the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) which demanded that tea farm employees be treated fairly.
The ugly truth of business is, business sources say, industry thrives in an environment where a certain degree of oppression is permitted.
“Europe industrialised on the back of cheap labour and North America grew into an economic giant thanks to slave labour,” he said.
Zimbabwe may need a government that will not be too fussy about workers’ rights — the prevailing labour laws should suffice to ensure that people are not exploited but it is not ready for that to be reinforced by strong workers unions who would have a strong voice in governance.
“We have been rooting for ED because we fear that trade unionists will be to the MDC what war veterans were to Mugabe. As business, we need breathing space a bit.
“Union leaders would be telling you that they would be coming from a meeting with the president as they force through their demands ahead of capitalisation of the business. Their priorities would be completely different,” another business executive said of their reservations of an MDC administration.
The violent protest that erupted in Harare and the equally violent repression that left at least six people dead and many others injured has been a party spoiler for their preferred outcome of a smooth electoral process and a Mnangagwa win.
Former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) vice president Henry Nemaire told Eastern News that until the elections, Mnangagwa’s administration was the best that the business sector could have ever wished for.
The violence and subsequent shootings have, however dampened the country’s image to international investors but it was not yet beyond redemption, he opined.
Nemaire said the incidents need careful management to bring back the shine on the Zanu PF strongman’s leadership.
“We have crossed the international challenge at hand but from what we had seen, ED’s government was the most pro-business administration — the tax amnesty, working on the road infrastructure, working on the railways, reducing duty on diesel, re-engagement and amendment of the indigenisation laws as well as putting a team that was delivering.
“The ED administration was also working on the ease of doing business so I think in terms of that business was obviously happy with an ED administration,” he said.
Nemaire said the shooting in itself was not expected to weigh down on Mnangagwa alone as the opposition would also take flak for it as its leaders appeared to encourage civil disobedience in the event of an electoral loss which they thought was unimaginable in the absence of rigging.
He said the international media had also done well to place it within its appropriate context.
“The shooting was well-covered by the international media. It was very clear about the root cause being the incitement by the opposition. If you saw the press conference of Nkhululeko Sibanda (MDC president Nelson Chamisa’s spokesperson), he was thoroughly grilled on why they did not wait for the results and if they were also going to take some responsibility as opposition leaders while mentioning Chamisa and (Tendai) Biti for incitement.
“The international media, who were also victims of the violence by the opposition members, one of them was missed by a brick that was thrown by the allegedly drunk protesters. According to an eyewitness, alcohol was being dished out from Harvest House … but, of course, the international media was also clear that the one or two soldiers who fired directly at the crowd were clearly reckless. I think there is clarity in terms of that shooting and if it ends there that is manageable,” Nemaire said.
He, however, said the shooting was done by either one or two soldiers choosing to describe it as a mistake and not as something that was executed to order.
“I think it was certainly a mistake which happened against the background of real violence and I think the individual panicked when he saw the city burning and tried to quell the unrest,” Nemaire said.
He, however, said there could be a crisis if rights abuses by the State continued as it would undo all the positive steps that were taken since Operation Restore Legacy last November.
“But if violence, abductions and beatings continue, then we have a problem … What happened was unfortunate and it’s more difficult to build than to destroy, just one incident threatens to destroy what has been built over nine months. Nevertheless, there appears to be commitment to reconstruct.”
The opposition and Zanu PF critics blame the heavy-handed response to the protests on the ruling party’s violent DNA.
And this would be hard to disprove for a party that used violence as its instrument of choice in retaining power over the past 38 years. – DailyNews