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Zanu PF’s promise of a pie in the sky: Of ZimAsset and other issues

By Tichatonga Mangwana

Zimbabweans resemble an abused and battered wife. The wife stays because she has nowhere to go to and, second, the thought of abandoning her children creates a horrendous feeling. The story of injustices, brutality and abuse awaits another day.

President Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe

In some countries, if a government gets elected into office and fails to deliver on its election promises it gets kicked out in the next election. But not in Zimbabwe, because anything goes in Zimbabwe.

On May 1, it was Workers Day and a small number of people set on the hard concrete Rufaro stadium benches to listen to ZANU PF propaganda from Mnangagwa. In the run up to the 2013 election, ZANU PF promised the start of an empowerment drive through massive job creation. The nation has gone half way into the ZANU PF Five Year empowerment and job creation plan. These promises are shown below:

Zanu PF ZimAsset promisesSource: ZANU PF election Manifesto, 2013, showing targets on job creation by sector

These are progressive figures at first sight. ZANU PF`s indigenization and empowerment drive will create 2 265 000 jobs during 2014-2018. ZANU PF began by assuming 1.2m people are employed in 2013, then add, on average, 216 000 jobs each year.

During Y1 and Y2, a massive 328 000 jobs are promised. If these projections were to be met, they are the kind of figures actually needed to grow the Zimbabwe economy and drastically reduce unemployment.

Yet, there is, on one hand, flattering and misleading statistics; and on the other, distressing economic and social realities. ZANU PF foresees a rebounding and rejuvenated economy that no one else is capable of seeing.

There is a projection of new companies sprouting up. But what was the basis for coming up with these figures? Was this made up by someone who was having fun dragging cells on the Excel spreadsheet, spitting figures without giving thought as to what was being done?

And according to ZANU PF, mining is not important or was forgotten as a creator of employment! ZANU PF has not attempted to clarify how it came up with these figures. What are the drivers needed to achieve the projected growth?

What were the assumptions based on? There is a promise to double jobs in the manufacturing sector by 2018. But the reality on the ground so far speaks something totally different.  What measures did they put in place to ensure that this endeavor is achieved?  Did they really put a framework to pursue these objectives?

According to ZimAsset, the education and health sector jobs were not expected to rise significantly (12.5% education and 54.5% health). Considering the high number of teachers and health professional trained each year and the obvious needs therein, it`s quite disturbing, is it not, that ZimAsset would expect the government to create fewer jobs in these sectors? Were ZANU PF supporters aware that they were voting for a contraction, as opposed to an expansion, in health and education?

In the same document, ZANU PF projected a staggering 104.5% increase on jobs in Finance. ZimAsset suggested probably a vast increase in the creation of jobs in insurance, banking, and accounting etc. But how does ZANU PF justify this when our Reserve Bank does not have its own national currency (well, we have the Zimbabwe dollar now)? With the serious liquidity crunch we have, where are the jobs to come from?

I am thinking that the “Other” category was taken to refer to the non-formal sector. There is an assumed low projected increase in job creation in this sector (37.9%). This is quite surprising considering that even before the 2013 vote, the non-formal sector was the biggest employer and probably with the biggest realistic chance of expansion.

Mugabe`s Independence Day Statement

President Mugabe thinks differently. In his Independence Day address last month, Zimbabwe has made strides in its economic recovery efforts and there has been a number of new companies opening shop since 2013, creating jobs for thousands in the process, “while government is reviewing legislation to improve ease of doing business”. These positives, President Mugabe said, are attributed to accelerated implementation of ZimAsset under the evolved 10-Point Plan that Mugabe presented in his SONA address in 2015.

With respect to the manufacturing sector, Mugabe said he was glad that there has been a resuscitation of companies that had closed or were on the brink of closure, thereby preserving and creating new jobs in that sector, saving foreign currency and exchange, enhancing fiscal space and increasing production. The President also noted that NRZ and Air Zimbabwe are their steady way to resuscitation he spoke of many other achievements since 2013.

But which strides has Zimbabwe made since 2013? Going backwards? Is ZANU PF blind or simply cruel, or both? Is ZANU PF living in a different world, far detached from the daily realities where most Zimbabweans are in despair, companies are closing shop, corruption reigns supreme, a world in which the majority of the people are distraught and have lost hope?

What is ZANU PF`s plan to revive key institutions such as CSC, ZISCO Steel, NRZ, GMB, PSMAS, SMM and many others? These institutions need to be working in order to help turn the big wheels of the economy once again.

Is ZANU PF telling the truth that Air Zimbabwe and NRZ is on a steady way to recovery and the economy has made huge strides since 2013 or are they mixing up economy facts with those of another country? Is the President aware that 4 000 NRZ workers, who are owed 15 months` salaries each, downed their tools in March this year and are appealing for food assistance from well-wishers?

Is ZANU PF aware that, after promising 2 265 000 jobs, the unemployment rate is anywhere above 85% and that, since the 2013 vote, no fewer than 100 000 jobs have been lost and 60% of companies operating in 2010 have closed down? While this is happening, Zimbabwe universities are busy churning out 100 000 graduates each year who end up absorbed in the informal sector. At the same time, ZANU PF is claiming that they`re preserving old and creating new jobs!

While promising a job creation boom in the manufacturing sector in their ZimAsset, is ZANU PF aware that, 12 months after drafting their ZimAsset, 75 companies closed shop resulting in the loss of 9617 jobs. Most jobs losses are in the chemical, food, industry, textile, engineering, furniture, pulp and paper industries. In the manufacturing sector alone, capacity utilization levels, two months into 2014, dropped to 39, 6%.

While the President is talking about huge strides, is he aware that since 2013, the economy went through massive deindustrialization which is reflected by a sharp downturn in output? Does our President recall that in July 2015 alone, 20 000 jobs were lost after a court ruled that companies can fire employees by giving them 3 months` notice? Is Mugabe aware that National Railways of Zimbabwe employees have gone for 15 months without pay?

Thinking ahead

ZANU PF must be busy right now drafting their next election campaign message. They need to be reminded their ZimAsset was an unrealistic and ambitious dream that has not succeeded at all this far. The major reason why this nation is not moving forward is not because we are failing to get the right answers, but that, on the contrary, we are not asking the right questions. Why do we still have a party that has dismally failed to fulfill its election promises for 36 years in power? Why?

The worst thing is not about ZANU PF’s failure to meet their set targets. And they are not going to meet these in the remaining two years. The bad part is the people’s inability (particularly those who vote for ZANU PF) to realize that, to the extent to which ZANU PF is ideologically and economically incapacitated, ZANU PF is completely clueless of what it means to be in government.

ZANU PF campaign rhetoric seem to miss one basic fact. Who should create jobs in an economy? It is not the ZANU PF government`s job to create jobs for Zimbabweans. Whoever designed this electioneering document for ZANU PF need to understand that government`s chief responsibility is to align the citizens` basic needs with overall economic productivity.

There is a big problem when the ZANU PF government attempts to convince us that they are the source of job creation, particularly in a dis-functional economy like Zimbabwe. Although ZANU PF promised 2 265 000 jobs in 5 years, there are no more than 850 000 Zimbabweans who are currently formerly employed. 283 000 (or one-third) of these are civil servants, who take 80% of the country`s $4bn budget!

How does the ZANU PF government create jobs- 2 256 000 jobs- when the same government is busy chasing away investors with absurd empowerment laws?Is this not overwhelming evidence as to what a bunch of illiterates run our economy? Were ZANU PF supporters too foolish to easily accept these delusional figures?

As the nation moves closer to 2018, it is important to put politicians to task by reminding them on their unfulfilled promises. The electorate has to exercise their power by flagging the above table up and force ZANU PF to make a review of their promises in ZimAsset.

It is important to remind ZANU PF that that over 80% of Zimbabwe`s economic activities are informal and that Zimbabwe has an unemployment rate of over 86% while their party promised a surge in job creation. Through this, politicians must learn that cooking figures with no logical justification to suit their egos and win elections is dangerous.

According to Josef de Maistre, a country gets the government it deserves. If the Third Estate does not pressure ZANU PF to account for their failures, ZANU PF is thus a product of the Third Estate`s willingness to accept the mediocre.

Terrible Policy Pronouncements

It is foolhardy to think that current terrible Government policies will result in more jobs. From Zhuwawo`s reckless indigenization utterances to Mangudya`s new Zimbabwe dollar, the country`s future is hopeless.

A few weeks ago, Mangudya made some “clarifications” on his new monetary policy measures. Now 50% of new foreign exchange receipts from the exports of goods and services in USD shall be transferred into RBZ immediately upon receipt of funds. Which exporter is going to trust the government in forcibly holding on to half their earnings?

These seized funds are immediately going to be used to fund pressing government commitments such as the wage bill and ZANU PF`s needs. How many exporters in Zimbabwe have so much USD in a comatose economy to afford 50% of their earnings to just sit with the RBZ indefinitely? How and when will the exporter get his balance?

If 50% of the exporters` balances are with Mangudya, how will these companies pay for their wage bills and other operating costs? When the $ 200 million Afreximbank guarantee runs out, what controls are in place to stop printing the bond notes, to arrest hyper-inflation? Are Bond Notes a short term or permanent measure? Who has seen the Afreximbank loan agreement? What happens if the government, along the way, fails to honor its loan requirements? An unpredictable government can never be trusted in rejuvenating the Zimbabwe economy.

Billions of dollars, which could have gone a long way in replenishing the country`s depleted nostro accounts, disappeared. No one knows where the money is and no one has been asked to investigate the case. The country`s energy supplying company is sucked in a corruption scandal involving the minister and two well-known ZANU mafias. Most likely no one will be arrested. Overpricing of tenders in the ministry of Local government is the order of the day, whereupon the gravy train is further driven down the drain every day.

A government with corrupt and opportunistic ministers who are ever involved in scandals and inflating tenders is a hopeless government. A government that enter into deals with well-known fraudsters and convicted conmen cannot be trusted to bring about meaningful reforms and end corruption.

ZANU PF takes ordinary Zimbabweans for a ride and for granted. There is no food on Zimbabweans` tables because government has failed to create the right environment for job creation and economic growth.

Just last week, the government came up with SI 64 of 2016, effectively banning the importation of certain goods unless one has an import permit. This law was used by Smith back in 1974 after the racist regime unilaterally declared independence following the collapse of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

Then suddenly the ZANU PF government suspended the implementation of the SI after chaos at the Beitbridge border post. Was there enough thinking when the SI was promulgated? How can the public have confidence in flip-flopping government?

There is no industry to produce goods that can meet local demand and the SI will inevitably result in massive corruption in the issuance of import permits to buy scarce goods outside the country.

Did the regime think of the inevitable smuggling and black market trading that would ensue since not all the banned goods are locally available through the Buy Zimbabwe campaign? It’s an awesome idea to promote local industry from external completion but did the regime consider the prevailing situation? Does the regime really know (and care) where they are taking the country to?

Conclusion

No 2 265 000 jobs will ever be created by ZANU PF government come 2018 for the simple reason that whoever was paid by ZANU PF to draw up the ZimAsset plan does not understand basic economics: it’s not ZANU PF`s responsibility to create jobs.

ZANU PF`s responsibility is to create a sound business environment, sound economic policies, a working infrastructure, craft pro investment policies and at the same time design an education system that is deliberately biased towards innovation and research. Any promise of a specific number of jobs is a cruel joke, political posturing and should not be taken seriously at all.

This is our country, comrades. A nation of hunger in the midst of disappearing billions of dollars. A nation of misleading statistics but distressing realities. If we retain the 92 year as chief executive again in 2018 we have no one but ourselves to blame this battering and abuse.

When you criticize ZANU PF elites, they are quick to point out that one must not just criticize without proffering solutions to problems. But this is nonsense. Government Ministers and Members of Parliament are appointed and elected, respectively, to think and come up with practical solutions to national problems. It`s ridiculous for an MP to ask solutions from citizens each time he is criticized for government ineptitude.

Life for most Zimbabweans is Hobbesian:  solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. A government that does not listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say. Our situation will not improve if Zimbabweans again entrust the nation`s destiny in Mugabe`s hands, who will be 94 in 2018. If we choose to be neutral in the face of oppression, starvation and injustice- we have effectively chosen to be on the side of the oppressor!

Only a change of government will serve Zimbabwe. All else (statutory instruments, cabinet reshuffling, indeginisation clarifications) is like chasing the wind.

Tichatonga Mangwana is a researcher based in East Africa.

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