By Tendai Kamhungira, Gift Phiri and Blessings Mashaya
With the country’s economy continuing to haemorrhage badly despite the government’s best efforts, analysts and ordinary citizens are urging President Emmerson Mnangagwa to engage opposition leader Nelson Chamisa to stem an economic “Armageddon” similar to 2008.
Among the proposals that are being bandied about as possible remedies to Zimbabwe’s fast-deteriorating economy are growing calls for the formation of another government of national unity — as happened after the hotly-disputed 2008 national elections, which spawned a horrific economic crisis.
Analysts told the Daily News yesterday that the formation of another power-sharing government between the ruling Zanu PF and the MDC would be one of the steps critical to the restoration of economic stability in the country.
This, the analysts said, was more so after this year’s presidential poll was also hotly disputed — just as had happened in 2008 — after Mnangagwa secured a razor-thin victory against Chamisa.
However, there are lingering questions about whether the two men — who have been going at each other hammer and tongs since the July 30 plebiscite — can put their political differences aside and work together to tackle the country’s deepening economic crisis.
The calls for a unity government also come as Zimbabwe faces a worsening humanitarian situation, as seen in the current cholera outbreak that has affected tens of thousands of people and killed more than 50 — amid skyrocketing prices of basic goods and acute shortages of fuel and foreign currency.
Interestingly, a State newspaper floated the idea of Chamisa pushing to become the country’s prime minister at the weekend.
But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo emphatically told the Daily News yesterday that there was no need for another government of national unity in the country.
“The challenges we have are being addressed. So, what is the need for that (a government of national unity)?” he said.
Contacted for a comment, Chamisa opted to deal with the issue by asking a rhetorical question: “Do you think I traversed the whole country campaigning to be prime minister?”
Still, political analysts were unanimous in saying Mnangagwa and Chamisa needed to work together formally in the country’s interest.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said a government of national unity would “bail out” Zimbabwe from its current economic doldrums.
“It has worked before and has worked elsewhere,” he said, adding that this would also help to boost investor confidence and open credit lines for the country.
“I think people are also nostalgic of the period 2009 to 2013 when the country had a government of national unity which rescued the country from total collapse,” Masunungure said.
Another political analyst, Piers Pigou, also told the Daily News that it was high time that Mnangagwa and Chamisa worked together.
“It’s high time for Mnangagwa and Chamisa to sit down and talk … but a complete solution requires national dialogue beyond political parties.
“As we have seen in Zimbabwe over the years, political settlements in 1987 and 2008 did not resolve the central problems, and so there must be wider conversations,” Pigou said.
MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said: “We restate that legitimacy issues must be dealt with urgently. National dialogue must be done in the light of President Chamisa’s suggestions and political reforms must be prioritised to avoid future electoral problems”.
Western powers have also called for Mnangagwa and Chamisa to find common ground and work together for the good of the country.
The European Union and Britain have particularly been linked to behind-the-scenes manoeuvres to get Mnangagwa to recognise Chamisa as the official opposition leader, in order to placate the youthful politician who is refusing to accept the July 30 poll outcome.
Meanwhile, Chamisa claims that Mnangagwa is using “ambush and guerrilla tactics” to run the economy — further asserting that the country is not facing a cash crisis but “a confidence and leadership” problem.
This comes as Zimbabweans have been raging over the government’s controversial two cents per dollar tax on electronic transactions — which triggered price increases and shortages of goods across the country.
Asked about the tax, Chamisa told the Daily News: “That one is a punishment for the poor. It’s an anti-people tax by anti-people, people who cannot be called a government. They are not going to be called a government.”
He added: “It erodes confidence in government and even business loses confidence. You can’t use ambush, guerrilla tactics on your own people”.
He also said that the MDC parliamentary caucus had two years ago warned against the introduction of bond notes — adding that Mnangagwa had at the time vigorously defended the introduction of the surrogate currency.
He added that the MDC had also warned against the State assuming over $1,35 billion of debt incurred by Zanu PF bigwigs — including ministers, legislators and military commanders who had received farming equipment from the government which they did not pay for.
Launching a further salvo at the Mthuli Ncube tax, Chamisa said: “In other jurisdictions, there are incentives for using the electronic money transfer system. Here you are terrorised for going electronic”.
He also slammed the recent move by the government to instruct all banks to separate foreign currency accounts (FCAs) into two categories — namely Nostro FCAs and RTGS FCAs.
He added that it was clear that Mnangagwa’s government had no clue regarding how to fix the country’s spiralling economic crisis.
“The government itself is a crisis, and so how can it offer solutions to another crisis? The economy is a mirror through which the government’s own image is reflected.
“That is a very profound statement. If the government is ugly and wrong, it reflects … it mirrors the economy,” he said.
He further charged that the “denial” of the MDC’s “right to rule the country after electoral theft” was allegedly being seen in the appalling state of the economy.
If he had ascended to the throne, Zimbabwe would be under a dispensation of what he called “smart economics”. Daily News