Zimbabwe: Waiting for the Future

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The July 2013 election victory of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front ZANU PF failed to secure broad-based legitimacy for President Robert Mugabe, provide a foundation for fixing the economy, or normalise external relations. A year on, the country faces multiple social and economic problems, spawned by endemic governance failures and compounded by a debilitating ruling party succession crisis.
Both ZANU PF and the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) are embroiled in major internal power struggles that distract from addressing the corrosion of the social and economic fabric. Zimbabwe is an insolvent and failing state, its politics zero sum, its institutions hollowing out, and its once vibrant economy moribund. A major culture change is needed among political elites, as well as commitment to national as opposed to partisan and personal interests.
Despite visibly waning capacities, 90-year-old Robert Mugabe shows no sign of wanting to leave office. The succession battle within his party is presented as a two-way race between Vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, but the reality is more complex. Public battles have intensified, with intimidation and violence a disquieting feature. Mugabe’s diminished ability to manage this discord will be severely tested ahead of its December National People’s Congress. The elevation of First Lady Grace Mugabe to head ZANU PF’s women’s league has complicated succession dynamics further.
Key economic sectors contracted in the past year and the government struggles to pay wages and provide basic services. Without major budgetary support it cannot deliver on election promises. Deals with China to improve infrastructure provide some respite, but will not resolve immediate challenges. International support from both East and West would help to maximise recovery prospects. Options are limited by acute liquidity constraints, policy incoherence, corruption and mismanagement. Vigorous reforms are needed to foster sustainable, inclusive growth.
Neither the government, nor the opposition has a plan the country is willing to rally behind. ZANU PF’s Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Trans- formation (ZimAsset) is predicated on populist election promises and wishful thinking. The government has squeezed the beleaguered tax base further, securing limited fiscal remedy and generating resentment. The MDC-T and other opposition parties are sidelined. Their cachet with international players has been severely dented. Prospects for a common opposition agenda are remote, as is any chance of inclusive national dialogue to map the way forward. For the first time since 2007, the MDC-T is suggesting mass protest is a real option, but if past performance is any indicator, ZANU PF will redeploy security forces when required.Advertisement

ZANUPF’s election victory created opportunities for domestic and international rapprochement. International financial institutions are engaging, albeit tentatively, as the government explores financing options. Donors must balance commitments to rebuilding relations with the government, with support for improved governance and tackling democratic deficits. Trust is affected by uncertainties around unimplemented reforms and commitment to the new constitution and the rule of law, concerns about policies, and anxieties around succession. Some in ZANU PF now admit that a new tack is required. Mugabe took over as chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August 2014 and will chair the African Union (AU) from early 2015. This offers an unprecedented platform to secure some positive aspects of his legacy, though he is unlikely to use this as an opportunity for rapprochement.
To avoid prolonged uncertainty and possible crisis, ZANU PF should:
decide conclusively at its December congress who will replace President Mugabe were he to be incapacitated or to decide not to seek re-election in 2018;
seek to rebuild trust and collaborations with domestic and international constituencies by (i) holding an inclusive national dialogue with the opposition and civil society on political, social and economic reforms; and (ii) clarify and act on key policy areas, eg, indigenisation, land reform and the rule of law, as well as anti- corruption initiatives; and
discipline members who engage in voter intimidation, fraud or other offences.
 The political opposition, needing to reestablish its credibility, should:

establish a consultative mechanism, in conjunction with civil society, that seeks consensus and dialogue across the political spectrum on priority – in particular economic and governance – reforms; and
review 2013 election flaws through a forward-looking agenda that addresses major concerns projected for the 2018 polls (ie, voters roll and anomalies in electoral legislative amendments).

The SADC and AU should:

encourage Zimbabwe to address election-related concerns identified in their respective 2013 observation mission reports.

China should:

encourage Zimbabwe’s government to promote political inclusiveness and policy coherence in efforts to resuscitate the economy.

Countries implementing sanctions andother measures against Zimbabwe (ie, the EU, U.S. and Australia) should promote a coherent position that:

clarifies what measures the government should take to expedite removal of re- maining sanctions;
consolidates re-engagement and development support contingent on progress with economic and governance reforms;
takes visible steps to strengthen democracy-supporting institutions, including an independent judiciary and human rights and election institutions, as well as sup- port civil society’s capacity to monitor and protect constitutional rights.

Faulty Foundations
The 2008 Global Political Agreement (GPA), including its power-sharing government, failed to put in place a strong consensual foundation for rebuilding the country. The ambitious reforms agreed were not adequately implemented, except the adoption of a new constitution. ZANU PF stymied reform efforts on a broad range of fronts, either avoiding engagement (eg, as regards a land audit or investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of the 2008 election violence) or asserting that reforms masked a foreign agenda (as it did with calls for security sector reform). Unsurprisingly, little headway was made to establish robust and independent democracy-supporting institutions, or build trust in key electoral bodies such as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the office of the Registrar General. Despite some areas of cooperation, the national unity government operated as two parts and was riven by disagreement.
SADC’s principal objective was stability and it rarely went public about its concerns: its most significant intervention was to push for a new constitution in early 2013, following prevarication and delays by ZANU PF. The subsequent referendum provided a minimum threshold from which to proceed with general elections. SADC had expected other reforms to be in place, including access to the voters roll, and it pointedly raised its concern about the rushed polls. Internal consensus, however, gave the regional body little option but to go along and endorse the holding of elections, even though the country was not ready for free and fair polls.
The scale of ZANU PF’s victory shocked many Zimbabwe watchers. Mugabe se- cured 61 per cent of the vote, compared with 44 in 2008, while Tsvangirai’s support plummeted from 48 to 33 per cent. ZANU PF went from a parliamentary minority to a resounding majority (99 to 160 seats out of 210 in the National Assembly). Many questioned the outcome, but unable to muster and marshal adequate proof to successfully challenge the results, the MDCs’ legal attempts withered on the vine. Numerous concerns about the election process, related legalities and the role of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) remain unaddressed. Unresolved procedural and institutional issues that continue to generate discord should be addressed before the next polls. Nevertheless, the election results present a new political reality and new opportunities for engagement.
ZANUPF must address its election promises, predicated on a radical economic agenda, and demonstrate some commitment to reform. It has tempered its language in some instances, but also sent mixed messages. Mugabe said there will be no reversal of land reform, but has not pursued policies that inculcate stability and predictability into the sector. He continues to rail against the handful of white farmers who managed to hang onto their land. More positively, a new permit program is intended to allow land reform beneficiaries to borrow money and develop their farms, and Mugabe has threatened to take back farms from absentee landowners. Additionally, after several years of blocking efforts to conduct a land audit – a key outstanding GPA commitment – the government claims it will do so in 2015.
The overall human rights situation has improved marginally, with fewer overt violations, but progress is undermined by widespread impunity and fear, with limited options for remedy. Organisations monitoring implementation of the new constitution have also flagged concerns. There has been little support and insufficient funding for constitutionally mandated human rights and democracy-supporting institutions, such as the Human Rights Commission (HRC), the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Legal Aid Directorate (LAD).
Political Dysfunction and the Politics of Succession
ZANU PF’s return to power has been complicated by the succession struggle. Mugabe is pivotal to retaining stability, but his influence may be waning. It took him over a month to put his new cabinet together, reflecting the challenge of balancing respective party interests.
Mugabe has deliberately not publicly endorsed a successor, claiming the party will decide.  The main contenders are the only serving vice president (there are provisions for two), Joice Mujuru, and the justice minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa.  For over a decade their respective fortunes have ebbed and flowed, and most developments are now assessed by the effect they have on either camp. Maneuverings have gathered pace in the wake of the 2013 elections, exacerbating tensions and uncertainty.
Unprecedented public altercations have seen mutual accusations of voter intimidation and fraud during party elections, manipulating the media, instigating anti-corruption investigations for sectarian interests, and even kidnapping.  For example, on the eve of the August 2014 SADC summit, and on the back of Mugabe’s criticism of senior cadres he claimed were responsible for chaotic administration of the youth league conference the week before, the state media carried a vitriolic interview with Chris Mutsvangwa, often described as a Mnangagwa loyalist, savaging ZANU PF’s secretary for administration and senior Mujuru loyalist, Didymus Mutasa.
Mujuru, who is officially the number two in ZANU-PF, is regarded by many as the primary candidate; she reportedly has the most support in the politburo, central committee and the presidium, and now among the provincial party chairs. She also appears to have stronger grassroots support, recently demonstrated by the election of her loyalists in the youth league. However, all of this does not make her a shoe- in to succeed Mugabe.  She appeared to consolidate her position in the party ahead of the December 2013 national conference, when her supporters secured nine of ten provincial chair positions, but Mugabe deferred the expected reshuffle until the December 2014 congress. In the wake of Mugabe’s recent call for all politburo and central committee cadres to seek re-election in December, reports are now suggesting Mujuru’s position in the party will be challenged.
Mnangagwa reportedly draws support from the senior ranks of the security establishment, a section of ZANU-PF’s parliamentary caucus, younger party office bearers and certain influential sections of the business community. His position may also be strengthened by Grace Mugabe’s election as head of the women’s league. By Mugabe’s side since independence, Mnangagwa is regarded by some as Zimbabwe’s éminence grise, an ambitious strongman who has proven his ability to keep ZANU PF in the driving seat. He has successfully cultivated an image of someone who can maintain stability and is believed to have developed support within SADC as part of his efforts to position himself as Mugabe’s successor.
ZANU PF promotes an illusory unity. Mugabe rails against those who seek elevation, pointing out that anyone could lead the party, but has reiterated the first secretary position – his is not vacant. Those believed to be jockeying to succeed him must operate behind the scenes, meaning that the fault lines play out in an array of proxy battles. There are also possible compromise candidates, but determining fact from fiction is increasingly difficult.
Mugabe’s exhortations have done little to resolve the impasses, and the politics of succession continues to play out. Information Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo launched a very public anti-corruption drive that exposed senior administrators reaping gargantuan salaries as heads of parastatals and other state-owned enterprises. The campaign allegedly targeted Mujuru’s camp and has exacerbated party tensions. However, it is unlikely to go much further. Any serious effort to unravel corruption would undermine ZANU PF’s patronage network. The scandal has largely played out in the media, and there is little evidence of criminal investigations or prospects for prosecutions.
An elective congress is planned for December 2014 to fill vacancies in the central committee, politburo and presidium, where one vice president position remains vacant. ZANU PF insists the decision is Mugabe’s prerogative, and many expect him to continue the tradition of anointing a former Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) member to fill the position. However, it remains unclear what positions within the party hierarchy will be contested and the extent to which current vacancies will be filled. It is also unlikely that there will be clarity over Mugabe’s successor. The congress is expected to endorse the party’s next presidential candidate, and in the absence of internal consensus, Mugabe is likely to be nominated. All eyes will be on elections to other positions and bodies – both politburo and central committee – in the hope this will provide further insight into evolving power dynamics.
Disagreement over the rules governing election to the central committee has reportedly prompted the Mnangagwa faction to push for a review. Although Mujuru appeared by the end of 2013 to have consolidated her position, succession politics involves more than electoral success, and what happens next will be “predicated on highly complex and carefully calibrated manoeuvres that include enlisting the endorsement of the securocrats, and most importantly, securing the blessing of Mugabe”. By mid-2014, those reading the runes argued the pendulum was swinging back in Mnangagwa’s favour. The security sector’s influence has grown, although direct military intervention is unlikely. Compared to Mujuru, Mnangagwa is seen as having a closer relationship with especially the military and intelligence community.
The party’s long-term future is contingent on how competing interests will be managed. Neither Mnangagwa nor Mujuru has widespread national popularity and they may need each other to ensure ZANU PF retains its dominant position. View- points diverge on whether the divisions are too deep to reconcile.
The Opposition
By July 2013, prospects of a post-election power-sharing arrangement had all but disappeared. After the dysfunction and polarisation of the GPA period, both ZANU PF and the MDC-T were committed to a winner-takes-all outcome. Given the scale of the victory, ZANU PF’s celebrations were surprisingly muted, reinforcing perceptions that the result was not genuine. MDC-T’s defeat exacerbated tensions within the party, but few expected the rapid unravelling of the main opposition grouping in the year that followed.
Its defeat catalysed and consolidated sentiment against Tsvangirai who had now lost three presidential elections. A push for an expedited elective congress and public calls for his resignation led to allegations, counter-allegations and violence that echoed the dark days of 2005, when Welshman Ncube and others split from MDC, accusing Tsvangirai of anti-democratic tendencies. A series of suspensions, expulsions and counter-measures followed, resulting in a major leadership rift as both Treasurer General Elton Mangoma and Secretary General Tendai Biti parted ways acrimoniously with Tsvangirai.
The pace of the current self-destruction staggered many observers and erstwhile supporters, and efforts to reunite the factions have failed. Driven by personality rather than policy differences, both Tsvangirai and Biti continue with their respective programs, although senior opposition figures believe the MDC-T is now rudder-less and falling apart. Legal battles over the constitutionality of decisions and control over party assets continue. Tsvangirai’s supporters will hold their own elective congress in October 2014, where all positions can be contested. Efforts by other op- position groups to form a United Democratic Front (UDF) have floundered.
Both factions appear focused on trading insults and accusations, as well as alleging each is working secretly with ZANU PF and its allies. Tsvangirai’s larger group continues to present itself as vital for unlocking external support, even though its credibility has taken a severe knock. The break-up exposes the party’s reliance on both men. How the opposition engages in the policy arena will remain the clearest indicator of its relevance and future potential. Curiously, ZANU PF, previously eschewing any such possibility, has recently indicated a willingness to engage with Tsvangirai, but only if he acknowledges Mugabe’s victory. Obtaining his support would increase the government’s legitimacy and undermine other groups that continue to question the election results.
Economic Decline and Slim Prospects for Recovery
The economy remains in dire straits with growth forecasts revised downward several times since the elections. The government has failed to implement its economic recovery policy, ZimAsset, handicapped by revenue constraints, disagreement and policy incoherence. The GPA government and its decision to make a few foreign currencies legal tender secured some economic stability, but the post-election period experienced economic decline, as ZANU PF struggles to fulfil its promises.
The government is unable to borrow on international markets, and domestic borrowing is pegged at exorbitant interest rates. Burgeoning international debt and a large trade imbalance – now $4 billion – compounded by capital flight have caused deflation; there is simply not enough money circulating in the formal economy. Zimbabwe is caught in a vortex of deficit financing, borrowing from wherever it can even to pay its civil service bill. The banking sector is hobbled by unpaid debts and struggling to service its client base with reduced liquidity. Low investor confidence and limited prospects for expanding government revenue, especially from diamond trading, a much diminished manufacturing sector and an already overburdened tax base, mean lower prospects for recovery.
The IMF has maintained a positive spin on developments by emphasising the government’s stated commitment to reform and engagement with international financial institutions. Its recent review, however, highlights an array of major challenges both in the international environment and domestically: the over-extended financial sector, unsustainable government expenditure, policy uncertainties and underperforming mining and agriculture sectors, considered the engines for recovery. Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti projects the crisis may last “at least ten years”.
ZimAsset requires a minimum of $10 billion, but the government has been unable to secure support, even from “trusted allies”. The government struggles from month to month to run its administration and provide basic services. Industrial production has fallen below 40 per cent of its potential capacity with further contractions in the manufacturing and domestic retail sectors expected; formal unemployment is estimated at over 80 per cent. Many companies have been forced to close, the stock exchange has continued to contract (against growth in other African bourses), reflecting the depressed domestic and international investor mood.
The number of luxury cars and well-stocked shops in cities and towns mask the reality of a fraying economy, increasingly reliant on the informal sector and diaspora remittances. While some are reaping benefits and gross domestic product is growing (albeit at a significantly reduced rate), this has not translated into employment and prosperity. The private sector remains under intense pressure and the Harare and Bulawayo industrial areas resemble ghost towns. The state is the main formal employer and calls for reducing the civil servant payroll (the government’s main expenditure line item) – a measure strongly recommended by the IMF – go unheeded.
Officials are increasingly worried and there are risks of further deterioration. This is of particular concern in the security sector, where there are “disgruntlement over stagnated low salaries” and “shortages in barracks and camps, with some uniformed members being sent on forced leave”. There have been visible efforts by some in government to temper and clarify certain policy positions, most notably on indigenisation, although it has yet to translate into tangible actions that assuage investor concerns. Uncertainty over investment protection and private property rights is compounded by lack of trust in the government’s commitment to reform.
The government says there will be flexibility around the 51 per cent ownership threshold in all economic sectors, with the exception of mining. It says this, and land reform, are the central pillars of efforts to reassert control over the country’s resources. The finance minister acknowledges, however, there has been considerable confusion about the policy, and claims the law will be modified, but the indigenisation and youth minister subsequently told parliament he is not working on any such amendments.
In July, the IMF completed its combined review of its Staff-Monitored Program (SMP), which seeks to monitor and advise the government on economic policy and implementation. This engagement – the first for over a decade – is regarded by many as a key indicator of rapprochement. The IMF has described Zimbabwe’s progress as “broadly satisfactory” and “encouraging”, even if implementation has been slow. A more detailed reading of the review, however, highlights a range of challenges, including the failure to meet quantitative targets and structural benchmarks, an array of macro-economic policy issues compounded by a difficult economic environment, unsustainable government expenditure, development and infrastructure deficits and untenable debt levels.
Significantly, the review also called for more transparency in the mining and diamond sectors. Recognising diamond mining benefited only the fortunate few, the government has adopted a different tack. New Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidakwa has underlined the need to clean up the sector, echoing concerns of the former parliamentary portfolio committee for mines and energy chairperson, the late Edward Chindori Chininga.
In late 2013, Chidakwa dissolved the boards of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) and Marange Resources.  He proposed measures to consolidate the sector, reduce the number of operators to “restore accountability” and “maximise the nation’s benefit”. Four diamond auctions in Antwerp and Dubai in late 2013 and 2014 improved per carat earnings, but the volumes and quality apparently disappointed, tempering expectations that the government will secure major revenue increases – at least in the short term. The country is keen to add value to the raw material it produces, by developing the manufacturing sector, and ensure more Zimbabweans benefit.
The need for transparency extends beyond the diamond sector, as the government continues to press ahead with other largely obscure mining projects involving Chinese and Russian investors. Foreign investors also point to a myriad of unresolved issues, including the government’s selective honouring of debt obligations, its failure to adhere to a key International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruling and other opaque deals and suspicious offshore transactions.
Some believe the country could again slide rapidly downhill, while others are resigned to a situation in which the economy could continue to stagnate and “bump along the bottom for the foreseeable future”. Many wonder how much longer the government can continue to spend more than it raises, especially with such limited access to borrowing, and few macro-economic tools and options at its disposal. Fiscal stability is only possible with a resolution on the payment of debt and the security of both domestic and foreign investments. The government must adhere to a clear set of rules that foster confidence. Attention has been diverted for the moment, but it is only a matter of time before the country’s financial unravelling has a major effect on political and succession dynamics.
The scale of the economic challenge in Zimbabwe is compounded by global economic uncertainty and constraint. International partners do share common concerns and objectives around the economy and policy uncertainty. A conversation between Western nations and China and firm, but quiet, messaging from Beijing to Harare signals their growing frustration. Joint efforts to promote constructive engagement with Harare should continue.
Constructive Engagement and Prospects for Change
Post-elections international positions are not aligned. SADC again called for the removal of sanctions. On the one hand, having supported SADC’s facilitation, some Western countries felt hard pressed to reject SADC’s endorsement of the election, but on the other they could not fully support the flawed process. Yet ZANU-PF’s victory left few options and despite reservations of some member states, the EU has pursued closer engagement. It suspended and removed most restrictive measures and continued the process, started during the GPA period, toward lifting “appropriate measures” (its term for suspending government-to-government development cooperation) and resuming assistance, now expected in November 2014.
In March 2013, the EU suspended restrictive measures against 81 individuals and eight companies in response to the credible constitutional referendum. After the elections, measures against the ZMDC were lifted in September, enabling Zimbabwe to sell diamonds in Europe. In February 2014, remaining restrictive measures with the exception of the arms embargo and those targeting two individuals (Mugabe and his spouse) and one entity (Zimbabwe Defence Industries, ZDI) were suspended. Australia has also amended its lists, but maintains restrictions against the first family, security service chiefs and ZDI.
The gradual lifting of sanctions will not result in major general budget support, the government’s primary need, though the EU will provide much-needed relief in several key development areas. But their lifting will provide ZANU PF with a symbolic victory – against the implementation of “illegal sanctions”.  The EU is actively reconnecting through the private sector as well.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has rejected calls for removing sanctions, pointing to seriously flawed elections and GPA reform deficits. It maintains targeted measures against individuals and entities on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN), and the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) remains in force. Mugabe was not invited to the U.S.-Africa summit in early August, signalling Washington’s dissatisfaction. Engagement nevertheless continues, albeit unevenly, with the expectation – shared by others in the international community – that it will remain limited with Mugabe still at the helm.
Civil society groups remain divided over the merits of sanctions: ZANU PF and the government continue to assert sanctions, rather than its own policies, are primarily responsible for the country’s economic woes. For some, accelerating re-engagement cannot wait, while for others it legitimises the government and extends the status quo without securing change.
With current economic constraints, there is little incentive for Zimbabweans in the diaspora to return home. Moves are afoot, however, in both South Africa and Botswana to tighten immigration controls again, which may result in a return to widespread deportations. Regardless, Zimbabweans are likely to continue voting with their feet, whether options in the region are legal or not. Zimbabwe’s challenges continue to impact on the region, despite the end of SADC’s official facilitation role.
Mugabe’s chairmanship of SADC (a position he has never held before) is unlikely to result in a regional embrace of ZANU PF’s policies. His prospective chairing of the AU (from January 2015) is a symbolic affirmation by the continent’s leadership, but not a statement of solidarity. While African leaders cautioned Europe about his possible barring from the April 2014 EU-Africa summit, his exclusion from the August U.S.-Africa summit did not generate negative blowback from other leaders who attended. His longevity and history command respect, yet there are more pressing priorities on the continent. Some believe Mugabe’s elevation is part of a plan by the wise men in Africa to offer him a graceful exit. There are no guarantees Mugabe will use the AU and SADC to promote constructive re-engagement.
Nevertheless, it provides a timeframe and an element of regional and continental insulation that might help foster economic revival. The new constitution and government efforts to open space have provided an opportunity for both local and diaspora engagement. Much more is needed, and the government must play a more constructive and proactive role to promote such engagement and illustrate why it is important. Relations between the government and these groupings are tempered by mutual mistrust, political uncertainty and a “wait and see” approach that is rooted in an expectation that ZANU PF’s nonagenarian leader will exit the political scene, sooner rather than later, and that this will open up further space.
Mugabe’s extraordinary capacity for survival has deepened the political paralysis within ZANU PF, as his ability to hold things together has waned. His unwillingness to identify a successor has fed the ongoing internecine battles, and the party maintains he will be their candidate for 2018. This exacerbates insecurity, which further undermines economic recovery, prompting some to believe it could trigger a serious political and possibly violent internal crisis. Zimbabweans and the international community must do more together to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition and broad-based economic recovery.
Zimbabwe still has the capacity to deliver on the necessary reforms – policy coherence, improved governance, transparency and accountability – that will avert further deterioration and prevent it from becoming a failed state, but it will struggle to do so without considerable support and investment. This will not be forthcoming un- less the government and ruling party demonstrate the political will and aptitude to agree on and implement a coherent economic path and reform plan that demonstrates a clear commitment to the rule of law. This will require a major shift in Zimbabwe’s political culture. Its failure to do so compounds already high levels of political mistrust and tension, as well as grinding economic hardship.