Harare – In an unprecedented move, Zanu PF cadres have thrown their weight behind suffering Zimbabwean citizens to push their leader Emmerson Mnangagwa to the negotiating table with main opposition party leader Nelson Chamisa, ENN reports. This development comes at a time teachers in government schools have declared incapacitation and a coalition of Zimbabwe trade unions is mooting a national shutdown as a vote of no confidence on their government regarding employee welfare and the economy. South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa is also ratcheting up pressure on Mnangagwa and Chamisa to dialogue as Zimbabwe’s political crisis weighs down SADC’s economic prospects. 

In his state of the nation address in Mbare this week, main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa called on African leaders and the international community to preside over a dialogue between him and Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa to save the economy from total collapse.

The economic situation in Zimbabwe is anomalous as most formal employees no longer afford to fend for their families. In its latest statistics, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe said a family of five in Zimbabwe now requires over ZWL$4,000 for food only every month. This comes at a time the least paid civil servant is taking home ZWL$2,000 every month, which is equivalent to US$90 on the informal market. Zimbabwe is entering unchartered waters as a waning 2020 agriculture season adds misery to mealie shortages, fuel shortages, electricity shortages, currency shortages and water shortages already  stifling the country’s economy. With an unstable currency, Zimbabwe’s economic crisis is in its midst.

As economic reality unfolds in Zimbabwe, Zanu pf youths, who are fronting Zanu pf party bigwigs, have ditched party protocol on communication to comment directly on the issue of political talks, with youth leader Godfrey Tsenengamu calling on his leadership to urgently dialogue with Nelson Chamisa to save the economy from further collapse. All Zanu pf provincial youth leaders including Vengai Musengi, Godfrey Gomwe and Pupurai Togarepi are alleged to be behind this call as hunger and poverty threaten to ravage Zimbabwe again.

The late MDC leader and noble peace prize recipient Morgan Tsvangirai once said, “You can rig an election but you cannot rig the economy” in reference to the disputed 2008 presidential elections between him and the late Robert Mugabe. What followed his prophetic statement was an unmatched national economic collapse that eventually birthed the Government of national Unity in February 2009. The late former president Robert Mugabe was known for not compromising on his opinions, but his 1987 Unity Accord with Joshua Nkomo and the GNU of 2009 with Morgan Tsvangirai demonstrated his big heart for Zimbabwe and his political genius. After the disputed 2018 presidential elections, history seems to be repeating itself again in Zimbabwe – a highly educated country that never learns from its past.

As economic developments and dwindling disposable incomes continue to jettison Zimbabwe’s middle class at a time hunger is threatening the poor, proponents of the new dispensation have not been spared and are now leading the chorus in calling for urgent political and economic reforms. The new dispensation was born after the ouster of former president Robert Mugabe by Emmerson Mnangagwa in November 2017 through a military overthrow.

In an unprecedented move, Zimbabwe finance minister Mthuli Ncube recently visited several citizens in Harare randomly to obtain their views on the economic situation and what they think must be done. It is unfortunate that this gesticulation is coming at the tail end of his economic amalgam whose results are bare for all to see. The great physician Isaac Newton once said, it is easier to continue moving than to stop and start moving again when he coined the law of motion, which grew to become a vital law in physics. Equally so, Mthuli Ncube’s introduction of the “stakeholder disputed” 2 percent intermediary tax on all electronic money transactions brought a stop to business confidence in a functioning Zimbabwe. Further policy pronouncements on currency and trade by government went against Isaac Newton’s law of motion, and today, Zimbabwe is paying the price of going against the law of motion as businesses struggle to stabilise and gain momentum to move forward.  It is everyone’s hope that Mthuli Ncube’s community engagements were not another political salvo without economic gist as it is a cardinal sin to play politics with people’s lives. Other political analysts viewed Mthuli Ncube’s community engagements as an admission of failure by a Minister with a reputation of implementing national economic policies without incorporating stakeholder contributions.

In Zimbabwe, government schools and universities have hiked school fees by over 500 percent for the first school term of 2020, with private schools benchmarking their fees against the stable United States dollar. The Zimbabwe government recently approved a 600 percent hike in consultation fees at its government hospitals and poly clinics, a development that will further deteriorate the health of its less fortunate citizens who will no longer afford to access formal medical facilities. The sluggish return of junior doctors to public hospitals last week after months of protests is testament to leadership’s lacklustre response to national crises. The latest political impasse which has led to Zimbabwe’s economic turmoil is now seventeen months old and to date no meaningful willingness to end this egoistical political crisis has been shown by Zimbabwe’s leadership save for a meeting with former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki in December 2019.    

What makes Zimbabwe’s situation worse is Government’s inconsistencies on policy pronouncements and actual action. As the ultimate authority in Zimbabwe, President Mnangagwa recently announced that school fees for government schools will not be increased in 2020, yet reality on the ground is contrary to his pronouncement. The same policy inconsistency was also showcased in December 2019 regarding the removal of subsidies on imported maize and wheat. Mthuli Ncube scrapped subsidies on maize and wheat in November 2019 when he presented his 2020 national budget and promised to come up with more focussed subsidies on mealie meal and bread to benefit the poor. A week later and as the ultimate authority president Mnangagwa reversed Mthuli’s decision after the nation experienced a sharp spike in the price of mealie meal and flour. Today, Mthuli Ncube is moving in to scrap the subsidies again in line with IMF’s recommendations. If government’s behavioural traits over the past year inform the future, it is everyone’s guess that the promised “focussed subsidies” will not be properly implemented. Which country has prospered with such policy inconsistencies? Is the president in control of the economy or someone somewhere is working round the clock to sabotage him?

The year 2020 is another drought year for Zimbabwe after tracts of arable land across the country were not utilised by farmers due to economic constraints and risks posed by electricity and water shortages. In such a case, another drought induced food crisis threatens to cripple Zimbabwe again in 2020.

In the last chapter of The Story of My Life, a book written by the late Joshua Nkomo in 1984 whilst in exile after escaping attempts on his life, he lamented the new African rulers for dodging unconditional debate with citizens as a necessary means for improving government. Nkomo went on to say that African leaders must improve their record on human rights and also challenged African people to have greater regard to their responsibilities.  “I appeal in particular to our young people, especially the students and the soldiers, to accept the challenge of political development”, said Nkomo. Thirty six years later, Nkomo’s words clearly sum up Zimbabwe’s political challenges of today. In 1987, Joshua Nkomo joined hands with Robert Mugabe to end years of political persecution in Matabeleland province on tribal lines by Zanu PF’s fifth brigade – a South Korea trained militia behind the Gukurahundi massacres.

With a growing number of people across the political divide calling for urgent political dialogue between president Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa to end Zimbabwe’s politically steered economic downfall, ENN Zimbabwe correspondent Carol Mvundura has called the year 2020 a year of the talks in Zimbabwe.  The main opposition party MDC Alliance, a coalition of Zimbabwe Trade Unions, Zimbabwe’s rural and urban populace, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zanu PF youths, South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa and former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki have all called for president Mnangagwa to urgently hold talks with main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa for the sake of all Zimbabweans.

The issue of unconditional political talks with Nelson Chamisa now lies squarely in president Emmerson Mnangagwa’ s court. Hunger continues to strike Zimbabweans, anger continues to rise in Zimbabwe, but at the end of it all, history will judge the sincerity of Zimbabwe’s current leadership towards its citizens.