Africa

Congress risks being more about flattery than finance

Farai Shoko

That all roads lead to Chinhoyi, the venue for Zanu-PF's 14th People's Conference, is made obvious in the capital, Harare.

Populist: Zim Asset, ­Zimbabwe’s economic plan is the main item at Zanu-PF’s 14th People’s Conference, but commentators expect more hero worship than substance. (Desmond Kwande/AFP)

A huge billboard has been erected at Zanu-PF's headquarters along the Harare-Bulawayo highway to display the theme of the conference: "Zim Asset: Growing the economy for empowerment and employment".

The actual roads leading to Chinhoyi, the provincial capital of Mashonaland West, have been resurfaced and buildings repainted in preparation for the week-long gathering on December 10 to 15 that is expected to chart the way for the country for the next 12 months. Zanu-PF aims to raise $10-million for the conference.

The party's economic blueprint, Zim Asset, is the main item on the agenda. Zim Asset, the brainchild of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Jonathan Moyo, is being punted as the panacea for Zimbabwe's socio-economic stagnation.

Calistus Ndlovu, the newly elected Bulawayo Zanu-PF provincial chairman, said the revival of industry in the ­second capital would top the items for discussion.

"We are going to draw up a list of resolutions which have to do with Bulawayo within the framework of Zim Asset," he said.

Didymus Mutasa, the Zanu-PF secretary for administration, said the conference would define the country's future, not just for the duration of Zanu-PF's term, but beyond 2018.

Talk shop
"We are not playing games. We have answers to the socioeconomic challenges brought by the illegal sanctions. All is stated in the economic blueprint," said Mutasa.

But critics of President Robert Mugabe's party are adamant that it will just be a talk shop, with delegates going into an overdrive to hero-worship Mugabe.

Past Zanu-PF conferences and other gatherings have involved party officials and hangers-on flaunting their wealth, wearing designer suits and arriving in the latest car models.  

  Rashweat Mukundu, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democratic Institute, said not much was expected from the gathering, save populist and flattering speeches.

"It will be important, however, to hear what Mugabe has to say on the recent Zanu-PF internal elections, as that may signal his preferences for a successor."

Trevor Maisiri, a senior political analyst with the International Crisis Group, said Zanu-PF could not afford to have a talk show at a time when Mugabe and his party are faced with the problem of reviving the economy.

"The party cannot afford to be ­casual. There will obviously be a lot of talk about Zim Asset, but it is best advised to seek ways in which it can stimulate capital inflows to kickstart this ambitious plan," he said.

"Without addressing the capital supply side, the document will remain limited in its impact on economic recovery."

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