/ 22 November 2013

Zanu-PF’s dizzy policy spin

Zanu-PF is softening its policies on land reform and indigenisation. Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters
Zanu-PF is softening its policies on land reform and indigenisation. Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

Zanu-PF is trying to mend its bad-boy image by reforming its policies and softening hardline policy positions.

But analysts say many are suspicious of its intentions and it may take time for business and other sectors to warm up to it.

Since the party won the July poll, a number of its ministers have made significant policy shifts.

First was Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Jonathan Moyo’s engagement with the private media, nearly a decade after he oversaw the closure of private newspapers and radio stations.

Moyo, who during his previous tenure steered the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, also surprised media campaigners by criticising criminal defamation law and calling for its scrapping on grounds that it tramples on media freedoms.

Moyo is moving to set the national broadcaster straight.

Death sentence criticised
Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the party’s secretary for legal affairs, has also criticised the death sentence, saying it must be scrapped from the country’s statutes.

Mnangagwa has also confirmed that he instructed all government ministries on the need to realign all laws under their aegis with the new Constitution that grants citizens greater liberties, with a list of 87 pieces of legislation provisionally being on the priority list.

Before elections, the department of youth, indigenisation and empowerment, then under Saviour Kasukuwere, was accused of scaring foreign investors by threatening to seize shareholding in foreign firms that did not give 51% of the business to indigenous Zimbabweans.

But now, under new minister Francis Nhema, the drive has been watered down with a pronouncement that all empowerment deals are being reviewed.

Nhema also said certain sectors such as banks may be spared by his ministry. Only mining would be subjected to the 51% ownership for locals — the rest of the sectors would negotiate different thresholds.

Policy changes are also ringing in the agriculture and land sector after the government’s haphazard land resettlement reform that is blamed for reducing Zimbabwe’s food output and quickening its economic collapse.

Farmers must stand on their own
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said that, though the government would support farmers this year, the thinking was that beyond that they should start to stand on their own rather than being a continuous drain on the fiscus by waiting for free fertiliser and seeds from the government.

In equal measure, Lands Minister Douglas Mombeshora withdrew previous offer letters that were given to occupants of farms.

His ministry is in the process of issuing new ones in a bid to ensure transparency and flush out owners of multiple farms — a problem that critics of the land reform programme often point out.

He has also ordered a stop to any new farm invasions, and says that all those who are allocated land must reside on the land.

But probably the biggest and most reassuring factor after Zanu-PF’s victory was its announcement that, although it acquired a two-thirds majority in Parliament that enables it to change the Constitution, it has no immediate plans to do so.

That move is perhaps an indication of restraint on the part of Zanu-PF, which previously expressed opposition to certain constitutional clauses that were included in the charter as a compromise with the Movement for Democratic Change formations.

2014 budget postponed
The 2014 budget, which was expected to be tabled in Parliament this month, was also postponed, and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said he needed to carry out more consultations, a departure from a party that is known to impose its wishes.

One blemish, however, has stood out since the elections — the attempt to demolish illegal homes. But even that has been put on hold as senior party members oppose the move.

In an interview this week, Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said his party was fulfilling its election manifesto.

Analysts said it was not surprising that Zanu-PF was choosing to reform in certain aspects because it realises that its own performance and not the opposition is now its greatest threat.

Political analyst Ricky Mukonza said the move by these ministers to embrace some democratic principles suggest a change of direction by Zanu-PF.

”The possible explanation why we are seeing these developments is that Zanu-PF might have realised that it cannot continue with the radical approach that characterised the implementation of both the land reform and the indigenisation policies. In some way, this would be a tacit admission that these policies are not sustainable beyond election sloganeering,” said Mukonza.

Rashweat Mukundu, the director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said the party also had its eye on it taking over the Southern African Development Community chairmanship next year where it has to be seen to be exemplary.


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