Zimbabwe - prepare for the fallout from 2013

The political squabbles took their toll on the economy, with investors, fearing instability, taking their funds offshore. (AFP)

The political squabbles took their toll on the economy, with investors, fearing instability, taking their funds offshore. (AFP)

Political noise and chaos characterised 2013 but there was very little delivered to the people. So most will be glad it is over. The June elections put an end to the shaky unity government that was characterised in its dying moments by ugly public spats among government officials.
There were also quarrels over the drafting of a new Constitution.

The process, which began in 2009, should have taken 18 months. But it only reached finality after a referendum in March and not before it had gobbled up $50-million. Then the campaigning began, with partisan police and army generals openly supporting Zanu-PF, but with no known poll date. The death of 12-year-old Christ­power Maisiri in a suspected politically motivated attack saw Cabinet members openly accusing each other of murder.

His father, Shepherd Maisiri, is a Movement for Democratic Change official. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai used his death to mobilise Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) heads of state to push for an extraordinary summit on Zimbabwe that would set conditions for polls to be held. Meanwhile, Mugabe was pushing for elections through the courts, with little success at first.

The game changer came on May 3 when Jealous Mawarire, the director of the little-known Centre for Elections and Democracy in Southern Africa, approached the Constitutional Court for an order to compel Mugabe to proclaim election dates immediately.

The court ordered that polls be held by July 31. Taking advantage of the ruling, Mugabe caught his coalition partners off guard and invoked the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to bypass Parliament in a bid to comply with the ruling.

July 31 it would be, he proclaimed. Mugabe's action sent the opposition parties scurrying into a union to petition President Jacob Zuma as SADC facilitator to reschedule the election date. SADC reconvened in Maputo on June 15 with Zimbabwe on its agenda yet again. SADC opposed the July 31 date but was in a quandary because of the court ruling.

Violate a court order
They could not be seen to be asking Mugabe to violate a court order and resolved to ask him to approach the court for an extension. But Mugabe the veteran politician had outplayed them all – SADC included. An angry Mugabe returned to Harare and threw all diplomacy out the window. He threatened to pull out of SADC if the block did "stupid things", blaming the spokesperson of Zuma's facilitation team, Lindiwe Zulu, whom he called a "stupid idiotic street woman" for insisting on reforms before elections.

The regional bloc was silenced. Mugabe submitted an application that legal experts said was weak and, on July 4, the court upheld that the poll be held on July 31. He won the poll despite chaos and rigging allegations.

From SADC to the African Union, the result was accepted but none would be drawn into calling it fair or credible. Tsvangirai declared the elections a farce and challenged the results in court, with no success. With Zanu-PF back in the driving seat, Mugabe appointed his ministers but analysts said they would not change anything – some of the ministers have been in office since 1980 and have unfavourable track records. All was not well for political parties either.

MDC leaders whispered to the media that they no longer wanted Tsvangirai as their leader. They said his personal love scandals had cost them the vote and donors were livid. In Zanu-PF, senior leaders jostled to position themselves to succeed Mugabe, resulting in public fall-outs that embarrassed the party and revealed that, though the party swept the poll, it would have to work hard to put paper over its cracks.

The political squabbles took their toll on the economy, with investors, fearing instability, taking their funds offshore. For a moment, there was hope when the government unveiled its five-year economic blueprint, Zim Asset. But the excitement vanished quickly when it emerged that there was no plan on how to fund the revival programme. Worryingly, for the first time, Harare has staggered the payment of salaries and bonuses for civil servants. Parliament sent its MPs home as it had no money to sustain them.

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