/ 15 December 2018

Reform on the cards as Zanu-PF shifts hardline stance

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the official opening of Zanu-PF's annual conference in Esigodini
Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the official opening of Zanu-PF's annual conference in Esigodini, outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

When Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa took to the podium to close Zanu-PF’s annual conference, he had a message that party members have not heard for decades: the governing party must reform.

Lacking his predecessor Robert Mugabe’s oratory, Mnangagwa failed to woo the crowds, but was clear that the party and government would be taking a different path under his stewardship.

Mnangagwa’s rule received a boost as all the party’s wings passed a resolution stating that he should be Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate in 2023, effectively shutting ambitious members out of the top job.

Addressing members at the end of the five-day conference on Saturday in Esigodini in the Matabeleland South province, Mnangagwa said Zanu-PF in particular and Zimbabwe in general must now embrace the rule of law and constitutionalism.

Mnangagwa pledged to roll out economic and legislative reforms such as amending the restrictive Mugabe era security and media laws such as the Public Order and Security act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of privacy Act (AIPPA).

“We are in the process of reforming the party and we have the duty and burden to explain those reforms to our people,” he said.

That message of reform also came from the party’s committees, a resolution urging government to further improve relations with the US and lobby for the removal of American sanctions.

In a departure from the hardline stance the party took under Mugabe, the conference resolved that government should continue with its re-engagement drive to strengthen relations with other countries and ensure multilateral rather than a unilateral approach to matters.

Outlining the resolutions that the party had adopted, Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda said these included amending the constitution to ensure that the woman’s parliamentary quota is extended.

He said the party had also adopted resolutions to ensure that “all war veterans are given land”. Mudenda said the party had also made a resolution for former colonial power Britain to return to Zimbabwe all body parts taken as war trophies, such as that of chiefs Mashayamombe and Chingaira.

The party resolved to continue with the fight against corruption and to set up its own television station to explain its policies to the party. Zanu-PF currently runs a newspaper, The Voice and the public media in Zimbabwe acts as a mouthpiece of the rural party.

To those following proceedings of the party’s indaba from outside, the Zanu-PF conference, like all previous ones ended as a mere talk shop. It did not address bread and butter issues, including immediate concerns of people. There was no mention of the nationwide doctors’ strike that has paralysed operations at hospitals, leaving patients stranded. 

No concrete solutions were proffered on people being paid in Zimbabwe bond notes while many businesses including pharmacies are demanding payment in foreign currency. There was no position on increasing calls to either join the rand union or pay workers in foreign currency as a result of inflation that was below five percent and rose to 20% recently.

Mnangagwa acknowledged that Zanu-PF’s conference was being held at a time of crisis against the backdrop of an economy which is characterised by fuel shortages, high cost of drugs, medicines, farming inputs and fertilisers as well as a wide range of basic commodities, but did not proffer any solutions.

Mnangagwa critic and former information Minister Jonathan Moyo summed up the failure to address pressing issues when he posted on twitter as the party was winding down its indaba: “Poor leaders with no vision think of the next election; while great leaders with a vision solve problems today.”

Former student leader, Makomborero Haruzivishe said Mnangagwa’s handicap which showed at the conference is that, since coming to power, he has been making promises, but there is nothing concrete yet on the ground in terms of delivering.

He said the party’s resolutions on land shows that it has failed to put its chaotic land reform programme to rest, 18 years after it introduced the forcible take-over of white owned farms.

“The war veterans have already benefited. They got land, they got $50 000 pay-outs. The resolution shows that they want to continue to rob,” he said.

“Mnangagwa cannot continue to make further promises when he has not met basic promises he made before the election. He made promises on health care but right now doctors are on strike and they are complaining of lack of medicines in hospitals. Teachers who were marching have been arrested in Macheke today for demanding payment in US dollars. The conference should have made resolutions on priorities such as the issue of unemployment.”