2018 polls: It is do or die

It is akin to Armageddon.

For the two major political parties — Zanu-PF and MDC-T — July 30, 2018 represents the ultimate battle.

Both camps have admitted as much, calling it a watershed election that will materially shape Zimbabwe’s politics and economics in the 21st century.

For either party, the elections are not merely about winning, they are an existential imperative. This is why for the opposition, Zanu-PF should be cast as the monster. There was a seismic shift in November 2017 and the opposition knows that a definitive victory for Zanu-PF in this year’s elections will spell MDC-T’s end as a national political proposition.

It is often argued that Zimbabwe’s economic challenges, which became more pointed after “Black Friday” (November 14, 1997) when the value of the local currency tanked by more than 71,5 percent against the US dollar, have always provided a tailwind for the opposition’s political relevance.

But since late 2017, the new political administration, which is business savvy, has been chipping away at the challenges affecting the local economy, and — most worryingly for the opposition — it is making progress.

The progress has been quite telling.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries says not only has confidence risen in industry, but capacity utilisation, a measure of industrial activity, has risen from 45 percent to more than 50 percent.

Gold production in the January to May period jumped 65 percent to 13,3 tonnes from the same period a year earlier.

Many listed companies are recording solid results.

For example, Econet Wireless of Zimbabwe’s profits for the year ended February 28, 2018 rose by a jaw-dropping $96 million to $132 million from a year earlier.

FDI commitments are rising exponentially.

And one cannot ignore two key developments in the past week.

On June 11, Government signed a $1 billion deal with Chinese firm Tsingshan, which is already into local ferrochrome production through Afrochine, for establishment of a local stainless steel plant.

Two days later, mining major Tharisa Plc, which is dually listed on the Johannesburg and London stock exchanges, announced it was entering Zimbabwe through Karo Resources and extended $8 million for preliminary works.

The company also revealed that Zimbabweans would own a stake in all subsidiaries — Karo Platinum, Karo Coal, Karo Energy and Karo Refineries — which will embark on mining projects worth more than $4,2 billion.

In the platinum venture, Government will have a 50 percent stake, controlled through the Zimbabwe Investment Corporation, a special purpose vehicle; while in other ventures, with the exception of Karo Refineries (where Tharisa will have 75 percent), ZIC will own 10 percent, with employees and the community controlling 15 percent.

The investor, repeating an observation being made by several others, indicated it had stayed out of Zimbabwe “due to political uncertainty”, but “recent improvements in the political landscape have precipitated a decision by Tharisa”.

It gets better.

In 11 days, Ziscosteel shareholders will likely approve takeover of the company by Hong Kong Stock Exchange-listed Tian Li, a subsidiary of R&F Properties, in another billion-dollar deal.

This tide is fatal for the opposition. There have been precedents, and the opposition knows it.

Having also made a determined break from political nationalism to economic nationalism in 1978, just in the same way that Zanu-PF has signalled that it will be prioritising economics over politics,  China has made tremendous strides, lifting over 800 million of its 1,3 billion people out of poverty. It is on course to eradicate poverty in two years, a year shy of the ruling Communist Party of China centenary celebrations.

The Asian giant, which was dirt-poor 40 years ago, has already become the first country in the world to accomplish the UN millennium development goal of reducing poverty by half.

And this has not only ensured China’s stability, but it has undoubtedly strengthened the CPC’s hold on power.

But why refer to China?

Well, it has been one of the few countries in the world, if not the only one, that has come up with a development model anchored on far-reaching economic reforms that has challenged the capitalist and neo-liberal model that has been pushed as the only way forward for decades now.

In a statement to the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy in Washington on December 12, 2017, one of the MDC Alliance principals, Mr Tendai Biti, aptly captured the fear within the opposition.

“The real danger is that (the new political administration) will pursue a Beijing model . . .” he said.

These are the fears consuming Mr Chamisa.

In a presentation at Chatham House in London on May 8, a petulant Mr Chamisa told the UK government not to get close to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration.

This is why the opposition will throw everything but the kitchen sink to make sure that Zanu-PF doesn’t win.

This is why sanctions have to remain in place. This is why economic progress that has been made thus far must be ignored, and the investors who are making a beeline for Zimbabwe, no matter their strong reputation and investment record, must be called dodgy.

This is why Zanu-PF should continue to be viewed as a monster, a scarecrow, an abominable snowman.

The opposition will try to appropriate the economy success story, and it knows that if it gets Zanu-PF out of office this July, the current ruling party will find it extremely difficult to come back in. Ask Unip in Zambia.

In the same way the opposition has tried to claim sole responsibility for the moderate economic stability of the inclusive Government (2009-2013), it will try lay claim to the successes of President Mnangagwa’s Government.

After all, history is not told by the vanquished.

As the fresh-faced Zanu-PF ventures a further on its new path, it should not accept sympathy, it should not expect concessions from the opposition.

This is what makes July 30 a battle royale. After this date, things will never be the same again.

 

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