EDITORIAL COMMENT:Fighting the feet of clay

On Friday, President Mugabe told delegates to Zanu-PF’s 16th Annual National People’s Conference in Masvingo that they had arrived at the perfect forum for them to discuss their differences and find common ground as the ruling party heads into what could be a make or break year.

The New Year is pivotal for two inter-related reasons for both Zanu-PF and the entire nation of Zimbabwe. Firstly, after a not so stellar economic performance in 2016, the next 12 months will determine whether or not the interventions rolled out to make things better will actually work.

For millions of ordinary Zimbabweans, this is an existential issue, a bread and butter one that demands a positive outcome as soon as possible.

The next 12 months will tell us if Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 can spur local capacity utilisation to levels that inspire real economic development as measured by creating jobs and putting food on people’s tables.

The next 12 months will tell us if bond notes can boost export earnings to a degree that the country’s foreign currency account looks much better than it presently does.

The next 12 months will tell us if Command Agriculture can guarantee national food security and return Zimbabwe to the status of being a net producer of grain.

The next 12 months will tell us if we are serious about implementing the many agreements we have signed with Chinese, Russian and other companies to trigger real socio-economic transformation. That is, generally speaking, the economic story of 2017.

That economic story is tied to a political one. That political story is as much an existential one for Zanu-PF as the economic one is an existential one for the citizens of our country.

Zanu-PF’s continued existence as the dominant player in the politics of Zimbabwe depends on how well its Government deals with the economic issues that are keeping Zimbabweans standing in banking queues, battling to feed their families and fighting to keep their children healthy and in schools.

How Zanu-PF deals with the economy will have a huge bearing on how the party performs in the 2018 harmonised elections. We all know that the opposition is a motley crew who whether individually or in a coalition do not look capable of scoring anything except own goals. But that does not mean Zanu-PF should become complacent.

Rather, the ruling party should use the diminishing threat posed by the opposition parties as an opportunity to focus on the real things that matter, such as livelihoods, instead of expending energy on round-and-round petty political battles.

In the same vein, the ruling party cannot be wasting valuable time, energy and resources on internecine strife that does nothing at all to improve the way the people of Zimbabwe live. It is within this context that we started this week by pointing out President Mugabe’s advice and admonishment to delegates to the National People’s Conference on how they should conduct themselves.

The Conference was the right place for them to thrash out any internal contradictions that were pulling Zanu-PF down, President Mugabe said.

He also pointed out that the private media had no interest in building Zanu-PF and its Government, hence it was folly for ruling party officials to run there with unedifying stories and dirty linen that did nothing to advance the real issues.

President Mugabe went on to say — perhaps for the millionth time in the last couple of years — Facebook and Twitter were not the fora at which to play out Zanu-PF’s internal politics.

All the senior officials present either applauded the President for that statement, or gravely nodded their heads in approbation. Needless to say, soon after warning senior party officials about their actions, the frenzied tweeting went into overdrive.

This is emblematic of everything that is wrong with Zanu-PF. There are too many officials who are all talk and not action, they rarely — if ever — live up to what is expected of them or what they claim to stand for.

The ruling party has some people in key positions who are in love with the idea of supporting President Mugabe and telling anyone who cares to listen that Zimbabwe’s leader is right.

President Mugabe is right, they say, but we are not him, cannot be like him, and will not hold ourselves to the same standard. It is for that reason that the economy is wheezing.

Officials will shout down corruption and then put on Robin Hood’s robes when the till refuses to close because they are elbow-deep into it.

Officials will extol the virtues of hard work and then sleep at the wheel when they are supposed to be implementing economic turnaround programmes. Before President Mugabe spoke, Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi told delegates about the statue in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

It is the story of decline: a golden head; arms and chest of silver; belly and thighs of bronze; legs of iron; and then finally feet of iron and clay. The year 2017, for Zanu-PF and for the economy, is a year of fighting the feet of clay.

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