Mugabe Started Zim’s Political Patronage
2 April 2022
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By Nomusa Garikai- There will be no meaningful economic recovery as long as Zimbabwe remains a pariah state ruled by corrupt and incompetent thugs who rig elections to stay in power. Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reminded us all (for the umpteenth time) of this political and economic reality at the conclusion of the Board’s Article IV Consultation with Zimbabwe on 21 March 2022.

“IMF reports have repeated calls on the need for inclusive growth and sincerity in reengaging the international community,” commented Victor Bhoroma in an article in Bulawayo 24.

“Other areas of concern include the need for coordination between fiscal, foreign-exchange and monetary policies to guarantee market stability. Structural reforms aimed at improving the business climate (streamlining taxation, exchange control and trade policies) and curbing corruption through prosecuting high-profile cases remain key to Zimbabwe’s path to stability.

“In February 2020, IMF warned that Zimbabwe’s reform agenda was off track and the government needed to urgently address governance and corruption challenges, entrenched vested interests, and improve enforcement of the rule of law to improve the business climate and support private sector led inclusive growth.”

President Mnangagwa’s political power base, like that of Robert Mugabe before him, is founded on political patronage, in which he, as the top dog dishes out wealth and power to those below him in return for their continued blind political support. Any meaningful political and economic reforms cannot be carried out without dismantling the patronage system. Dismantle the patronage system and Mnangagwa and Zanu PF will lose, overnight, their iron grip on power.

Zanu PF’s political patronage system dates back to 1980. 

In a recent interview with Trevor Ncube, in Conversation With Trevor, Dr Simba Makoni revealed how within just a few months after independence in 1980 then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe surprised his ministers and deputy ministers by replacing their Ian Smith issued Peugeot 504 ministerial cars with Mercedes Benz limousines. The limousines had not been budgeted for none was the purchase ever discussed much less approved by cabinet. Of course, everyone was chuffed to bits with their limo!

The limo gift was followed by generous salaries and allowance for the chefs. Before long ministers and deputy ministers had three or four up market vehicles parked in the forecourt for their exclusive use.

Members of Parliament, senior officials in the civil service, Army, Police, Judiciary, parastatals, etc., etc. all received similar privileges. It was very common to hear of how parastatals like NRZ or ZESA was failing to pay its debts or the lowly paid workers’ wages and yet was spending millions of imported cars or other trappings of power for top managers.

What Mugabe did back in 1980 by buying the fleet of limos for his ministers and deputy ministers was to kick start Zimbabwe’s political patronage system; he bribed the cabinet with very expensive gifts and privileges and in return they gave him their blind loyalty. It is no exaggeration that Robert Mugabe enjoyed the status of a demigod whose word was the law, no one dared to question.

“Mose murivakadzi vaMugabe!” (You are all Mugabe’s subservient concubines!) scolded Margaret Dongo in sheer exasperation. She was talking about her fellow Zanu PF MPs and ministers’ repeated failure to challenge Robert Mugabe over anything, even on such serious matters as the 1983 to 1987 Gukurahundi massacre when the tyrant was clearly wrong.

Joice Mujuru was in Mugabe’s cabinet from 1980 and rose through the ranks to become VP in 2004 to 2014 when was she and a coterie of her supporters were booted out of the party. It was only she was no longer in the party that she dared to criticize Mugabe. “A puppy does not open its eyes the day it is born!” was her feeble explanation.

Of course, it was nonsense! Dotito (that is where Joice Mujuru comes from) dogs would have lifespans of hundreds of years if their puppies took 34 years just to open their eyes!

The Zanu PF political patronage system with its extravagant spending and waste was Zimbabwe’s economic undoing just as the blind loyalty to those in positions of power and authority marked the descend into totalitarianism and autocracy. By the end of the first decade of Zimbabwe’s independence the country’s economic decline was clear and undeniable.

So, in 1990 President Mugabe went, cap in hand, to IMF, WB and other financial institution begging for financial assistance. Zimbabwe signed the first of two five-year Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) with IMF and WB in which the regime was given the financial assistance on condition it carried out economic and political reforms and dismantle its political patronage system.

“Everyone must tighten their belt!” argued Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance throughout the ESAP years, Dr Bernard Chidzero.

Government reduced funding of public education, health care and many other areas affecting the ordinary people, forcing them to tighten their belts. The ruling elite continued to enjoy their expensive and wasteful lifestyles. They loosened their belts to accommodate the ever-growing potbellies!

President Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF cronies’ appetite for absolute power and the good-life it brought has been insatiable. Even now with the national economic in total meltdown forcing millions of ordinary Zimbabweans to live in abject poverty; still Mnangagwa will not dare implement any reforms that would impinge in any way on the potbelly brigade’s political power and/or extravagant lifestyles.

IMF has called on Zimbabwe to implement meaningful economic and political reforms to arrest the country’s worsening economic meltdown and end the tragic human misery it has caused. Sadly, Mnangagwa has not listened fearful of losing power if implemented any reforms. It is high time every thinking Zimbabwean out there join in demanding meaningful economic and political reforms because the economic meltdown has pushed this nation of the edge of the precipitous abyss.

“It is evident that the government knows what needs to be done and what is lacking is the appetite and political will to reform,” concluded Victor Bhoroma.

Of course, Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF cronies knows they must dismantle the Zanu PF dictatorship, they lack the appetite and political will to reform because they don’t care about the tragic human suffering the dictatorship has cause. We, the Zimbabweans, have done nothing to stop Zanu PF destroy the nation’s economy and with it our hopes, dreams and our future. It is incumbent on all Zimbabweans to make sure all meaningful economic and political reforms are implemented before it is too late, before Zanu PF drags the nation over the edge into the abyss!