PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is pulling all stops to win a second full term in next year’s elections amid fears that some of his initiatives will leave the economy in ruin.
Mnangagwa’s government recently announced that it will be paying gratuities and pensions to a new batch of 160 000 war veterans, ex-political prisoners and war collaborators.
The move is seen as a Zanu PF election strategy since war veterans, ex-political prisoners and war collaborators are part of the ruling party’s structures.
It has also drawn parallels to the 1997 move by the late Robert Mugabe’s regime to pay hefty gratuities and pensions to
50 000 war veterans, leading to the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar.
Former Zanu PF politburo member and liberation war stalwart Rugare Gumbo said the number of former fighters the government says it wants to compensate did not make sense.
“The figure published by the government is disputable,” Gumbo told The Standard.
“I don’t know the reason why the authorities are inflating the figures.”
Liberation Veterans Pressure Group chairman Amos Sigauke also said the figures were inflated.
“We should now be less than 34 000 because the ex-combatants are dying,” Sigauke said.
“They want to rip off deserving war veterans and give the money to Zanu PF youths ahead of 2023.”
In 1989, there were 30 000 war veterans across the country and the number has kept on increasing with analysts saying the government was creating ghost ex-combatants.
Pardon Taodzera, a political analyst, said the government had a history of putting ghost workers on its payroll as payment for campaigning for the ruling party.
“Remember, during the time of the unity government a lot of ghost workers were unearthed, who later turned out to be Zanu PF youths,” Tadzorea said.
“Now the government wants to smuggle its youths disguised as war veterans.”
Harare-based economist Prosper Chitambara said the economy will pay a huge price as billions were being splashed to win votes.
“This explains why there could be a huge increase in broad money supply within the economy and obviously that increase in money supply has also stocked up inflationary pressures,” Chitambara said.
“So the financing of these projects has caused a bit of instability.”
Mnangagwa’s government has been spending big on projects, especially targeted at elusive urban voters such as drilling of boreholes and rehabilitation of roads, which economists say could boomerang.
In March, Zanu PF revealed plans to drill boreholes in all cities and towns, in what critics said was a vote buying gimmick.
Yesterday, Mnangagwa commissioned one such borehole in Harare’s Glen view and the trucks carrying the rigs were emblazoned with his image.
For road works, the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority has so far poured just over $9.5 billion under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme with $17 billion set aside for 2022.
Last month, Mnangagwa pampered chiefs in Binga with fishing rigs, fulfilling a promise made ahead of the March 26 by-elections.
Zanu PF went all out to win Binga North, but lost the seat to the Citizens Coalition for Change.
Binga will also get a vocational training centre and a new border post, boreholes, nursing school at Binga Hospital and the refurbishment and operationalisation of the hospital mortuary ahead of the 2023 elections.
Traditional leaders across the country have been promised medical aid, fuel coupones, data bundles, and free car services including payment in foreign currency that civil servants are clamouring for as the local currency tanks.
Methuseli Moyo, a political analyst and university lecturer, said the fact that most of the projects were being fast-tracked ahead of the elections betrayed the government’s intentions.
“If the government really wanted to do projects, the money has always been there but the issue was that the money was being diverted for other things…and now they are trying to do so much ahead of elections,” Moyo said.
“So in a way it can boomerang, it may have a backlash.”
Zanu PF Harare provincial chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa in March unwittingly disclosed at a party rally in Glen Norah B that war collaborators were being vetted to vote for the ruling party.
International Monetary Fund representative for Zimbabwe Carlos Cacere told our sister publication, the Zimbabwe Independent, that the pledge to pay the gratuities and pensions was a cause for concern.
“It is not that compensation is good or bad but for us the concern at the end of the day is the generation of public debt and this comes in addition to an already unsustainable debt,” Cacere said.
“Our concern is more from that area of debt and not from a political angle and not whether lower income people who have lost money in the past should be paid.” – The Standard