Zimbabwe government accused of remaining unaccountable

President Mnangagwa meets heads of Zimbabwe diplomatic missions, while flanked by Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga (right) and Kembo Mohadi in Harare yesterday. — (Pictures Memory Mangombe)

Johannesburg – Political analysts in Zimbabwe have lashed out at the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, saying it remains unaccountable on human rights abuses.

The scathing attack follows the promotion of Anselem Sanyatwe to the rank of major-general only days before the Mothlanthe Commission into post-electoral violence on August 1 established that the military and police were responsible for the shooting deaths of a number of civilians, Pindula News reported on Monday.

“Those particular members of the military and the police found to have been in breach of their professional duties and discipline on the 1 August 2018 should be identified as soon as possible for internal investigations and appropriate sanction, which should include hearing from the victims and their families for impact assessment and to provide the necessary compensation,” part of the commission’s report read.

However, according to a weekend blog by legal expert and political analyst, Alex Magaisa, “the commission’s verdict dismissed as false and dishonest, the weak defence and explanations that were given by senior military commanders during the hearings”, after they denied that the deaths were a result of the actions of the military whose professionalism they defended.

“The effect of the commission’s damning verdict is that these testimonies were false. This is a serious indictment on the integrity of military commanders who had vehemently vouched for the professionalism of their forces,” Magaisa said.

Another analyst, Macdonald Lewanika said Mnangagwa must come clean on the military, Pindula News reported.

“It is curious that directly involved parties would be promoted prior to the finalisation of a matter that they are party to,” Lewanika said.

“But that is the nature of this state and its regime, accountability is virtually non-existent, and promotions appear based on personal loyalties to those who hold the levers of power more than any discernible successes and competencies that the public can identify with.”

Economy

At Solomon Chakauya’s grocery store in Zimbabwe’s Chinamhora district outside Harare, there’s no sign of the seasonal Christmas rush that he needs to keep his business afloat.

Even in the country’s toughest times, sales rocketed in the days before Christmas, but this year few people are able to buy anything.

It is a far cry from the revived economy that President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised more than a year ago when he took over from the ousted Robert Mugabe.

Instead, shortages of bread, cooking oil and fuel have worsened in recent months, banknotes become even scarcer and shop shelves have often been left bare.

“In previous years, people would stream in to buy things like rice, oil, biscuits, sweets, soup powder and drinks. It was so busy I would be on my feet all day,” Chakauya, 29, told AFP.

“Things are tough and most people have no money.”

But over this holiday season, Chakauya has sometimes had only four customers a day, leaving him to kill time sitting in the shade in front of his store.

Local villager Emilda Chingarambe said that for the first time in many years she could not buy her two daughters new clothes for Christmas day.

“I don’t consider it Christmas at all,” said Chingarambe whose husband works part-time as a labourer tilling fields.

“There is no bread in the shops. We can’t afford flour and groceries we usually buy for Christmas.”

Shortages have fuelled a ferocious climb in prices and long queues.

In Chinamhora, a litre of cooking oil was around $3.50 in early September and is now selling for $10. Inflation is officially 20 percent.

Once ubiquitous soft drinks such as Coca-Cola and the local Mazoe juice have also become hard to find.

“I haven’t seen Coca-Cola in the last two months,” Chingarambe said.

– No post-Mugabe boom –

Zimbabwe’s economy has been in dire straits since hyperinflation wiped out savings between 2007 and 2009 and the Zimbabwean dollar was abandoned.

Under Mugabe, farms were seized, agriculture collapsed and investors fled as the country became internationally isolated.

Mugabe’s fall last year saw Mnangagwa — his former deputy — claim that he represented a fresh start.

But the country has only lurched into fresh economic trouble after July that failed to encourage foreign investors or to unleash a flood of aid.

“The challenges have dampened the festive mood,” Prosper Chitambara, economist at the think-tank Labour and Economic Research Institute, told AFP.

“It does not look like there is going to be an immediate end to the queues and shortages. Next year, there is going to be lots of pressure on the government to increase salaries which will put pressure on expenditure.”

The latest downturn erupted two months ago when finance minister Mthuli Ncube announced a two-percent tax on all electronic transactions to increase revenue.

Zimbabweans rely on electronic payments in US dollars, which are in short supply and function as the main currency. The local “bond note” currency is little trusted.

Many shops and pharmacies have closed down in the capital, Harare. Those still operating charge much more when customers pay electronically or in bond notes than in US dollars.

In one shop, a bottle of paracetamol syrup is 3 US dollars in cash, 15 dollars in bond notes — and 17 dollars when using a bank card.

Doctors at state hospitals have been on strike for the past three weeks demanding salaries in US dollars while a group of teachers completed a 200-kilometre (125-mile) walk from the eastern city of Mutare to Harare to demand better pay.

At the ruling ZANU-PF party last week, Mnangagwa admitted the economy “was characterised by fuel shortages, high cost of drugs, medicines (and) wide range of basic commodities.”

He offered little immediate relief, instead blaming “gluttonous” businesses for price rises that “resulted in untold suffering to the majority of our people.”

Corruption

Zimbabwe’s transition to a democratic and economic recovery is shadowy due to a lack of political will to fight corruption, a local political think tank has said.

In its December 2018 report, titled “Zimbabwe Transition in a Prisoner’s Dilemma: Perceptions on Corruption Reduction and Service Delivery in the Mnangagwa Dispensation”, the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) said political corruption remained a stumbling block in government’s quest to fight graft.

“Respondents perceived that President Mnangagwa’s government is not genuine in dealing with political corruption, as less than 45% of sampled service consumers for all public institutions perceived some genuineness in government anti-corruption efforts,” ZDI principal researcher Bekezela Gumbo said.

He said the study found that corruption remained high in key public institutions like the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID), public hospitals, courts and the Registrar General’s Office, which issues passports, birth and death certificates.

“The findings reveal that petty corruption might have entered a period of decrease due to the fear factor associated with the Mnangagwa administration, while grand corruption and political corruption continue unabated,” Gumbo said.

“The Mnangagwa administration will not legitimately claim transition until it addresses these decays perceived by the people since it is the people and them alone who can give legitimate feedback.”

He said government seemed to be more committed to consolidating power and fighting opponents.

“Zimbabwe’s transition is going nowhere anytime soon. It is in a prisoner’s dilemma. The necessary political leadership to initiate and sustain transition and reform is missing,” the ZDI boss said.

Since Mnangagwa usurped power last November, only people perceived to have been loyal to his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, have been arrested on allegations of corruption.

Among those arrested are former minister Supa Mandiwanzira, Ignatius Chombo, Samuel Undenge, David Parirenyatwa, Joseph Made, Walter Mzembi, Saviour Kasukuwere and Walter Chidakwa.