By Sij Ncube Harare, January 26 – PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe (pictured) finally returned home from a month long holiday in the Far East and the Gulf weekend to the same shrinking economy and infighting within his party.
In his absence, the near 92-year-old leader ignored clamours from his political opponents to cut short his annual vacation so he could come and lead efforts aimed at finding quick solutions to a government pay crisis, drought catastrophe and endless fights within Zanu PF.
Now that he is back in full force, can things start turning for the better?
Harare based blogger Takura Zhangazha thinks otherwise.
“No there is no magic wand on the part of the President,” said Zhangazha. “What there will however be is the challenge of the drought which will force government’s hand in order to alleviate the hunger crisis afflicting the country. But overally, it will be more of the same, with government moving away from playing a direct role in helping people and privatising social services.”
Mugabe returns as the deadly race to succeed him reached new levels after the offices of his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa were broken into while a live bullet was allegedly sent to Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane by suspected opponents in Zanu PF, sparking fear in the hearts and minds of party officials.
Police say they have handed over investigations into the break-in to Zanu PF, an issue Mugabe is expected to grapple with following his return.
Although speculation is rife the Hlongwane incident could be a political stunt by the young minister in attempts to further his political fortune in the faction-riddled Zanu PF, party faithful wait to see how the Machiavellian Mugabe would deal with the latest political shenanigans to rock his party.
The Hlongwane issue has taken a new twist after the Midlands Zanu PF disciplinary committee acquitted party members fingered in his alleged harassment and those of three other young ministers said to be linked to the G40 camp.
The three recently wrote to the Zanu PF leadership alleging political harassment by the Midlands members linked to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s camp. But it would appear the Midlands political fiasco is far from over with speculation swirling the Mnangagwa camp could have influenced the outcome of the disciplinary hearing to spite Hlongwane and the other Midlands political upstart.
Already there are calls for the recall of Hlongwane and the other two ministers in the wake of the acquittal of their alleged accusers, including controversial Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator, Mayor Wadyajena.
But insiders point other that factionalism is not only limited in the Midlands province but has ravaged all the other nine political provinces, pointing at the other upheavals in the party’s structures and the general membership highlighted this week by clashes between war veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa and former government spin-doctor Jonathan Moyo.
Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba, in his boss’s absence, appeared to show his hands in the Zanu PF factional politics by publicly aligning himself with Mnangagwa when he accused unnamed officials in the party of using party structures to plot against Mugabe’s long taunted heir apparent.
Mugabe was expected to announce firm measures to drive the economy in 2016 upon his written but was mum on the issue, giving credence to assertions he also remains clueless.
There is discord over Mugabe’s black economic law with his cabinet minister issuing conflicting statements during his absence. Rashweat Mukundu, a media consultant and analyst, says Mugabe would need to move with speed to give direction on the economy and pressing socio issues especially the drought.
“His absence created a power vacuum in policy and the hope is that his presence can see an acceleration of government reaction to the challenges Zimbabwe is facing. Effort and energy must be directed towards ending the succession wars and refocusing on critical issues,” said Mukundu.
More than a million rural Zimbabweans are reportedly in urgent need of food relief while an increasing number of urbanites are said to be queuing to join the ranks of food scavengers. Industry has also sounded alarm bells warning more companies could close during the first quarter of the year due to the prevailing harsh economic environment.
Even the weekend visit by Teodoro Obiang Nguema, president of the oil rich Equatorial Guinea president has failed to excite the market whose stock exchange in 2015 suffered an estimated one billion losses and so are the mega-deals Mugabe’s administration “clinched” with China, Russia and Africa’s billionaire Aliko Dangote.
Maxwell Saungweme, a political and development analyst, believes Mugabe’s return is only important for the Zanu PF internal power struggles as it has been an issue on who should act as VP in Mugabe’s absence.
“Apart from that, with or without him 2016 prognosis remains bleak. We face a three pronged emergency- drought, economic collapse, and political crisis. Mugabe cannot resolve these issue. “He has failed in 30 years, and he can’t do now what he failed over 3 decades. He has no magic pill for our problems. He is part of the problems and so trapped into the problems that he can’t help resolve them. He can only help by stepping aside and allow a transitional order to run the country while we dismantle Zanu PF infrastructure of violence, before holding free and fair elections. The rest will follow.”