Politics of Populism, Expediency Wrecks Zimbabwe's Democracy, Economy

By Prince Tongogara

Political populism and expediency are the new watch-words in Zanu PF politics as it continue to hoodwink Zimbabweans and entrenching its rule despite clear evidence of collapsing the economy and closing down democratic spaces in national politics.

The two issues have been popularized recently by Zanu PF novice but influential politicians like Grace Mugabe and Joseph Chinotimba.

To the two, political expediency is everything and damn its consequences in the medium to long term. They do not care that political expediency is like a placebo – it just makes a person feel better temporarily but it does not cure the problem.

The two novices being cheered by their party, in their wisdom have turned Harare into the country’s largest flea-market, a traffic jungle and generally a disorderly city despite its signage line of being a Sun Shine City.

Grace in her maiden national rallies last year wooed vendors and other party functionaries to her political camp by preaching that illegal vending was not a crime and municipal officers should not harass vendors.

She chided municipal police officers and Zimbabwe Republic police officers who were enforcing council by-laws by arrested illegal vendors in the central business district centre. Grace’s calls were immediately taken to heart and became a law among the unemployed and streetwise political operators. Within weeks Grassroots Empowerment had become a famous name in the vending circles.

It erected several tents at open spaces in the capital, divided and allocated vending stalls to Zanu PF members. Vending space was allocated primarily based on Zanu PF membership and affiliation to the empowerment organisation.

Vendors pay a daily fee to the organisation to be allowed to operate from the tents which are immune from municipal police officers raids and harassment.

Other entrepreneurs have also joined the bandwagon of economic empowerment and hired multitudes of youths to do street marketing of pesticides in the city using hailers. Not only are they making noise pollution with their hailers and the streets impassable but also the quality/standards of their pesticides remain unknown.

In pursuit of political correctness, municipal and ZRP officers have folded their arms and left the vendors to be a law unto themselves. The city now has 5 000 plus vendors on its streets every day.

This phenomenon has its own challenges like chasing big business players from the CBD now congested, impassable and where most of the illegal vendors sell the same goods sold in licensed shop just outside the shops.

Chinotimba has entered the fray in his clownish manner holding a one man demonstration in support of illegal taxi operators in the city. The illegal taxi operators run shuttle services across the town from undesignated pick up points, have no regard for traffic regulations, are uninsured and more often than not carry more passengers than their cars are designed to transport.

While these populist stances bring Zanu PF immediate and temporary support, the reality of the matter remains that these actions are further hurtling the economy towards implosion. No one in Zanu PF seems to be thinking what effect does vending of second hand clothes has on local textile industry. Zanu PF is further not bothered to inquire into the cost of importing cheap Chinese goods on the capital account. And more importantly what perception these seemingly innocuous actions have on big business investors.

For now it seems we are back into the pre-election mode like 2013 when the government ordered local authorities to write-off residents’ water and rates debts without regard to the effect on the finances of councils.

For now, Zanu PF continues perfecting politics of populism and expediency while the economic structures are collapsing and many workers than ever before are retrenched as companies fold.