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Mnangagwa’s challenge, win the crowd or the economy

By Wisdom Mumera

After Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube’s monetary policy statement delivered recently, the only unanimous point agreed upon across the political landscape is that the country is in a deep economic hole.

Differences, however, start when questions are asked as to how we ended up in this hole. Who dug us into this hole or even how we are going to get out of it.

According to economist Dr Godfrey Kanyenze, the fact of the matter is that the names of the culprits are there and only political will is absent in facing the problem.

“In 2015, the government adopted the RBZ Debt Assumption Act, of $1,35 billion of the mechanization program. The tractors, the basic commodities supply-side intervention, all those things, taking over that debt created real challenges in the whole macroeconomics framework.

“What is very critical is that the Government of National Unity (GNU) had agreed that those who had benefitted must pay. But now we are saying we have a budget deficit as if it came from nowhere,” he said while speaking at Sapes Trust.

Apologists or pragmatists like Ashok Chakravarti, a government economic advisor, has chosen to go for a Christian approach to the problem, forgiving and forgetting the causatives so that the whole nation shoulders the burden.

As the backlash from the monetary measures has erupted especially on social media where the government has been attacked incessantly for foisting upon the rest (public) a debt accrued by a select few (political elites), the strength of the political centre to hold against the negative public winds has increasingly come into question.

More so over a few months after an election win that was not convincing by any stretch and required a courtroom ruling to gain traction.

Mugabe continuously failed to stick to economic principles whenever they clashed with politics, choosing to appease the electorate for the short terms gains against the long-term economic positives.

He gave civil servants bonuses that Chinamasa had stopped. He forced councils to write-off debts precipitating poor service delivery still manifesting in cholera outbreaks today.

Mnangagwa now faces his own challenge. Should he appease the electorate and salvage some support by stopping the new taxes or he should allow the much-vaunted technocrat to have his way?

Eddie Cross, an economist and former MDC executive member thinks the technocrat should have his way.

“To address the fiscal deficit, we have to look at increasing revenue, which means higher taxes. I think the new minister must dictate to the Cabinet what he is going to do.

Choosing the former may gain Mnangagwa some positives down the years as he may turn out to be the man who repaired Zimbabwe after the damage from the Mugabe years.

However, the interim of choosing the painful way is that there is going to be a lot of suffering and most potently a lot of political heat from both his opponents and allies who can’t stomach the pain.

Mnangagwa’s political hold is still tenuous and is yet to inspire confidence that he has everything within his control. Rumours have persisted of subtly fought internal wars. That doesn’t bode well with allowing the new tax regime to reign.

It may be his political undoing.

Stopping the radical monetary measures and acting the father figure could win him sentimental support across the political divide but could worsen the economic situation.

However, another worse scenario exists, which is that Mnangagwa may simply be at the deep end of a hole too deep for himself and his corrupt and unrepentant cronies.

Does Zanu PF have in itself the political consciousness to reinvent itself and repent into something progressive? Time has shown that it doesn’t and that makes the future even bleaker technocrat or no technocrat.

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