Zimbabwe’s Ruling Party Hopes for Economic Turnaround

Less than a month after a military intervention forced longtime leader Robert Mugabe to step down, new leaders of the ruling ZANU-PF party have big plans for Zimbabwe.

Retired General Sibusiso Moyo announced the military takeover on November 15 and has been appointed to serve as foreign minister. He sees opportunities to revive Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.

“Our primary interest at the moment is economic development and emancipation of our people,” Moyo told VOA’s Zimbabwe Service. Zimbabwe’s long-ailing economy will recover, according to Moyo, through direct foreign investment, tourism and exports to worldwide markets.

ZANU-PF hopes to jump-start the economy by collaborating with Zimbabweans in the diaspora and creating a more appealing environment for investment. “We are opening up to all our friends,” Moyo said.

‘Zimbabwe isn’t poor’

The ruling party is right to focus on Zimbabwe’s economy as it defines its post-Mugabe platform, according to Chipo Dendere, a visiting assistant professor of political science at Amherst College in Massachusetts. But to truly open up, the country must come to terms with endemic corruption. 

“Zimbabwe isn’t poor,” Dendere told VOA, speaking over the phone from Harare. In fact, the country is endowed with valuable minerals such as gold, diamonds and platinum. But, Dendere said, the wealth has been stolen. During Mugabe’s regime, he and his allies stole more than $2 billion in diamond revenue, according to Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), a group tracking mismanagement of global natural resources. 

So far, the government seems to be putting pressure on officials to bring back money, according to Dendere. But with so many people who have stolen, it’s unclear how the government will serve a greater good without violating human rights or falling into partisan traps.

“If the government fails to deal with the economic challenges, then Zimbabwe is going to be in great disarray,” Dendere said. Fixing Zimbabwe’s economy begins with addressing its many infrastructure problems, such as pothole-ridden roads and an aging and leaky water system.

Real change?

Some, including Dendere, remain skeptical that ZANU-PF will enact real change. “It’s one thing to be excited about a new government. But I think people need to be cognizant of the fact that the people that are in power right now … are the same people that have been in power for the last 37 years,” Dendere said.

The government has not, in fact, changed, Moyo conceded, but it will do things differently with new personalities in power.

Dendere, meanwhile, questions what’s new. The ideology for the ruling party is unlikely to change, she said, based on language used at the party congress this month.

Still, Moyo sees opportunities for dialogue and improvement. “We are not a government of a party. We are a government of all the people of Zimbabwe. And therefore, when there are issues which need dialogue, they must be discussed in house,” Moyo said.

For Dendere, aspects of ZANU-PF’s legacy are, in fact, worthwhile. “This is the legacy that brought us independence, the end of colonialism. But it’s also the legacy that gave a lot of power to one party and the centralization and consolidation of power around the president and the people that are closest to him.”

Space for opposition

Zimbabwe is due to hold elections next year. ZANU-PF will have more than half a year to consolidate power and win over citizens who had become disenchanted with Mugabe’s rule. But Dendere said opposition parties would be more competitive than ever in 2018 if they could hone their messaging.

The MDC Alliance represents eight opposition parties. They’ve struggled to convey a compelling message, Dendere said, because ZANU-PF has co-opted their old mantra: Mugabe must go. Now, they need to find a voice of their own.

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