PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF party have shifted focus to the 2023 election, less than two years into a five-year term, while admitting that the administration was struggling to fulfil key electoral promises of the previous poll.
Mnangagwa yesterday told a meeting of his party’s politburo to shut out “negative noise” despite Zimbabwe’s economy facing its worst crisis in a decade amid shortages of hard currency, fuel, medicines and rolling power cuts.
Rising inflation is also eating into the workers’ spending power, stifling industrial growth and last week the International Monetary Fund cut the economy’s growth forecast to 0,8% from an earlier projection of 3,3%.
After winning a disputed poll in July 2018, which left the southern African country deeply polarised, Mnangagwa wants his party to “intensify” preparations for an election that is over three years away, and proffered no solutions to dealing with the current crisis, where at least half of Zimbabwe’s roughly 16 million people need food aid after a drought last year.
“The 2023 harmonised elections are just around the corner and we should now begin to intensify our preparation,” he said.
“As you are aware, we are fast approaching the halfway mark since we held our last elections.
Each department of the party must revisit the manifesto to measure our progress in the implementation of the programmes laid therein.”
Zimbabweans rejoiced when Mnangagwa succeeded long time ruler, the late Robert Mugabe, who was forced out by his army in November 2017, but frustration over the lack of improvement in the economy and rising shortages have led to violent clashes with the opposition and angry workers, who also accuse him of shrinking the democratic space.
“The party cannot afford to be preoccupied with sideshows and negative noises meant to cause despondency among our membership. The party should remain united and disciplined with us as members of the politburo leading the way,” Mnangagwa said.
“We expect reports highlighting concrete milestones achieved to date. Those targets within the manifesto that are lagging behind must be highlighted and intervention strategies proffered. The party must deliver on its promises.”
He decried the inaudible “party and government voice” in national debates and urged discipline.
“We must be cautious when making comments in the opposition papers as their editorial policies seldom advance the interest of the party. Let us, therefore, shame our detractors who thrive on any mistakes we make or any disunity we display,” he said.
“In the same vein, we are observing continued worrisome trends to advance the regime change agenda, not only in Zimbabwe and Zanu PF in particular, but also within all former liberation movements in our region.”
Opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who has called his rival “illegitimate” and refuses to recognise his 2018 electoral victory, criticised Mnangagwa’s talk about 2023 elections before instituting reforms.
“There is no 2023 or any future election without reforms. This country doesn’t belong to an individual, it belongs to Zimbabweans who need proper elections and their 2018 vote has to be respected,” Chamisa fumed.
“It cannot be a country that is always in election mode. Zimbabwe cannot be perpetually in election mode. We are the only country that talks politics while others talk of development. We breathe politics and slogans always, while other countries breathe oxygen.
“What 2023 campaign do you talk of when you have failed to deliver on power, fuel and cash? What election can you talk of when the health system has collapsed, education is in a crisis and there is no mealie meal in shops? Such utterances are not only reckless, but a danger to national stability.”
Mnangagwa said he had banned his ministers and senior government officials from travelling outside the country in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that has caused havoc in Asia, Europe and North America.
Africa so far has reported only five cases.
“I have now restricted travelling outside the country in particular outside the continent. We will continue to urge our people to minimise the risk of exposure. For those in government, I have banned foreign travelling. I also appeal to Zimbabweans to minimise travelling outside the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF also expelled firebrand former youth league commissar Godfrey Tsenengamu for alleged indiscipline and attacking party leaders.
He was suspended from his position last month together with former youth league deputy secretary Lewis Matutu after naming Zanu PF-linked businessmen as leaders of cartels that have destroyed the country’s economy through corruption.
Tsenengamu said he did not care.