Former Prime Minister and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai attacked President Robert Mugabe’s woeful economy record Wednesday but the opposition leader may have shoved a foot into his political mouth by suggesting he missed Rhodesia and, possibly, insulting Lesotho as well.
Should he replace Mugabe and have to visit Maseru as Zimbabwe’s head of state, Tsvangirai will likely wish he had showed more diplomatic panache and nous after dismissing Lesotho as a land of nothing but donkeys and water.
Addressing party youths in Harare Wednesday, the former premier said under Mugabe’s inept charge, Zimbabwe had been reduced from number two economy in the region behind South Africa to the bottom of the lot.
“We were second in terms of economic growth after South Africa but now we are like Lesotho which only has donkeys and exports water to South Africa,” he said.
And in remarks that could also be seized by rivals who accuse him of dodging the draft to go and fight for independence against the racist Ian Smith settler regime, Tsvangirai said life was much better in Rhodesia.
“When I started work I was given $450.00 which was equivalent to the same amount in pounds. A dollar could buy 5 beers. We recall those days with nostalgia,” Tsvangirai said to applause from the delegates.
“During Rhodesia the country’s labour force was 60 000 in the textile industry, 70 000 in mining and 450 000 in the agricultural sector. What has gone wrong to sacrifice all those jobs?”
The government is struggling to set the country’s economy right.
Its ambitious ZimAsset blueprint has failed to make an impact due to the lack of funding. Some $10 billion is needed to get the programme off the ground with the bill for full implementation estimated at $27 billion.
Unable to even pay its workers, the government does not have the resources to finance the programme while donors and multilateral financiers cannot trust Mugabe’s administration with their money anymore.
And with no prospects of delivering the 2.3 million new jobs promised by Zanu PF during last year’s election campaign, ministers have now taken to arguing that the situation was not so bad since everyone had now become a vendor.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the claimed collapse of the formal sector meant that Zimbabwe now had a “new economy” based on the informal sector and people needed to get used to the fact.
Zimbabwe’s economic problems turned for the dire at the turn of the millennium when Zanu PF’s politburo unleashed veterans of the liberation war on the white farming community after being angered by London’s refusal to fund its land reforms.
Tsvangirai says the respite and marginal progress enjoyed during the coalition government between 2009 and 2013 is now being reversed because of the legitimacy crisis created by last year’s “fraudulent” elections.
“The desperate times of the crisis era of 2008 had become a distant memory and a new sense of hope had crept in the country by the time we held the last elections. The past had become another country,” Tsvangirai said in some “personal reflections” issued early this week.
“We all thought that the election was going to result in the consolidation of the hope and the progress that had set in the country after 2009.
“My heart is heavy today, as we accelerate towards the same economic turmoil from where we had rescued the people of Zimbabwe some five years ago!
“Closeted at State House, Mugabe remains marooned from the reality of the national situation, oblivious to the daily predicament facing Zimbabweans as they struggle to survive.”