HARARE - Pressure to impeach President Robert Mugabe over his “appalling handling” of the national economy is growing and risks throwing the country into fresh political crisis.
Zimbabwe’s vocal opposition is calling for a non-partisan all-stakeholders conference to consider impeaching the 91-year-old president.
Section 109 of the Zimbabwean Constitution allows a vote of no confidence to be passed in government through a joint resolution passed by at least two thirds of the total membership in Parliament.
The legislature is held by Mugabe’s Zanu PF, which enjoys a super majority, so it would be a difficult task to oust him, but the former guerrilla leader has alienated several members of his own party, so anything is possible.
Amid mounting calls on Mugabe to resign to prevent social unrest that could destabilise the nation, pressure mounted this week after an uninspiring State-of-the-Nation (SONA) address and as minister of state for Mashonaland Central province Martin Dinha was named in a corruption investigation.
The impeachment call is the latest blow for Mugabe, who is facing mounting criticism from within his own Zanu PF party and scorn over measures outlined in a 10-point plan he has adopted to try to save Zimbabwe’s stuttering economy.
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti’s renewal team said Mugabe’s 10-point plan is not new, and is no plan at all. No central theme, no new ideas, no specific proposals — instead, general words about an elusive “modest economic growth”, attempts to deflect criticism on the dramatic collapse in commercial agriculture to drought, vague promises to improve the social, economic, and conditions of Zimbabweans; meaningless statements about his government’s much trumpeted commitment to job creation and empty promises that it will create the promised two million jobs through value addition, beneficiation and infrastructure development.
The renewal team added that Mugabe had clearly run out of ideas — not surprisingly, given that this month marks exactly two years since his regime won re-election under controversial circumstances, causing the economy to scream.
“The president has to be impeached as a matter of national security and the life of the country depends on it,” renewal team spokesperson Jacob Mafume told the Daily News.
Mafume, whose renewal team has no parliamentary representation, said they were calling for a national platform where all parties and stakeholders come together to discuss the SONA on a non-partisan basis and out of that platform, a proposal needs to be made to Parliament to move the impeachment motion and rescue the nation.
‘The current state of the economy and the breakdown of the social fabric of the country justify an immediate vote of no confidence in Mugabe’s government,” Mafume said.
“Indeed Mugabe himself cannot be spared as the Chief Executive Officer of this government; he too ought to be impeached in terms of Section 97 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said the MDC was willing to participate in the impeachment motion, adding the opposition party was willing and able to participate in any meaningful and progressive national debate that is aimed at resolving the prevailing national crisis.
“Of course, we are the biggest and most popular political party in Zimbabwe but then we have never wanted to adopt a Big Brother attitude,” Gutu said. “The MDC does not want to patronise anyone.
“That said, we suggest that the way forward is to hold a national convergence conference that is primarily driven by non-political actors. In that way, the MDC will enthusiastically participate.”
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told a policy dialogue forum at Chitungwiza Unit L Community Hall on Thursday that the country was convulsed by a serious economic crisis, worsened by an ageing president leading a clueless government without an idea of how to positively transform the lives of the people.
Gutu said to expect the nonagenarian to spearhead the turning around of a collapsing economy is to expect too much.
“Please, let us give the old man a break,” he said. “He has done his bit for Zimbabwe and it is now high time he retreats to Gushungo Dairies and also start to compile and to write his memoirs.
“As patriotic Zimbabweans, let us all of us humbly call upon the old man to retire and call it a day. He will not be harmed. Why should he be, any way?”
Mafume said thanks to Mugabe’s rule, the economy was in an “unprecedented structural meltdown characterised by collapsed output, massive unemployment, de-industrialisation, lack of capital, deflation and structural distortions”.
The economy, which grew on average 9,2 percent a year between 2009 and 2013, probably will not expand fast enough to meet the government’s target of 1,5 percent this year, Christian Beddies, the IMF’s resident representative in Zimbabwe said.
Experts project that GDP will actually decline to a miserly -3 percent in 2015 before hitting rock bottom of -7 percent in 2016.
The economy is thus in a recession. Deflation, de-industrialisation, ballooning budget deficits, and collapsing aggregate demand, are all classical hallmarks of an economy in a recession.
“The truth of the matter is that the current economic crisis stems from self-induced policy distortions, and incompetence. In other words, Mugabe and (Patrick) Chinamasa, the minister of Finance, have failed and failed dismally,” Biti’s renewal team said.
President of the smaller MDC Welshman Ncube said Mugabe’s 10-point plan was “hot air, egotistic, self-praising rhetoric”, adding the plan deliberately evaded the eleventh point — constitutionalism — allegedly because the nonagenarian resents and despises effective democracy, he said.
“Zimbabwe needs to adhere to proper constitutionalism so we can have free, fair and credible elections,” Ncube said.
“We have a dysfunctional Parliament paralysed by Zanu PF hegemony. This portrays a banana republic, failed state, high country risk impression that repels international friendship and cooperation. What we need are more cents and dollars in our pockets and less political hot air.”
Psychology Maziwisa, Zanu PF deputy director of information and publicity, defended Mugabe’s 10-point plan, which covered essential economic pillars like agriculture, value addition and beneficiation, foreign direct investment, parastatal reform and an anti-corruption thrust. He said the plan was consistent with the ruling party’s economic blueprint Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) and showed the ruling party’s determination to improve the welfare of the Zimbabwean people.
“We are especially delighted that president Mugabe has directed government to embark on a rapid implementation drive of the ten-point plan which is in keeping with the current implementation drive which has seen the massive execution of infrastructural developments in the transport and energy sectors such as the recent completion of the rehabilitation of the Plumtree-Mutare highway, the imminent dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare highway as well as the ongoing work at Kariba and Hwange power stations,” he said.
“We are excited about the prospects of a bright economic future for all our people and urge the people of Zimbabwe to continue to maintain peace and harmony; both of which are essential to economic growth.”
Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa called on Mugabe to swallow his pride and urgently call for an all-stakeholders national conference to rescue the economy.
“As Zapu we call on all stakeholders to come together for dialogue on the way forward before the country grinds to a halt,” Dabengwa warned.
“We know that Zanu PF is ashamed to admit defeat and failure, and as such will always scream liberation war credentials as qualification to be a stakeholder.
“However, Zapu reminds them that they did not fight the war alone, the time for guns and sloganeering is past.”
The number of critics who favour Mugabe’s impeachment is rising and many investors believe his impeachment would lead to better fortunes for the economy. Many cite alleged government mismanagement of the economy.
A new survey released by a local think-tank Mass Public Opinion Institute (Mpoi) has shown the majority of Zimbabweans miss the inclusive government which they credited with stabilising the economy. The economy’s nascent recovery that followed a 2009 power-sharing government between Mugabe’s party and the main opposition has largely been eroded.
According to the post-elections survey by the Mpoi, Zimbabweans blame Mugabe’s government for taking the country in a wrong direction.
A vast majority of Zimbabweans believe Mugabe is unable to handle the country’s worst economic downturn in 35 years, with gross domestic product expected to shrink 1,5 percent this year.
But George Shire, a UK-based Zimbabwean scholar, said the MDC motion was doomed because one impeaches a sitting President on a case of abuse of power and not because they have mishandled policy.
“If that were the case, impeachment would be an everyday issue across the world,” he said.
“It’s a waste of time. The region or world’s economic fortunes are in free fall and the MDC does not have a credible solution or alternative to it. Their friends in the West are now discredited and they don’t have friends in the global south either.”