THE appointments of Emmerson Mnangagwa and former ambassador to South Africa Phelekezela Mphoko as vice-presidents of Zimbabwe and ruling Zanu PF party will not improve the economic performance of the country, a leading economist has said.
Veteran economist John Robertson told Southern Eye Business that there was never any probability of a major policy shift regardless of who was appointed, meaning that the country would continue wallowing in the economic doldrums.
Some sectors of the economy had foreseen a possible policy change in the aftermath of the appointment of a new presidium with some expressing hope that this would trigger attempts to improve the country’s image and attract investment.
However, Robertson dismissed the optimism saying the only impetus for positive developments was policy change, which was not likely at present.
“What we need for this economy is money which will not come until there are policy changes. Mnangagwa has pledged total support to President Robert Mugabe while Mphoko, in spite of his diplomatic credentials, will not be able to deviate from the status quo,” Robertson said.
“We are practically in a feudal State with a feudal overlord and if you challenge him you will be in trouble. Whatever all the people in Zanu PF do doesn’t matter because the only person allowed to think is the president,” he added.
He said all political and economic decisions were still made by Mugabe while his deputies would only wait for instructions. In a recent budget overview, local accounting firm Grant Thornton emphasised the need for the fiscal document to reinforce a policy-oriented thrust and lay a solid foundation for accelerated growth and creation of employment opportunities.
“Such strategies as the indigenisation policy are the major setbacks in attracting foreign investment and since everybody in the government has to be supportive of the president’s beliefs, and he created these policies, they are not going to be removed,” Robertson said.
Responding to questions on whether investment and industry confidence could be improved by the ouster of government ministers for alleged failure to perform while others were accused of corruption, Robertson expressed doubt that people would be persuaded by the move.
“There is suspicion that the people accusing others, especially of corruption, are just as guilty. For example, (Local Government minister) Ignatius Chombo was retained despite all the questions surrounding his mass accumulation of properties while in charge of national housing.
“The economic decisions made by industry will not be affected by these political stunts and those companies which were on course for closure will remain on that course,” Robertson said.
The European Union recently lifted its 12-year suspension of direct financial aid to the government, which Zanu PF blamed for the country’s economic strife, but Robertson maintained that all these developments would not improve the country’s situation.
“It is unfortunate that there has been massive exaggeration of the so-called sanctions which are a mere statement by other countries that Zimbabwe should meet basic requirements before we do business with them and we have to qualify.
We have failed to qualify and for us to do that, there has to be a change in policy, which is impossible with the current situation.
“At the moment we have a politburo which has more power than Cabinet and which will agree with everything Mugabe has said while keeping the country guessing what he might like and that means nobody will speak out about such issues as property rights which secure investment,” he said.
Despite the gloomy picture, Robertson expressed hope that after the recent appointments, economic discussions would start taking centre stage in the country again.
“The appointments could be good in that what we might see is more stability because everybody now knows their position.”