SOME analysts’ conclusion that the recent election of President Robert Mugabe as African Union chairman for the next year will open doors for Zimbabwe’s re-engagement and cementing of relations with the rest of the world, boggles my mind.
How can you grab and utilise the opportunities that come with just chairing AU yet your house is on fire?
This is not Mugabe’s first appointment to that post as he cherished it in the late 1990s.
What did Zimbabwe gain when he was the chairperson and what new benefits can the ordinary person expect to see by the end of his helm as the chairperson? I can foresee worst things to come.
During his past experience as the AU chairperson, Zimbabwe suffered a lot in terms of poor policy formulation and implementation because of his commitment to AU while failing to address the challenges which were facing the country.
There was Zimprest — which was an economic blueprint meant to transform the economic and social status of our country, restore macro-economic stability, alleviate poverty and facilitate public and private savings and investment — but not much, or no significant progress was noticed.
Zimprest was supposed to be launched in 1996, but was delayed by two years.
Instead, we faced a lot of challenges which were home-made and it was difficult to blame any political interference by the so-called West in the internal affairs of the sovereign state, but leadership’s lack of strategic thinking and a lot of corruption.
The adoption of the Z$50 000 one-time payout policy to the 60 000 war veterans and a monthly allowance of Z$2 000, free education and health care, which was not factored into the budget for the year, added to the increasing fiscal deficit.
This policy formulation was publicly announced in November 1997, the time when the President was the OAU chairperson, now AU, which he had taken over in June 1997.
Pressure from AU and the internal pressure from war veterans for compensation for their war time sacrifices is what made the President formulate such a poor policy.
In August 1998, the fiscal position deteriorated further when Mugabe, without cabinet consultation, committed 11 000 troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in support of Laurent Kabila in his war against rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda.
This was soon after Mugabe’s term had expired in June 1998; it was a way of showing solidarity with other African states.
The DRC conflict only served to benefit the elite who happened to own vast lands of diamonds in DRC and those who were supplying food to our soldiers. Quite a number of our soldiers perished in DRC.
A 2001 UN report on the DRC conflict concluded that: “The declining exchange rate, the failing Zimbabwe mining industry and the critical energy shortage in Zimbabwe has left few sources for personal enrichment by government officials.
These officials started looking to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for personal gains”.
In his recent acceptance speech, Mugabe touched on “the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa”, with terrorist groups such as Al Shabaab, the Lord Resistance Army, Boko Haram and many others.
I will not be surprised to see the government sending troops to those countries with terrorist groups, like what happened with the deployment of our army to Equatorial Guinea without parliamentary approval — especially given the idea of establishing the Multi-National Joint Task Force to combat Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria.
This will be used as a basis for intervention yet we have our own challenges which need his urgent address to emancipate us from the deep end of poverty.
I think President Mugabe must concentrate more on how to solve problems in Zimbabwe before committing to other pressing issues at regional and continental level.