President Robert Mugabe’s government’s policy inconsistency was laid bare on Tuesday after it dramatically reversed the scrapping of bonuses for civil servants and salary cuts, hardly a week after Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa announced the shock measures.
Former Finance minister and opposition PDP leader, Tendai Biti, yesterday said the decision to reinstate bonuses exposed Mugabe’s politics of betrayal, being the chairperson of the Cabinet committee on economic affairs that approves the fiscal statement before it is tabled in Parliament.
“Before you present the budget or mid-term policy review statement, it is subjected to a committee of Cabinet on economic affairs chaired by the President himself,” he said.
“It has all ministers in the economic cluster, as well as the Vice-Presidents. This is the only committee whose chairperson is the President and I have no doubt in my mind that Mugabe was aware of these measures.
“To me, as is normal and characteristic of a banana republic, Mugabe has decided to throw his minister under the bus. He has decided to humiliate him and embarrass him like this.”
Biti said Mugabe and members of the budget committee receive the final draft days before it is printed and presented to Parliament.
“So it is folly for anyone to think that my learned friend, Chinamasa, would go before the House and announce without approval from Mugabe. Never,” he said.
Last week, Chinamasa announced a raft of cost-cutting measures, among them reducing salaries and scrapping bonuses for at least two years, as well as reducing the civil service workforce by 25 000 after admitting that government was broke and unable to pay civil servants, whose salaries are consuming 97% of total revenue.
“I feel for him, I hold no grudge against Patrick. He is a fine lawyer and I am saying, if you have a sense of humility, just do the honourable thing: resign. There is no professional who can be humiliated like this and still remain in office,” Biti said.
The People’s Democratic Party, leader, however, said given Chinamasa’s fear and inability to survive outside Zanu PF, the former attorney-general would not quit, but instead allow himself to be insulted and embarrassed.
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu said the bonus U-Turn confirmed “the utter dysfunctionality, policy incoherence and confusion within the splintered and collapsing Zanu PF regime”.
“Mugabe is just being populist, as has been the hallmark of his political career. He’s now pretending Chinamasa is doing his own thing without approval,” he said.
“This is a blue lie. Mugabe is just playing to the gallery by coming out as someone who is fighting in the civil servants’ corner. He is blowing hot and cold. He’s being thoroughly insincere and dishonest.”
Last year, Chinamasa suffered similar humiliation from Mugabe, after he again announced government was scrapping payment of annual bonuses.
Mugabe immediately reversed the decision, leaving Chinamasa with egg on the face.
The Welshman Ncube led MDC said the contradictions within the Zanu PF government pointed to an overwhelmingly confused government, which was becoming a huge threat to national security.
“This mickey-mouse business of running government, as if they are running a tuckshop is completely unacceptable and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” party spokesman, Kurauone Chihwayi said.
“Serious policy issues such as these require serious minded people with the needs of the masses at heart.”
Transform Zimbabwe leader, Jacob Ngarivhume said investors will continue shying away from Zimbabwe because of policy inconsistences.
Academic and political analyst, Ibbo Mandaza said Zanu PF has exposed itself as a party that cannot be trusted with reforming Zimbabwe.
“It confirms policy inconsistency, a result of a divided State. It shows a regime incapable of reforming, neither politically or economically,” he said.
“Clearly there is a fear that reform will only complement and fuel protests, which can develop into much bigger things.”
Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) chairperson, Lloyd Sachikonye said the flip flopping showed lack of direction on government’s part.
“It is just a case of flip plopping and incoherence of policy on the part of government. There is no clear direction in terms of policy. This will also have repercussion in terms of Zimbabwe dealing with IMF and other international financial institutions,” he said.
“They will view the flip flopping by government as a clear lack of direction on our government’s part.”
Sachikonye said government’s sudden volte-face is premised on fear that the reforms will come at a huge political cost for Zanu PF.