HARARE – During the Mashonaland West youth interface rally last Saturday, Mugabe ordered the reinstatement of around 2 000 youth and gender officers who had been struck off the government payroll — as part of austerity measures — ostensibly because Cabinet had not sanctioned the move.
For a government struggling to pay its workforce on time, this might have been suicidal as it will certainly worsen the position of empty State coffers.
Mugabe’s pronouncement — hugely populist in nature — is nothing new for those who are aware of the 93-year-old’s policy gymnastics over the years.
Perhaps in the Saturday statement, Mugabe was playing to the gallery after seeing the huge numbers the youth had mobilised for the nonagenarian’s Chinhoyi rally. “ . . . I hear that some youths who were working for government have been fired . . . Our economy is recovering, is that the time we should be dismissing our youths? How can they say we have no money now . . . please reinstate those youths, we never, never agreed on that. The issue of firing those youths was never agreed. Where is the ministry of Finance and Labour, please stop it,” Mugabe said then.
Economy recovering? Really? I don’t want to doubt that Mugabe is living in his own world, which must be farther than Pluto at around 2,7 billion miles from the planet Earth.
Just a walk across the streets of the major cities in the evening would prove how far detached from reality the country’s chief executive is.
Policy contradictions have always proved to be one of the core causes of Zimbabwe’s problems in the country’s 37-year history.
This is not the first time Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has had his otherwise sober interventions undone by his boss. Following his announcement that government would suspend civil service bonus payments for 2016 and 2017, translating to savings of around $180 million per annum, Mugabe also overturned that, claiming Cabinet had not been consulted.
Chinamasa’s decision appeared pragmatic and was the appropriate response to a dwindling revenue base pitted against a bloated civil service with a huge wage bill. On the other hand, Mugabe is driven by political expediency and his position dovetails with his Youth minister and nephew Patrick Zhuwao’s, that he would protect the “green bombers” — the majority of whom were drawn from the controversial national youth service programme introduced by the late Zanu PF political commissar Border Gezi.
Essentially, the “green bombers” have for long been working as Mugabe’s storm troopers, together with war veterans. The so-called youth officers were mostly idle but serve as extensions of the ruling party’s commissariat department.
Following the spectacular fallout between Mugabe and the war veterans last year, the youths have come in as a timely replacement Finance minister in the Inclusive Government and current opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti has complained about how the estimated 75 000 ghost workers — continuously kept on the government’s payroll — had pulverised the national purse. Of the 75 000 ghost workers — unearthed in a comprehensive payroll and skills audit done by Ernst & Young India on behalf of the Public Service ministry in 2011 — 6 861 were employed by one ministry in a single day.
With Zanu PF already in election mode, Mugabe knows the green bombers will come in handy. The majority of them have been part and parcel of the notorious bases established in the run-up to the 2008 presidential poll run-off.
State-owned companies have been struggling over the years, with the bulk of them on the brink of going under as a result of a combination of poor management, corruption and poor corporate governance.
It is at the least startling that youths are demanding posts on those dying parastatals, ostensibly to enhance their leadership skills. If anything, these companies are desirous of new partners, who will come with fresh capital injections not just bodies who will float in their corridors without adding anything in terms of turnaround strategies.
Zimbabweans know Mugabe now. They know he can sacrifice anything for power. The green bombers, who for the most part are idle and only serve as extensions of the ruling party’s commissariat department working on Mugabe’s power retention schemes.
Mugabe does not care what Zimbabwe will be like in 20-30 years as long he remains firmly rooted in power until doomsday.