Mugabe is warning off foreign firms

Will the new model work for Zimbabwe?

Following their recent election win, Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF government has issued a new warning to foreign firms. They ran a full-page advertisement in local papers this week saying that their comprehensive election win was an endorsement of their “indigenisation plans” that will see all foreign owned companies forced to give up 51 per cent of their equity to black Zimbabweans.

It is expected that this means that Mugabe will force the remaining 1100+ white and foreign owned companies left in the country, as well as local banks with foreign interests, to hand over 51 per cent of their businesses to the Zanu PF government.

"Over the next five years, Zimbabwe is going to witness a unique wealth transfer model that will see ordinary people take charge of the economy," the adverts read.

Saviour Kusukwere, one of Mugabe’s ministers, revealed separately that the country planned to seize 51 per cent of foreign-owned mines, worth an estimated US$7bn without any compensation. He warned that mines that refused to surrender more than half of their assets would lose their licences.

Recent Economic Trends

Following the 2000 referendum, Zimbabwe experienced 7 years of negative economic growth, with GDP per capita figures falling from US$535 in 2000 to US$415 in 2008. Then after introducing the US dollar as it currency in February 2009, the country witnessed a resurgence, with GDP per capita levels rising to US$788 by 2012 (Source: World Bank).

However, despite this small improvement, most African countries have surged ahead of it over this twelve year period as reflected in the table below.

Timeline: Mugabe’s 33 years in power

  • Mugabe and his Zanu PF party took power following the 1980 general elections.
  • Following droughts in the country in the late 90s and slowing economic growth, Mugabe was coming under increasing pressure to step aside.
  • Mugabe then held a referendum in 2000 in order to extend his powers. This referendum was unexpectedly defeated by a new opposition party formed from a labour union movement, the MDC and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
  • Months after the referendum, the MDC ran a candidate in every district in the country and emerged with nearly half the seats in parliament.
  • Zanu PF responded by launching a campaign of violence to intimidate the MDC. It also destabilized the country by ordering the invasion of commercial farms by so called War veterans.
  • Following the invasions and general public outcry, new media laws were passed prior to the 2002 elections which led to the closure of all independent newspapers in the country.
  • Zanu PF won majorities in the 2002 and 2005 elections. These results were heavily disputed by the MDC and international bodies.
  • MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was severely beaten by government officials in 2007 and his bodyguard, Nhamo Musekiwa, was killed.
  • The MDC won a majority in the 2008 election but they did not achieve over 50 per cent of the vote and a run-off election was therefore required.
  • Prior to the run-off election, Zanu PF launched another campaign of violence against MDC supporters, forcing the MDC to pull out of runoff elections and effectively handing power back to Mugabe.
  • Susan Tsvangirai was killed in a car crash in 2009, which is believed by many to be the work of Zanu PF officials who were attempting to assassinate her husband Morgan Tsvangirai, who was in the same car at the time. He survived.
  • In a deal brokered by South African president Thabo Mbeki following the 2008 elections, Mugabe remained president and kept control over the army and the country as a whole.
  • Mugabe won the recent elections held on the 31st July 2013, taking over 60 per cent of the presidential vote and over two thirds of parliamentary vote. These results have been heavily disputed by the MDC, as well as by various independent bodies and the UK and US government. However, most regional powerhouses including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the South African government said the elections were free and fair. In fact, the only African country to officially speak out against the result was Botswana.
Robert Mugabe. Photograph: Getty Images

Andrew Amoils is a writer for WealthInsight

David Young
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The Tories are the zombie party: with an ageing, falling membership, still they stagger on to victory

One Labour MP in Brighton spotted a baby in a red Babygro and said to me: “There’s our next [Labour] prime minister.”

All football clubs have “ultras” – and, increasingly, political parties do, too: although, in the case of political parties, their loudest and angriest supporters are mostly found on the internet. The SNP got there first: in the early days of email, journalists at the Scotsman used to receive bilious missives complaining about its coverage – or, on occasion, lack of coverage – of what the Scottish National Party was up to. The rest soon followed, with Ukip, the Labour Party and even the crushed Liberal Democrats now boasting a furious electronic horde.

The exception is the Conservative Party. Britain’s table-topping team might have its first majority in 18 years and is widely expected in Westminster to remain in power for another decade. But it doesn’t have any fans. The party’s conference in Manchester, like Labour’s in Brighton, will be full to bursting. But where the Labour shindig is chock-full of members, trade unionists and hangers-on from the charitable sector, the Conservative gathering is a more corporate affair: at the fringes I attended last year, lobbyists outnumbered members by four to one. At one, the journalist Peter Oborne demanded to know how many people in the room were party members. It was standing room only – but just four people put their hands up.

During Grant Shapps’s stint at Conservative headquarters, serious attempts were made to revive membership. Shapps, a figure who is underrated because of his online blunders, and his co-chair Andrew Feldman were able to reverse some of the decline, but they were running just to stand still. Some of the biggest increases in membership came in urban centres where the Tories are not in contention to win a seat.

All this made the 2015 election win the triumph of a husk. A party with a membership in long-term and perhaps irreversible decline, which in many seats had no activists at all, delivered crushing defeats to its opponents across England and Wales.

Like José Mourinho’s sides, which, he once boasted, won “without the ball”, the Conservatives won without members. In Cumbria the party had no ground campaign and two paper candidates. But letters written by the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, were posted to every household where someone was employed making Trident submarines, warning that their jobs would be under threat under a Labour government. This helped the Tories come close to taking out both Labour MPs, John Woodcock in Barrow and Furness and Jamie Reed in Copeland. It was no small feat: Labour has held Barrow since 1992 and has won Copeland at every election it has fought.

The Tories have become the zombies of British politics: still moving though dead from the neck down. And not only moving, but thriving. One Labour MP in Brighton spotted a baby in a red Babygro and said to me: “There’s our next [Labour] prime minister.” His Conservative counterparts also believe that their rivals are out of power for at least a decade.

Yet there are more threats to the zombie Tories than commonly believed. The European referendum will cause endless trouble for their whips over the coming years. And for all there’s a spring in the Conservative step at the moment, the party has a majority of only 12 in the Commons. Parliamentary defeats could easily become commonplace. But now that Labour has elected Jeremy Corbyn – either a more consensual or a more chaotic leader than his predecessors, depending on your perspective – division within parties will become a feature, rather than a quirk, at Westminster. There will be “splits” aplenty on both sides of the House.

The bigger threat to Tory hegemony is the spending cuts to come, and the still vulnerable state of the British economy. In the last parliament, George Osborne’s cuts fell predominantly on the poorest and those working in the public sector. They were accompanied by an extravagant outlay to affluent retirees. As my colleague Helen Lewis wrote last week, over the next five years, cuts will fall on the sharp-elbowed middle classes, not just the vulnerable. Reductions in tax credits, so popular among voters in the abstract, may prove just as toxic as the poll tax and the abolition of the 10p bottom income-tax rate – both of which were popular until they were actually implemented.

Added to that, the British economy has what the economist Stephen King calls “the Titanic problem”: a surplus of icebergs, a deficit of lifeboats. Many of the levers used by Gordon Brown and Mervyn King in the last recession are not available to David Cameron and the chief of the Bank of England, Mark Carney: debt-funded fiscal stimulus is off the table because the public finances are already in the red. Interest rates are already at rock bottom.

Yet against that grim backdrop, the Conservatives retain the two trump cards that allowed them to win in May: questions about Labour’s economic competence, and the personal allure of David Cameron. The public is still convinced that the cuts are the result of “the mess” left by Labour, however unfair that charge may be. If a second crisis strikes, it could still be the Tories who feel the benefit, if they can convince voters that the poor state of the finances is still the result of New Labour excess rather than Cameroon failure.

As for Cameron, in 2015 it was his lead over Ed Miliband as Britons’ preferred prime minister that helped the Conservatives over the line. This time, it is his withdrawal from politics which could hand the Tories a victory even if the economy tanks or cuts become widely unpopular. He could absorb the hatred for the failures and the U-turns, and then hand over to a fresher face. Nicky Morgan or a Sajid Javid, say, could yet repeat John Major’s trick in 1992, breathing life into a seemingly doomed Conservative project. For Labour, the Tory zombie remains frustratingly lively. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.

This article first appeared in the 01 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory tide