The more I see some categories of people who are stridently and rabidly opposing Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s economic stabilisation programme — as opposed to those offering measured and constructive criticism — the more I feel he is on the right path.
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
It doesn’t matter how you perform — whether you succeed or fail — because whatever you do, there will always be haters and difficult people.
That Ncube is being speared from all sides shows he is onto something good. When you are doing things right, not all people will be ecstatically happy. Illegal foreign currency dealers — particularly Zanu PF-connected cash barons who are said to have virtually captured the State and, hold your breath, the main opposition MDC Alliance too — won’t exactly jump for joy at the prospect of their nefarious activities being brought to a screeching halt. Or, in the case of some opposition elements, at the prospect of their electoral chances being reduced as Ncube’s success undoubtedly increases the incumbent government’s electability in 2023 again and, by extension, the ruling party’s tenure well into the forseeable future.
I don’t buy the projected image of complete stupidity over the appointment and abrupt firing of Acie Lumumba as Treasury’s communication taskforce chairperson as if it is the worst blunder ever made by anyone. There can be method in madness, meaning there is a specific, rational purpose in what one is doing or planning even though it may seem crazy or absurd — like the hidden method in Baba Jukwa’s feverish and frenzied postings on Facebook in 2013, which served to deflect and distract the opposition from doing political groundwork, resulting in its annihilation at the polls.
Maybe, Ncube killed two birds with one stone by using Lumumba as a sounding board — a person on whom one tries an idea to evaluate if it will be prudent and wise to proceed with it — and simultaneously unleashing him as a battering ram. So, it could, after all, not be as clumsy or inept as it appears on the surface. There could be method in that madness, but people who think in a straight line may completely miss that angle.
Still on the appointment, what if Ncube is playing good cop and Lumumba is playing bad cop? When two people play good cop/bad cop with someone, it’s a psychological tactic where one appears friendly, while the other behaves in a threatening way in order to make the person trust the “good cop”.
And one cannot rule out that some of the apparently contradictory measures which have made latter-day economists go ballistic are tailored to wrong-foot speculators. My own hypothesis is that placing parity between the US dollar and the bond note is not a function of some ill-advised and misplaced optimism in the bond note, but is designed to sow confusion and panic among speculators, who are known for always keeping a step ahead of the authorities. Ncube is not that stupid to play all his cards on the table. It’s a game of wits. It’s like forcing someone’s hand, you force them to act sooner than they want to, or to act in public when they would prefer to keep their actions secret.
It’s quite refreshing that Ncube does not shy away using the word “crisis” because we are, indeed, in a crisis whereas another professor, Jonathan Moyo, had banned the word altogether and replaced it with “challenges” so as to ‘progandistically’ mislead the nation that the situation was not as bad as it was.
And Ncube could not have been clearer on the legitimacy card some people are still clinging to in their unconvincing ploy to manufacture a linkage between that and the current economic situation. In an interview this week, he said: “The ruling party won two-thirds majority in Parliament and that was not challenged. So, in other words, it was accepted on the ground. On the presidential elections, we had a different picture. I am still asking myself if it is possible to overturn that majority to a point where the ruling party does not win the presidency. Then we had the judiciary getting involved to confirm the election result. I think this confirms that the issue of legitimacy has been resolved because what else is left?”
I would say what is left is to dispel the mathematically-deficient myth — which, by the way, some war veterans, trying to get rid of Zanu PF heavyweights they accuse of sabotaging President Emmerson Mnangagwa, seem to have bought — that Zanu PF could not have won a two-third parliamentary majority and then “just” get 50,6% to win the presidential election. This differential or contrast in the results is mathematically explainable and mathematically provable, if people take the time to scrutinise the figures so as to correctly interpret them.
Here is how they are wrong: First, Zanu PF won 53,25% of the parliamentary vote (translating to 144 National Assembly seats) to the MDC Alliance’s 34,33% (translating to 64 National Assembly seats) while 13,32% was split between 47 other small parties and independents combined, resulting in two seats won by the NPF’s Masango Matambanadzo (Kwekwe Central) and independent Temba Mliswa in Norton. In the presidential election, Mnangagwa got 50,8% to MDC Alliance candidate Nelson Chamisa’s 44,3%. From these figures, it can be extrapolated that the Bhora Musango or the backlash vote against Mnangagwa by disgruntled supporters of the vanquished G40 faction of Zanu PF was at the most only 2,45% (53,25% parliamentary minus 50,8% presidential vote) which proved insignificant in the final analysis as Mnangagwa still managed to reach the 50% + 1 vote threshold, while 9,97% of those who voted for other opposition parties opted to vote for Chamisa in the presidential poll, illustrated by the way Dumiso Dabengwa instructed Zapu supporters to vote for the party’s candidates in council and parliamentary elections, but for Chamisa in the presidential poll. So, it could be baseless to say there was rigging because the Zanu PF parliamentary votes more or less corresponded with its presidential vote as the differential between Mnangagwa’s percentage tally and that of Zanu PF MPs was only 2,45%.
Second, it then can be extrapolated that in the first-past-the-post system of voting, a party just needs to win by the simple majority of one vote (50%+ 1) in all constituencies to win all the 210 constituency-based seats in the National Assembly (that is, 100%). In other words, a party does not need to get 100% of the votes to win 100% of the seats. In other words, to say you need to win two-thirds of votes to win two-thirds of the seats shows mathematical innumeracy; you can achieve that by simply winning the required minimum of 50%+1 votes in two-thirds of the constituencies. So there could be no anomaly or irregularity at all in Mnangagwa winning 50,6% of the votes and Zanu PF winning two-thirds of the parliamentary seats, as the MDC Alliance could have claimed.
As the MDC celebrates its 19th anniversary tomorrow, it is hoped that the party leadership will finally be honest enough to admit to its supporters that their rigging claims have been fundamentally wrong as they are based on false claims and fuzzy maths — this, along with people across the political divide stopping partisan condemnation of each and every well-meaning step taken to stabilise the economy.
We need informed comments on the economy, but let’s not give in to spurious obstructionists.
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: email@example.com