The Chronicle

ZANU-PF’s 18th Annual National People’s Conference started at Goromonzi High School in Mashonaland East Province yesterday amid hopes that the convention will come up with strategies to address the prevailing socio-economic challenges facing the masses.

The conference is running under the theme: “Modernise, Mechanise and Grow the Economy Towards Vision 2030.”  

About 7 000 delegates are expected to attend.  

That the economy is on a difficult patch is clear. That the masses are struggling as a result is equally clear. Inflation has been rising since early this year. Prices of products and services have been rising in sympathy. Incomes have failed to match the price increases thus many families are being forced to spend less on food, clothing, health services and so on. A drought in the 2018/19 farming season has rendered millions hungry while electricity shortages mean that household and commercial consumers of power are going for many hours without it.

As a result of electricity shortage, industrial capacity utilisation is depressed. Gold output is likely to be less than 33 tonnes recorded last year and far less than the 40 tonnes that the industry had projected would be produced this year.

The past 11 months have, thus, been difficult for many. We, however, have to commend the Government for coming up with a number of measures to address some of the challenges. To limit the adverse impact of increases in the price of maize meal, the Government has introduced a targeted subsidy on roller meal. In response to high fares charged by private transport operators on urban routes, the Government provided a subsidy through Zupco. Given the drought, the Government, working with development partners is providing food aid to millions across the country. 

The masses acknowledge the measures that authorities have taken in response but they are looking forward to the ongoing conference to come up with strategies for long-term economic recovery.      

Zanu-PF Secretary for Information and Publicity Cde Simon Khaya Moyo said on Monday that discussions will centre on the economy, which is good. Specifically, he added, focus would be on agriculture, mining, industry and small businesses.

“I must emphasise that the conference’s focus is on the economy. Here of course we are looking at food security, social services and poverty eradication, macro and economic stability, re-engagement, inclusive growth, infrastructure development, value edition and this will be discussed in detail in thematic committees.

“It is expected the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube will give an overview of the state of the economy.  The Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Perrance Shiri will do likewise on his portfolio and the Minister of Mines and Mining Development Winston Chitando will also present a paper relevant to his ministry’s mandate,” he said.

Delegates to the conference and millions who will follow proceedings from home, expect to hear what Prof Ncube will say on investment inflows into the country; the measures that his ministry, together with that of energy and mines are taking to strengthen and diversify the national electricity generation and transmission capacity.  

Zimbabwe is blessed with massive solar energy potential and a range of energy minerals such as coal, natural gas, methane and so on. In this connection, we have seen some moves to harness more coal, natural gas and methane for power. Invictus Energy’s work on natural gas in Muzarabani and Zesa’s at Hwange coal-fired plant stand out.  The people expect to hear how the Government is supporting these and other initiatives for greater national energy sufficiency so that the obtaining load shedding becomes a thing of the past.

The drought has impacted negatively on millions’ access to food. Also, tens of thousands of cattle have died too due to thirst and lack of pasture. As alluded to earlier, citizens acknowledge the intervention by the Government and its partners in development to alleviate hunger. It has to be noted that the masses have, over the years, been similarly affected by drought-induced hunger and weather experts meeting in Luanda, Angola in August gave a mixed forecast on the rainy season over the next three to four months.  

Given the foregoing, delegates to the conference would listen to Minister Shiri’s presentation with keen interest. What is the Government’s plan to ensure that future droughts don’t result in widespread hunger as we are witnessing this year? How does the Government seek to harness dammed water for irrigation purposes so that farming becomes an all-year-round activity?    

In terms of mining, our country is a sleeping giant. The projected subdued gold output for this year epitomises that reality. The Zimbabwe Geological Survey says that gold occurs at more than 4 000 sites across the country yet the industry will fail to produce 33 tonnes of the yellow metal when other countries blessed with comparable amounts of the mineral are producing an average 80 tonnes yearly.  

Diamonds occur in huge quantities in Manicaland, Midlands, Mashonaland East, Matabeleland South and other provinces but strictly speaking not much of it has been extracted yet. In addition, the country has the world’s second largest platinum reserves after South Africa and ranks in the top five in terms of lithium deposits yet, like gold and diamonds most of the platinum and lithium remains underground. 

A country that is endowed with so much mineral wealth yet generates an average US$3 billion yearly from the resources is a true sleeping giant which must wake up. Therefore, Minister Chitando’s paper will be of interest at the conference.