Post-Mugabe, Zimbabweans Still Waiting for Economic Uptick

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This week marks six months since Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa took office, after Robert Mugabe gave in to military pressure and resigned.

During the weekend, the 75-year-old Mnangagwa told supporters that since he took over, a lot had improved.

He says Zimbabwe’s annual foreign direct investment had been around $400 or 500 million, but for the past five months it has gone to more than $15 billion committed to investment in the country, with international companies and countries such as Canada, South Africa, China, Britain and the United States coming to invest in power generation and water.

Last Tuesday, the British gave $100 million to aid toward trying to eliminate Zimbabwe’s cash crisis, Mnangagwa said.

The country’s methane gas reserves have improved as well, he added.

“After about three and half years, we should be able to produce eight million liters of fuel per day,” Mnangagwa said. “The country only consumes five million [liters] per day — three million surplus per day.  Zimbabwe will prosper, it is going to develop. Zimbabwe will shine not only in SADC [Southern African Development Community], but also in Africa because Zimbabwe is in good hands. Our political party ZANU-PF is a revolutionary party, it caters for the interests of the people.”

Chido Masasai, an unemployed former media student, says Zimbabwe’s people have yet to see the money the president is talking about. She says there is still a shortage of cash, and the black market continues to operate.

What she does see is a greater expression of political views — a significant change from the Mugabe era when authorities regularly harassed the president’s critics and opponents.

“But in terms of freedom of expression, a lot more people are liberal with their views and opinions. You find that there are a lot of political parties that have come into the fore,” Masasai said.

Harare-based economist John Robertson says it is too early for Zimbabwe’s economy to fully recover from Mugabe’s populist policies, which drove away most foreign investment.

“The economy is still in great difficulty, but remember that the difficulties we face were built slowly into the system by 38 years of very badly chosen economic policies, and I think that the media is largely responsible in increasing the expectations of the population beyond what was reasonably possible within a short period of time,” he said.

Robertson added that Mnangagwa might make major policy changes, such as compensating white farmers for land that was confiscated during the Mugabe years, and ensuring that black farmers can get bank loans instead of depending on government handouts.

“I think this is why the president is waiting for the elections,” he said. “Behind him he would have increased amounts of courage to make changes that will prove unpopular to the people who thought they achieved what they were expecting.”

The president is expected to announce a date for the elections soon, which could place in July or August.  

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