By Tendai Kamhungira
The coup d’état that ousted long-ruling despot Robert Mugabe last November, was a watershed moment in both the history of Zimbabwe and southern Africa.
The post-coup leader Emmerson Mnangagwa was held out by many as the best hope to spearhead an economic recovery predicated on re-engagement with international creditors and a package of reform that would instil a measure of much-needed confidence.
Yet evidence that he would or could deliver on this front is not persuasive, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has said.
One year after the coup, the country is convulsed with soaring crime, skyrocketing prices and a roaring forex black market trade.
Economists and analysts are scratching their heads how a promising democracy could have imploded like this, just four months after an election.
How did post-Mugabe Zimbabwe go from a fairly stable economy in southern Africa to the brink of social and financial ruin?
Economic conditions have visibly deteriorated over the last few months, the ICG said. The volume of physical money circulating in both the formal and informal economy has contracted sharply.
Inflationary pressures exacerbated by this liquidity crisis have driven up the cost of living, leading to a crash in the purchasing power of salaries paid into bank accounts. Zimbabwe is once again heading back into hyper-inflationary territory.
Amid an economic downturn, outrage against Mnangagwa’s policies has swelled, with the opposition and trade unions mulling protests that they are threatening will overwhelm the presidential palace.
Mnangagwa has warned the agitators against abusing the freedoms he has ushered in by bringing instability.
He has said his austerity measures will stabilise the economy soon, and called patience and pain tolerance.
He has also unfurled an anti-corruption war on the elites that is turning out to carry risks.
In a hard-hitting analysis focusing on one year after Mugabe, Tendai Biti, who is the MDC deputy national chairperson, said hope is slowly fading away, as the economy continues to tank.
“Indeed, on the 18th of November 2017, thousands of Zimbabwe from all walks of life marched in various cities across the country demanding change and a demise of the old order.
“Sadly, Wananchi, a year later, the dreams and aspirations of the thousands of masses who marched on a sunny November afternoon have been crushed. To use the language of Langton Hughes, the dream has been deferred.
“The dream has been hijacked, the dream has been captured. The dream has been decapitated and crushed by a new phalanx of more ruthless, more predatory, more vicious men and women who make Mugabe’s omissions and commissions pale into the chamber of mitigation,” he said.
Mnangagwa is struggling to steady the ship, as the economy has proved to be the greatest undoing of the events that took place last year, leading to his elevation.
Biti said to ordinary people that marched in November last year, the issue was not merely about removing Mugabe, but the end of a system of repression, tyranny and authoritarianism.
“It was about the extinguishing of a natural order in which the State had been captured by gangsters, scoundrels and other mafia who used the same as an arena of personal accumulation enriching themselves, their cronies, their families, their regions and tribes to the exclusion of everyone else,” he said.
He said November 2017, presented Zimbabweans with an opportunity to break with the vicious past, but quickly noted that the Mugabe system remains intact, as it is slowly becoming clearer that the coup was about personal benefits more than the welfare of the people.
“Wananchi, despite the promises of openness and the pursuit of prudent economic policies all captured under the lipstick of ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’ the country as matter of fact has regressed. The new dispensation has presided over an unprecedented budget deficit that is now at least 25 percent of GDP (gross domestic product).
“In the course of its short existence, the new dispensation has accrued a huge deficit. In a space of one year it has spent three billion dollars outside the budget.
This deficit has been financed through the running of an illicit overdraft facility with a very broke central bank and the issuance of toxic treasury bills,” Biti said.
He said there is massive corruption in key areas of the economy, which include sectors dealing with foreign currency, fuel, minerals such as diamonds, gold and chrome.
Government has been trying to put measures to cut expenditure, deal with corruption and raise more funds, but Biti said massive economic mismanagement activities, including failure to embark on real structure reforms, was its greatest undoing.
“In the blink of an eye Zimbabwe in November 2018 is back to square zero of the meltdown years of 2007-2008. The real value of salaries has been eroded by a factor of more than 300 percent. A new scourge has now emerged, which is the scourge of State capture.
“The new dispensation has unleashed tentacles of State capture in virtually every institution in the public sector,” he said.
On the other hand, UK-based political analyst Alex Magaisa said after taking over power in November last year, Mnangagwa had a chance to make things different.
He said the 76-year-old could have formed a transitional authority, which included the opposition, in order to deal with the country’s economic situation.
“Others will just say they had a chance and they have squandered the vast opportunities that presented themselves back in November.
“Perhaps things could have turned out all so differently had they formed a pragmatic pact with the opposition and plotted a way to amend the supreme law of the land — they had the majority — to create a path that would stabilise the economy and reform the politics.
“But that’s assuming that they were ever interested in any of that. They weren’t. Theirs was a succession fight in which the only thing that mattered was political power. Everything else was peripheral,” Magaisa said. Daily News