HARARE - Analysts have warned that Zimbabwe is facing an imminent economic implosion due to chronic mismanagement by President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF, that is being exacerbated by the former liberation movement’s seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars.
At the same time, the main opposition is rubbing it in by reiterating its post-2013 election claims that while the nonagenarian and his party are allegedly “grandmasters at rigging elections” they had “proven beyond doubt that they can’t rig the economy”.
These sentiments come as life gets harder for most Zimbabweans, and as the country’s economy gets more and more informalised, to the point where critics now derisively describe Zimbabwe as “a country of degreed street vendors”.
Economists say average incomes in Zimbabwe are now at their lowest level in 60 years, with more than 76 percent of the country’s families now surviving on less than $200 a month — well below the poverty datum line of more than $500.
So bad has the situation become that hundreds of thousands of desperate street vendors across the country are openly defying a government directive to vacate congested and over-traded city centres, while illegal settlements are mushrooming everywhere as unemployment and poverty ‘Zanu PF fails to rig economy’ levels are skyrocketing.
In clear signs of looming national unrest, many ordinary Zimbabweans have lately been attacking law enforcement agents at the slightest provocation, while fed-up prisoners at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison revolted against poor prison conditions last March.
Analysts and the opposition say instead of finding desperately-needed solutions to deal with the country’s myriad problems, Zanu PF is obsessing on its “useless infighting” which has seen the brutal purging of many of its senior officials, including former Vice President Joice Mujuru and her perceived allies — on untested allegations of plotting to oust and kill Mugabe.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told MDC members at the weekend that the 2,2 million jobs that were promised by Zanu PF were “just an election gimmick to garner votes” and that with an unemployment rate of about 90 percent, millions of Zimbabweans had no choice but to resort to street vending to earn a living.
“The only viable solution is to create employment as opposed to threatening vendors on our streets with gunpowder. They simply want jobs and not bullets! This is a ticking time bomb and a threat to national stability,” he said.
Prominent economist John Robertson told the Daily News yesterday that since the succession debate had taken centre stage within Zanu PF, the country’s economic performance had nose-dived.
He said the party was “holding the country hostage” while its bigwigs continued to savage each other with reckless abandon and without forging a progressive path forward for the long-suffering country.
As a result, Robertson said, the country’s poor were getting poorer as national problems mounted and pressure grew on central government.
“There are major shrinkages in all sectors of the economy, from mining to agriculture and manufacturing. Businesses are going bankrupt. We cannot be a country where we are consuming more than we produce.
“We are struggling and have some bad luck in falling gold and platinum prices. However, the bad luck was made even worse by government interference in the maize prices last year. This has made us look for maize elsewhere,” Robertson said.
He added that apart from the imminent food shortages, the government was also failing to honour its wage bill and run the country properly.
Academic Eldred Masunungure said it was now very clear that the public knew that “we are going in the wrong direction”.
He added that it was also self-evident that the country was going through “a transition phase from the old order to a new dispensation whose outcome is unknown”.
“It is now very imperative that we try and steer the transition away from the chaotic 2008 situation to a better one. The inflexibility in the country reflects the confusion in the country which is symptomatic of a country that is nearing collapse.
“A key question to ask is whether what is happening to the vendor situation is going to result in any major policy changes that will lead to a better economy. We should also ask whether having new leadership in our political parties will translate into a better situation,” Masunungure said.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson, Mfundo Mlilo, said social service delivery in the country had declined precipitously since the 2013 elections.
He said the pointers were very clear that Zimbabwe “is in a crisis situation which reflects a broader economic and social calamity”.
“The issue of vendors cannot be solved unless government addresses the issue of the collapsed economy that has forced desperate people to disregard orders,” Mlilo said.
Respected analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said Zimbabwe was headed in “an unknown direction” — a situation that had been caused by Zanu PF’s dodgy policies.
He said the current power struggles in politics “should not only be petty power grabs but must also serve the needs of the general population”.
“There is a clear lack of leadership in Zimbabwe and the country is in a generally disastrous direction and we need to shift the focus to transforming the economy through creating a conducive environment for foreign direct investment.
“But Zanu PF has no capacity to remove Zimbabwe from its current economic situation. What is now needed is a new leadership that can revive industry and the various institutions,” Ruhanya said.
University of Zimbabwe economics lecturer Albert Makochekanwa said there was no seriousness by government to turn around the economy.
He said the government continuously talked about promoting local production yet still allowed the market to be flooded with imported goods.
He said if the government promoted local companies, many of them would not have closed shop and unemployment would not be at its current high levels.
“Judging by what is happening, things could turn for the worse. Government preaches ZimAsset but they are not implementing it and are showing no appetite to do so.
“Government is simply not doing its part in trying to turn around the country’s economy and unless there is a radical change, there will be no end to the economic turmoil,” Makochekanwa said.