The economic collapse in Zimbabwe continues to deepen, with the government suspending publication of inflation figures until next February, and a prediction of at least a 3 per cent contraction in the economy overall – a recession. Electricity, water, cash, fuel and food are in short supply. Government moves to import more electricity, to pay public servants on time, and to resolve economic bottlenecks are just not enough to move the economy forward. The Mnangagwa government is imposing an IMF austerity program – absolutely necessary to get even a drip-feed of international finance – but this will definitely shrink the economy and create more political difficulties for the government.
However, the Lupane by-election demonstrates that the Chamisa-led Movement for Democratic Change is losing support, as it has not demonstrated any credible economic policy alternative.
The MDC-led protest rally set for August 16 will therefore be a test of both MDC and the government. Chamisa needs big numbers. The government needs to avoid bloody violence.
Both could be losers, even if the MDC numbers do not eventuate, because the people may well have decided that neither side can help them, and instead they will hunker down to eke out a living until something turns up.
Meanwhile the United States has placed Ambassador Anselem Sanyatwe under sanctions because he was a general in command in Harare on August 1, 2018, when at least six civilians were shot dead. The US is going harder, publicly, to force progressive reforms out of the Mnangagwa government, than are European governments. With the new Anti-Corruption Commissioners there is more credible action on corruption, but needed reforms to the electoral, public order and security and media laws are not taking place or are cosmetic. The Maintenance of Peace & Order Bill now before the Senate demonstrates the problem clearly.
Somehow, the Mnangagwa government needs to cut through this deadlock and navigate its way back into a positive engagement with the international system.
Zimbabwe Information Centre Inc
Sydney, Australia. August 13, 2019