HARARE - Analysts have warned President Robert Mugabe and his misfiring government that Zanu PF’s increasingly violent factional and succession wars will sink Zimbabwe’s ailing economy to levels witnessed five years ago, unless they act decisively now.
The warning comes as the former liberation movement is currently embroiled in vicious infighting, pitting loyalists of embattled Vice President Joice Mujuru and party strongman, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, although both bigwigs deny leading any faction.
Respected economist John Robertson told the Daily News yesterday that the economy would persist on a downward spiral unless the country resolved its succession problem.
“The people who are supposed to be directing and implementing policy are currently channelling their energies elsewhere. Under normal circumstances, we would expect the president to make strong decisions to deal with this, but unfortunately for the economy no decision has been made,” he lamented.
Robertson also said unless Mugabe made it clear soon when he would be retiring or who his preferred successor would be, uncertainty would continue to haunt the economy.
“It would have been helpful to the economy and investors if there was a clear succession plan in place. A plan which everyone knew. However, as it stands, there is a lot of uncertainty in the economy and it would be hard — if not impossible — for us to attract any serious investor,” he added.
Mugabe, turning 91 soon, is the only leader that Zimbabweans have had since independence in 1980. Despite his advanced age and failing health, he has vowed to see through his current term which expires in 2018 — when he will be 95 then.
As it is, Mugabe is both Africa’s oldest leader and its longest ruling. In his 34 years in power, South Africa has had seven leaders, Zambia six, Malawi five, Botswana four and Mozambique four.
Economist Christopher Mugaga said the acrimony playing out in the governing party did not augur well for the country, both politically and economically.
“Statements made by people who are expected to unite a nation are more dangerous than their actions,” he said, adding that the economy was always the first casualty in the kind of anarchy that was being experienced in Zimbabwe.
“If there are issues and problems there must be a way to address them, instead of washing dirty linen in public. During the Government of National Unity there were channels that the Prime Minister and President used to address their differences, but more often than not never in public. This gave investors’ confidence about our country and to come here. As a result the economy benefited,” Mugaga said.
While Cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, war veterans and ordinary Zanu PF party members have openly taken sides in the current factional wars and are busy throwing mud at each other, other analysts say the country’s battered economy has sadly in the meantime been left on auto-pilot.
Already, macro-economic indicators are showing that the economy might not register any growth at all this year.
This comes after Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa recently revised downwards this year’s gross domestic product due to declining economic conditions in the country.
Following the adoption of the multi-currency regime in 2009, and during the inclusive government period, there was a marked increase in various sectors’ performance, with GDP growth averaging 7,1 percent between 2009 and 2012.
However, since the Zanu PF party took sole custody of the government last year, after controversially winning the country’s harmonised elections, the economy has been nose-diving.
Even the International Monetary Fund warned this week that Zimbabwe’s economy was at a crossroads.
“The economic situation remains difficult. The post-hyperinflation rebound has ended. Gross Domestic Product growth decelerated from 10,5 percent in 2012 to 4,5 percent in 2013, due to adverse weather conditions, weak demand for key exports, and election-year uncertainty,” the IMF said.
The Bretton Woods institution said the outlook in 2014 was for continued low growth of about three percent.
“The external position is precarious, with low international reserves, a large current account deficit, an overvalued real exchange rate, and growing external arrears. Credit and deposit growth have slowed down sharply, liquidity conditions are tight, and the banking system remains weak.
“Fiscal pressures arose in early 2014 due to higher-than-budgeted wage increases and revenue shortfalls as the economy weakened,” the IMF added.
Political commentators also warn that the nonagenarian leader’s continued grip on Zimbabwe could have a destabilising effect on the country.
“Deflation is already at two and this will inevitably create a health and social crisis because the country will not be able to fund the health sector. Mugabe’s holding on to power is catastrophic even for the region. South Africa will also feel the impact as Zimbabweans migrate there,” said Eddie Cross, a prominent economist and Movement for Democratic Change Member of Parliament.
South Africa is currently in the process of renewing the permits of more than 200 000 Zimbabweans to whom it granted an opportunity to work in that country in 2009. The process is expected to end by December this year.
A report released in July by Statistics South Africa revealed that most permanent residence permits granted in South Africa are to Zimbabweans, followed by people from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria respectively.