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A New Dawn For Zimbabwe, But Is It Rosy?

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Zimbabwe

It’s three days before Christmas. Normally, at this time of the year, Merton Avenue, in Pretoria, South Africa, is an empty street. But today 3,000 people are pushing and shoving to get into the Zimbabwean embassy.

They all want to see Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s new president and the man who brought Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule to an end.

Inside the embassy, floor space is hard to find. There are people from all walks of life, from investors to lawyers to activists.

One of them is Ruvarashe Moyo, a Zimbabwean medical doctor living in South Africa.

“I came out today because I wanted to see the man who took out Mugabe. Many people back home don’t have adequate medical care, while there are thousands of specialists from Zimbabwe around the world. We are not at home because of the economic situation, so now I have hope that I may be able to go home soon. I am happy that the president’s speech was about reviving the economy and bringing us back home,” says Moyo.

Like the rest of hopeful Zimbabweans around the world, Moyo wants Zimbabwe to rekindle its former glory as Africa’s most booming economy.

Outside of land reform, Mugabe’s indigenization policies and allegations of rigged elections saw investors turn their backs on Zimbabwe, resulting in the economy tanking. The ruling Zanu-PF government invested heavily in health, education and parastatals. It meant, for most of the 1980s, public expenditure made up 45% of the GDP, according to the World Bank’s Zimbabwe Public Expenditure Review. It crowded out private investment and fueled inflation.

After 37 years, it means revitalizing Zimbabwe’s economy will not be an easy task.

“There is a lot to fix in the country, but the major thing to start with is fixing the economy so that people can have jobs and at least be able to sustain a decent living,” says Terrence Chitapi, a Zimbabwe-based economist.

According to Chitapi, Mnangagwa has said all the right things since his inauguration but needs to back up his words with action.

“From day one, he has spoken about a fresh start and people expected a quick turnaround of the economy and to see a strong push towards the respect of human rights, but so far we haven’t seen gigantic strides to turn these around,” he says.

READ MORE: Will Mnangagwa usher in a new democracy? The view from Zimbabwe

In fact, during the back-to-school period, Zimbabweans witnessed a price hike in school supplies, there is still no hard currency and street vendors, the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, have been pushed off the streets for not having lisenses.

“There are actually people from the opposition who have been brutalized by the military. Even when they take street vendors off the streets, sometimes the way they conduct themselves borders on infringement of human rights and endangering lives of not only the vendors but also other passers-by which brings fear and is what Mugabe’s presidency represented,” says Chitapi.

When Mnangagwa was Vice President, he spoke about changes that needed to happen in policy matters, state departments, stabilizing the currency, and corruption. According to Anele Ndlovu, founder of the Zim-SA Forum, an organization that encourages investment in Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa is implementing change. The problem is the pace is slow.

Since he has been in power, Mnangagwa has streamlined government ministries from 26 to 22, revised the indigenization policy and announced the sale of some parastatals.

The biggest concern among Zimbabweans is whether the country will see real democracy.

Mnangagwa’s cabinet is similar to Mugabe’s and he appointed former army chief, Constantino Chiwenga, who led the “coup”, as his deputy.

“It was already a mistake to give the military that much power over politics and now to give the head of the military the position of Vice President shows these deals were made before, just so that they can get into high positions. I worry they might not want to leave and if people attempt to go to the streets, force may be used,” says another entrepreneur who refused to be named.

READ MORE: Morgan Tsvangirai: The Quiet Man Forced Into The Wrong Job

This move has left many Zimbabweans anxious. But, according to Ndlovu, this is a transitional government that might change if Mnangagwa wins this year’s elections.

“You can’t get into government and then try to change everything all at once. Things would fall apart. You need a proper transition but some ministers need to be retired because they have been there for too long,” he says.

Anele Ndlovu

Anele Ndlovu (Photo supplied)

At least doing business in Zimbabwe appears to be getting easier.

“People started getting permits quicker, it’s easier and faster to register a business and the visa processing has also become easier,” says Ndlovu.

To cut the budget deficit, Mnangwagwa’s government has invited bids for stakes in up to eight loss-making state-owned enterprises, including its national airline, Air Zimbabwe, sitting on a $300-million debt, and power utility, ZESA, which suffered a $224-million loss in 2016.

“If you give a private entity 35% of ZESA, for example, you know the way of doing business will change. They will be able to do collections, less corruption and it will be run properly. This is a very good move,” says Ndlovu.

Out of the 92 companies Zimbabwe fully or partly owns, 38 ran at losses amounting to about $270 million in 2016. Most of the parastatals have been losing money for years due to mismanagement and high operating costs.

“On big projects, like reviving Air Zimbabwe, the investor would want to know what securities they can get… There is a lot of interest from investors. For example, there is a delegation coming into Zimbabwe interested in agriculture and farming of soya and another Turkish delegation that wants to tour the country and see factories that are closed in Bulawayo and how they can get involved in the tourism sector.”

The Harvard Business Review agrees that investors could benefit if Mnangagwa continues to concentrate on economic revival.

“Mnangagwa’s first actions in office underscore how important he views economic recovery. Even before announcing his new cabinet, Mnangagwa installed a key reformist, Patrick Chinamasa, as Acting Finance Minister, tasked with tackling corruption and re-engaging with international institutions to unlock funds to ease liquidity shortages… In this environment, multinationals that are willing to accept some risk and invest in the country could benefit from first-mover advantages – but only if the new administration follows through with much-needed economic reforms,” reads an article in the publication.

Zimbabwe lost out on Africa’s recent growth boom but Ndlovu says those who are willing to put their money in infrastructure development, healthcare, agriculture, mining, technology and energy might have a big pay day as the economy is projected to grow more than 4.5% this year.

Back in Pretoria, as the crowd dispersed, the sky gradually turned a shade of purple and the stars began shimmering. It is dusk at the embassy but maybe a new dawn is on the horizon for Zimbabwe.

Current Affairs

Why Zimbabwe Is Not There Yet

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Despite the ample investment opportunities in Zimbabwe, post-election setbacks challenge its economic recovery

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First African Elected Female Head of State Urges Women to Be Bold

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has an iconic status in Africa and the world. As the first elected female head of state in Africa, she served as the leader of Liberia for two elected terms.

Those terms saw Liberia’s slow and steady march from what was considered a pariah state to a country with what the Mo Ibrahim Foundation calls a “trajectory of progress” that has helped transform its economy, survive the shock of Ebola, and restructure public institutions to respond to the needs of the people.

READ MORE: The People’s President

It is only fitting that FORBES WOMAN AFRICA gets to meet the Nobel Peace Prize winner in Rwanda, a country known for its high representation of women in Parliament, and where Sirleaf is awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership at a special ceremony.

Q. Please share your thoughts on the African Union (AU) self-funding reform goal, the Kaberuka Proposal.
The dependency of the AU on external sources has been the subject of debate for many years, and the thinking of our leaders is that it is better to finance our operations by ourselves and alleviate pressure and dictation from these external sources. On the other hand, we know that to have financial autonomy, every country must be able to contribute consistently. So, the crux of the reform is to change the payment formula and make sure everyone knows they have to pay their part.

When it comes to the Kaberuka suggestion, it meets our objective of financing our organization ourselves. However, it does place a burden on the poorer states… So, our position with the Kaberuka plan is to study it some more so when we commit, we do not fall into arrears. We want to see the reform implemented, and for it to include cost-reduction in structural aspects such as travel and positions etc., thus reducing the burden on poorer countries.

Q: Will Africa really be able to tackle illicit financial flows? And with women being conspicuously absent from financial decision-making, yet being the greatest losers on such issues, how do we tackle these discrepancies?
We have to become more accountable and pass stringent mandates in institutions, as well as instill practical capacity to understand the complexities of these financial transactions. Also, we must implement a legal system that will enforce against such flow violations.

Access for women is difficult even in the case of legitimate flows. Even with a growing manufacturing sector and agri-industrial activities usually manned by women, access is still limited, for rural women particularly.

There is a big effort being put in by different regional institutions; in Liberia’s case, GIABA, the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, has been analyzing the flows and determining what is illicit.
But it is up to women to stand up and put other women in leadership roles, because the record is clear: women are more credit-worthy when it comes to financial transactions, and this suggests the more women there are heading these institutions, the more we can be assured that regulatory laws will be more effective.

READ MORE: ‘Women’s Leadership Is Under Attack Globally’

Q: What are your plans? How would you encourage young women to follow in your footsteps, or even create their own path?
We are establishing the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development. The activities will center around five themes that will promote women in business; women in leadership; women in fragile states; women in migration; and education for women and girls. We will use the life experiences of women who have excelled in these areas. For the young women, I say to all, be self-confident and pursue your goals…Let us be bold as women.

– Interviewed by Laura Rwiliriza

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Prosecution And Praise For Jacob Zuma

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It proved a day short on time in court and big on political posturing and speeches. The former president of South Africa Jacob Zuma’s appearance lasted a mere 10 minutes, on April 6, and the trial postponed until June 8 – yet he managed to make political capital out of his day in court in Durban.

On a bright sunny day in the coastal city of Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province of South Africa, the former head of state stood trial in his own court. Almost 10 years ago, 10 days after this day, 18 charges on 783 counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering were dropped against Jacob Zuma by former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Mokotedi Mpshe.

This decision was said to have been based on the recordings of the so-called ‘spy tapes’, which were presented to Mpshe by Zuma’s legal team. And almost a decade later, Zuma stands trial in the same court for the same charges which were reinstated by now NPA boss Shaun Abrahams.

The court was packed to full capacity with only 25 journalist allowed inside. Media came from all over the country, the continent and the world. Night vigils and pickets were held outside the night before the court case and on the day the case took place, led by different organizations supporting the former president. These organizations included Transform RSA, Black First Land First led by Andile Mngxitama, student groups from various KZN universities and members of the African National Congress (ANC) ruling party who claimed not to be operating under the party’s name.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC made an announcement a week before the trial that members of the party who liked to support Msholozi, as Zuma is affectionately called, could do so in their own personal capacity and not wear any party regalia. However, ANC members who attended actually did the opposite and when asked if they were defying their own party, countered “you cannot have an ANC without Jacob Zuma”.

Thousands of supporters in front of the Durban High Court chanted struggle songs and praised Zuma.

Zuma addressed the crowds after spending close to 15 minutes inside the court room.

“I keep asking them what have I done for them to keep trying to bring me down but they have no answers but one day they will,” he said.

Among the top-ranking ANC officials in KZN was the province’s MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Sihle Zikalala who vowed to aid in defending the former president.

What is clear is that the ANC in KZN is still divided, with its members committing to prove Zuma’s innocence and unseating current president Ramaphosa before the 2019 elections. On the other hand, some others are calling for his prosecution by the court of law.

This case may take years to be concluded and political wars in the province may not augur well for the ANC.

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