ED lashed over limited reforms… as Americans say Zim has regressed under ‘new dispensation’
AN INFLUENTIAL American think-tank has laid into Harare over the economic hardships that Zimbabweans continue to experience — which it says have worsened under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, pictured,’s government, the Daily News reports.
In addition, the California-based research organisation — RAND Corporation — is also accusing Mnangagwa’s administration of having engaged in “patchwork” reforms thus far in its desperate bid to woo the West and major investors.
This comes as Zimbabwe is in the grip of a huge economic crisis, its worst in a decade, which has stirred anger and restlessness among long-suffering ordinary citizens.
In a report released last week RAND Corporation also warned that Zimbabwe’s economy was once again on the verge of a complete collapse.
“An analysis of Mnangagwa’s economic record thus far shows that the fundamentals of the economy remain poor and the results of these few patchwork reforms have not been promising.
“Despite a very brief government surplus and the introduction of a new currency aimed at easing a liquidity crunch and curbing inflation, the economy is again close to collapse — with fuel, bread, and electricity shortages reminiscent of Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis in the late 2000s.
“Zimbabwe’s GDP growth dropped from 3,5 percent in 2018 to minus seven percent in 2019,” RAND Corporation said in its report titled ‘A New Zimbabwe: Assessing Continuity and Change after Mugabe’.
“Investment in Zimbabwe is high risk, which will continue to deter potential investors in the near term.
“If investors have a high risk tolerance, there are certainly opportunities, particularly in services and agriculture.
“Although government officials enthusiastically called for an influx of investment, a common refrain from business leaders, the opposition and civil society actors interviewed for this study was ‘wait’ or stay away for now,” RAND Corporation added.
“Other interviewees were more critical, saying, ‘You’d be crazy’.
“A few interviewees suggested that potential investors should carefully consider the public relations effects of being seen to support the current government, especially during on-going waves of repression and political violence,” the think tank said further.
Its damning assessment of Harare echoes President Donald Trump’s administration’s scathing review of the post-July 2018 Mnangagwa government.
Washington has accused Mnangagwa and his team of driving the country into the ground, ever since the 77-year-old Zanu PF leader replaced Mugabe following the stunning military coup in November 2017.
In a blistering assessment that was done last year, the chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Risch, said bluntly that Zimbabweans were now worse off under Mnangagwa than they were in 2017.
“As Zimbabweans mark this sombre anniversary (the shooting of six civilians by soldiers in August 2018), we are reminded of all that can go wrong when regime preservation comes ahead of real democratic change.
“Zimbabwe is facing a worse political and economic crisis today than in 2017 when long-time ruler … Mugabe was forced from power by the country’s military.
“Today, citizens are suffering under staggering inflation, regular fuel and water shortages, rolling blackouts, a failing currency, and an increasingly repressive political environment,” Risch said.
He was speaking as Zimbabwe marked the first anniversary of the August 2018 shootings, when the army used live ammunition to quell violent demonstrations in Harare.
Although a commission of inquiry that was set up by Mnangagwa established that the military used excessive force then, the government is yet to act decisively on the recommendations of that probe.
Risch also said Mnangagwa was yet to implement much-needed reforms despite having made encouraging promises when he replaced Mugabe in 2017, and also after his disputed 2018 poll victory.
“President Mnangagwa’s efforts to cleanse his government’s image abroad and to convince the Zimbabwean people that their economic woes are the fault of targeted US sanctions are the wrong priorities.
“These sanctions are on individuals who violated the rule of law and caused this political and economic chaos,” the forthright senator said.
“President Mnangagwa should, instead, focus on delivering the Zanu PF government’s long-promised reforms.
“He should also uphold his commitment to hold to account those in the military leadership responsible for ordering the shooting of unarmed civilians last August,” Risch added.
In its report, the RAND Corporation appeared to hammer home the same points — further accusing the government of implementing “piece-meal reforms” without making any meaningful progress.
“In sum, although Mnangagwa has repeatedly deployed flowery reform rhetoric, his administration’s piece-meal actions belie any movement toward genuine political or economic reform.
“Repression has increased, and the economy continues to sink.
“On the political front, reform promises are severely lagging, with very few tangible steps toward reconfiguring Zimbabwe’s autocratic system,” the RAND Corporation said.
“There is a wide gap between the government’s reform rhetoric and the reality on the ground.
“The government’s well-rehearsed slogans appear to be largely political theatre targeted at the international diplomatic community and potential investors.
“Even where limited progress has been made, such steps appear to be largely cosmetic, a mere box-ticking exercise,” the think tank added.
“A brief opening of political space in the run-up to the 2018 elections rapidly shut in the post-election period when six protestors were killed by security forces and tanks deployed on Harare’s streets for the second time in nine months,” it said, adding that the government was trying to mislead the international community.
“In other words, Mnangagwa is attempting to have his cake and eat it too, paying lip service to reforms in the hope of securing international support, but staunchly refusing to implement any measures that might harm his and his closest supporters’ political and economic interests.
“The just-released report emphasises the urgent need for the United States government to push the Zimbabwean government to implement genuine political, economic and security reforms.
“Such reforms would go a long way toward putting Zimbabwe on a democratic path, lowering levels of political polarisation and repairing the collapsing economy,” the RAND Corporation said further.
“Reforms would also reassure potential investors and help to earn back the goodwill — and possible access to lending — of the international community,” the report noted further.
But the government dismissed the report yesterday, which it said was not based on empirical evidence.
“It is unfortunate that the analysis by the RAND Corporation lacks empirical data to back the conclusions made and the analysis.
“One cannot just wake up without any statistical data to predict the economy and its performance over time.
“In our view, the economy is on a strong footing to achieve an upper-middle income economy over the 10-year period to 2030,” Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi told the Daily News.
“President Mnangagwa has put in place sound economic policies that we are sure will revive the economy.
“Political cohesion alone is not enough a prescription to solve Zimbabwe’s economic challenges.
“This is because while we have improved significantly in the area of human rights by allowing freedoms that were not supported by the Mugabe regime, we continue to face international isolation, hence the re-engagement efforts,” Mutodi added.
“We have repealed AIPPA, which was thought to be repressive and replaced it with laws that promote freedom of expression, association and assembly.
“The west is still not pleased with these reforms as their smile will only come if there is a regime change in Zimbabwe.
“We have handled protests in a modern manner, exercising restraint and bringing to justice any offenders as required by the law,” Mutodi said further.
“There are no reports of extra-judicial killings and State-sponsored violence as before. These reforms add to our efforts to bring about a fully democratic State where every citizen’s rights are protected.
“The West may actually be asking us to reform much better than it has reformed itself since the days of slavery,” he added.