One year on…

….a not so good start for ED

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BERNARD MPOFU

Tuesday marked one year since Zimbabwe held its first elections without longtime ruler Robert Mugabe’s name on the ballot papers after his resignation in November 2017.

Mugabe buckled to pressure from military-assisted intervention and a push for  impeachment by the Parliament.

The story of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rise to power has been a subject of study for political science and international relations students across the continent.

For many critics, its Mugabe who held back Zimbabwe from restoring its yesteryear glory as the Jewel of Africa.

Following Mugabe’s exit, Zimbabwe’s election campaign trail was largely peaceful and for the first time in nearly 20 years international observers from the European Union and the United States witnessed the polls.

It’s the election aftermath, which placed Zimbabwe back on the spotlight, for the wrong reasons. A dark cloud hung over the country when security forces opened fire killing seven people in the capital city after protesters expressed anger over the delay by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release the results, two days after polls.

Mnangagwa won 50.8 percent of the vote while his closest rival Nelson Chamisa of the MDC-Alliance garnered 44.3 percent of the polls. The election victory was upheld by the Constitutional Court after the MDC Alliance accused the ruling party of manipulating the results.

Now one year on, Mnangagwa faces a crisis of expectations as he battles to stimulate economic growth. Zimbabwe’s economy is now seen contracting by up to 5 percent due to effects of a ravaging drought, a devastating cyclone at the start of the year and low exports.

According to a report jointly compiled by the FAO and government, nearly six million people in Zimbabwe are in need of food assistance.

Bread shortages, rolling power outages lasting up to 18 hours, a weakening domestic currency and erratic fuel supplies are some of the challenges encircling the new leader.

Zimbabwe’s economy is also facing rising inflation which stood at 175.66 percent in June, wiping domestic savings.

Treasury is also grappling with an unsustainable domestic and external debt after Government overran its overdraft facility and funded most of its day to day functions using Treasury Bills.

To reverse this trend, Mnangagwa has undertaken to embark on a raft of austerity measures. He has also intensified his re-engagements efforts with multilateral and bilateral creditors in a bid to access cheap funding.

After being left with no options to improve a floundering economy, Zimbabwe re-introduced its local unit but in just over a month the currency has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar.

In 2009, Zimbabwe ditched its local currency for a basket of multiple currencies, mainly dominated by the United States dollar, to tame runaway inflation which had reached 231 million percent in 2008, becoming one of the highest in the world.

The wheels have been moving slowly in Mnangagwa’s anti-graft drive amid revelations that corruption was one of the drawbacks to economic growth. While the dragnet netted Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Prisca Mupfumira and former State residences director Douglas Tapfuma, critics say the big fish remain unscathed.

Mnangagwa has struggled to contain high unemployment levels which have been compounded by company closures as the tough operating environment swallows a number of firms.