IF there is anything that aptly demonstrates Zimbabwe is in a deep crisis, it the recent remarks by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government when it was trying to resist South African intervention against a backdrop of arrests, detentions and abductions of civil society and political activists. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in August sent two delegations from government and the governing ANC to engage Mnangagwa and Zanu PF respectively.
Predictably, the South Africans met with hostility and resistance from the Harare regime which always retreats to a laager mentality when people question and criticise its leadership, governance and policy failures.
The regime made so much noise and went ballistic. Some of the responses were worse than bar talk.
They were as preposterous as they were embarrassing.
But the statement that caught people’s attention the most, if only because of it’s ridiculous drift and detachment
from reality, was made by Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa.
As the South African envoys were on their way to Zimbabwe, the Harare regime was scrambling for a spin to rationalise the situation.
Instead of giving a nuanced interpretation of the current crisis in the country, government went for the somewhat disingenuous spin; in fact it resorted spinning yarns. Showing lack of imagination and credibility, Mutsvangwa said: “It is important that we refute press claims of a crisis in Zimbabwe. Crisis in diplomacy has specific and defined circumstances that go beyond day to day banter,” she said.
“It is common knowledge that there is no Zimbabwean issue before the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. Neither is there one such issue before the Sadc summit. Definitely there is no such issue before the continental body, the African Union.
“South African domestic politics can be allowed to be spirited. Even then neither comments from some figures in the ruling party nor irate remarks from its opposition ranks should be taken as the basis of creating perceptions or attributions of crisis in other nations. All said, there is no crisis in Zimbabwe which needs external intervention under established international treaties and conventions.”
While it is clear why Mnangagwa’s government does not want to hear the narrative that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe, the way it seeks to resist that is simply unsophisticated. It is neither serious nor workable to try to explain away the situation in Zimbabwe by denying the obvious and trying to normalise the abnormal.
Well perhaps Mutsvangwa was right, there is no crisis in Zimbabwe; the situation is far worse than that. It’s a disaster or calamity. If doctors, teachers and other professionals are on and off work, what do you call that? If hospitals have now become places to die, not for survival, what is it?
When half the population faces food shortages, how do you define that? When a whole city like Bulawayo has no water, what’s that? And when citizens brave crocodiles across the Limpopo in search of food and survival, how do you describe that?
The sum total of it is massive political and economic instability. The political and security situation in Zimbabwe is no longer only affecting Zimbabweans alone, but the whole region. That is far worse than a crisis. It’s a catastrophe. The facts speak for themselves. In the aftermath of the devastating impact of Covid-19, a global pandemic which left a trail destruction around the world, the situation has become a humanitarian tragedy.
Here are the facts which show Zimbabwe is not just in a crisis, but going through hell. Zimbabwe is experiencing an economic and humanitarian disaster.
Macroeconomic instability remains evident; the economy will contract sharply in 2020 by 4.5%, amplified by climatic and Covid-19 shocks; the ZWL$ has lost most of its value even though the currency auction system has temporarily stabilised the foreign exchange market; inflation remains stratospherically high at 659.4% – the second highest in the world after Venezuela; and international reserves are very low.
The climatic, Covid-19 and macroeconomic shocks have magnified the social impacts of the economic catastrophe, leaving more than half of the population reeling from food insecurity. As usual government will make wild guesstimates about recovery. We are told in 2021 the economy will rebound 7.4%. This growth projection is just thumb-suck.
When the Mnangagwa government came to office following a coup in 2017 and disputed 2018 elections, it adopted an agenda focused on macroeconimic stabilisation and reforms.
Notable reforms undertaken include a significant fiscal consolidation that has helped reduce the monetary financing of the deficit, reintroduction of the domestic currency, creation of an interbank and auction forex market, and restructuring of the command agriculture financing model to a public-private partnership with commercial banks.
It dealt with the budget and current account deficits, an important issue in terms of macro-economic stabilisation.
Now we are told there is some budget surpluses being recorded. However, the inconsistent, piecemeal and erratic implementation of reforms, notably delays and missteps in political reforms, has failed to restore confidence.
Reengagement with the international community continues to face hurdles. The government has yet to define the
modalities and financing to clear arrears to the World Bank and other multilateral institutions, and to undertake reforms that would facilitate resolution of arrears with bilateral creditors.
This continues to constrain Zimbabwe’s access to external official financial support. Without that, there is no chance of meaningful and sustainable recovery. The regimes faces a difficult balancing act of pursuing tight monetary policy to reduce skyrocketing inflation and prudent fiscal policy to address the macroeconomic imbalances and build confidence in the currency, while averting a crisis.
Let’s call it a calamity. In so doing, let’s not normalise the abnormal.