A UNITED KINGDOM-based research firm has waded into Zimbabwe’s highly volatile political arena predicting that while the ruling Zanu PF will most likely retain power in the next general elections, the country’s military will immediately start positioning Vice President Constantino Chiwenga (pictured) to replace President Emmerson Mnangagwa after the polls.
Mnangagwa came to power following a 2017 military coup code-named Operation Restore Legacy. Zimbabwe is this year expected to go for elections later in the year, but some political analysts and civic society organisations say a rise in politically motivated violence and the absence of a level playing field may tip the outcome in favour of Mnangagwa’s party.
However, a survey conducted for The Brenthurst Foundation by the non-partisan London-based SABI Strategy Group says Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Nelson Chamisa is surging ahead of Mnangagwa — 53% to 40% — among those who say they will definitely vote in August In the controversial 2018 presidential election, Mnangagwa scraped through with 50.8% of the vote ahead of Chamisa’s 44.3%.
Mnangagwa was popular at the time due to the removal of the late former president Robert Mugabe through a coup, but his popularity has been waning because of unfulfilled coup promises. The unfulfilled promises have angered the military’s rank and file.
Statistics show that Zimbabwe scores 38.8 (out of 100) in our Short-Term Political Risk Index (lower score indicates higher risk), with particularly poor scores in the ‘social stability’ and ‘policy continuity’ subcomponents. Fitch says Zimbabwe’s Long-Term Political Risk Index score of 42.7 (out of 100) reflects questions surrounding the country’s long-term stability.
It says within this score, there are significant variations regarding the various subcategories. The ‘scope of state’ sub-component garners 55.0 (out of 100) and is reflective of the relative lack of domestic constraints evident on the Zanu PF-led government.
According to the latest Fitch Solutions research note while Zimbabwe economy will accelerate to 2.4% in 2023, from 2.0% in 2022, the country faces enormous political risk in the short to medium term.
The acceleration in growth in 2023, Fitch says will be driven by a more expansionary fiscal policy in the run-up to elections in the middle of the year and an easing of price pressures, which should provide further support to consumers.
“Zimbabwe’s political outlook remains fraught with uncertainty,” reads the report titled Zimbabwe Country Risk Report Q1 2023.
“President Emmerson Mnangagwa is caught between the population’s demands for change and the expectations of his military supporters that he will uphold the status quo regarding their own privileged position within the state infrastructure.
“The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party looks set to retain its dominance over the medium term, with opposition political parties being marginalised by the incumbents. Renewed military intervention to replace President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his administration remains a possibility. Political instability will rise around the next general election, due in 2023, and will continue to be fuelled by protracted economic underperformance.”
Fitch says the government “will seek to avert a regime change by prioritising the payment of military salaries and the provision of food and services”.
“However, in the event that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is ousted, the country’s political difficulties will persist or even worsen in the short-to-medium term,” the report reads.
“There is little consensus within the ZANU-PF on a civilian replacement, while a military candidate (most likely Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who was head of the army when Mugabe was removed from power in November 2017) would lead to a further deterioration of investment sentiment and relations with donors.”
The outlook for investment, Fitch says is considerably less upbeat.
“Fears about post-election violence are likely to weigh on market sentiment, exacerbating Zimbabwe’s pre-existing lack of appeal to investors amid on-going concerns about the country’s fiscal and external vulnerabilities. We are forecasting growth in real gross fixed capital investment of just 1.0% in 2023 — down from 2.5% in 2022 — and a contribution of 0.1pp to headline growth in 2023 (down from 0.2pp in 2022),” Fitch says.