A SOCIAL justice watchdog, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd), says while the country is targeting a 3.5% economic growth rate in 2024, this is likely to be hampered by unserviced debt, a toxic political environment and the reluctance to implement reforms.
The country has been locked in a political quagmire since Zanu PF won the disputed 23 August general elections which were rejected by key observer missions, including the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), over gross irregularities.
Since then, the country has been locked in election mode with controversial recalls of elected members of the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) by self-proclaimed secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu.
Electoral reforms have been a key cog in the debt resolution process to restore goodwill with international creditors.
The political situation has been worsening, with High Court judge Pisirayi Kwenda ordering that 23 names of recalled opposition CCC MPs, including those of key officials Amos Chibaya and Gift Ostallos Siziba, be removed from the ballot papers as candidates for the 3 February by-elections after a successful application by Tshabangu.
Last week, CCC leader Nelson Chamisa quit the opposition party, citing infiltration by Zanu PF.
This week, Zimcodd economist Zvikomborero Sibanda told The NewsHawks that Zimbabwe’s increasingly toxic political environment has been further blighting the country’s debt resolution agenda, which is likely to hamper economic growth.
Zimbabwe’s debt has remained unsustainable, with domestic public and publicly guaranteed debt (PPG) now at US$5 billion, while external debt is pegged at US$12.7 billion.
This has seen the country fail to access loans from international financial institutions.
“Considering what is happening, we are coming from an electoral season where the incumbent is disputed with the opposition alleging vote rigging, as supported by international observer missions. Also considering the ongoing recalls are a repeat of the destruction of the opposition. We started with the MDC-Alliance, before the courts took over and gave the mantle to [a faction within opposition led by Douglas] Mwonzora. Now we are in the same situation with Tshabangu. This toxic politics is leading to lack of cohesion,” Sibanda said.
“It is good that political actors come together under an external mediator. Without that, nothing may materialise. Even with the Structured Dialogue Programme (SDP) led by AfDB president Akinumwi Adesina and former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, without a political solution, we will remain isolated within the global community. We really need that political dialogue. We did it before with the Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2009.”
He added: “If you look, since 2019, government is trying to institute various measures to stabilise the economy. But, we are still on the same path. That is why we are not going anywhere due to lack of that dialogue.”
Sibanda also said lack of political will to implement meaningful political reforms has been exerting pressure on the country’s monetary system.
For instance, chronic inflation was persistent in 2023, with year-on-year (YoY) inflation averaging 84.1%, while month-on-month inflation (MoM) averaged 6.95%.
“On political will, we are looking at what has been causing all these inflationary pressures and others. We are saying some of the causes are structural in nature. We are talking about corruption, illicit financial flows and other rigidities that we are facing right now. In governance, we have to improve on human rights and the rule of law,” Sibanda said.
“We need the political will to institute reforms. For instance, we had the Lima Process led by Chinamasa. It got nowhere because there was no political will to reform. Without democratic reforms, we are fooling ourselves and going nowhere. If the Zanu position is that ‘let us look East’ and as we are not puppets of the West, then we are going nowhere, because the largest number of our creditors are from the West.”
“Of the US$17.7 billion, China owns only US$2.4 billion. The bulk are bilateral and multilateral creditors, largely the World Bank, Paris Club and International Monetary Fund and the arrears are continuing to mount. More than 50% of our US$12.7 billion external debt are arrears and penalties. So you can see that we are facing a real challenge. So we are saying government must implement real reforms, and resolve the illegitimacy question. After the dialogue, we are saying let us have the will to implement.”
During last year’s Zimbabwe Second Structured Dialogue Platform Meeting, President Emmerson Mnangagwa told delegates that the country is upholding tenets of good governance and democracy as part of efforts to resolve the debt crisis, which differs from the reforms being demanded by opposition players and human rights watchdogs.
For instance, in his opening address, Mnangagwa said he has been expediting economic and political reforms. His remarks were in stark contrast to opposition parliamentarians and civil society who accuse him of presiding over a ruthless and corrupt dictatorship.
“Under the Governance Pillar, my administration is unwavering in its adherence to constitutionalism, the rule of law and the tenets of good governance and democracy. We will ensure that our laws are applied consistently, without fear or favour,” Mnangagwa said then.
“Zimbabwe will conduct free and fair elections this year, consistent with our constitution and electoral laws. In addition, human rights concerns are being addressed in line with our country’s laws and international conventions.”