ZIMBABWE’S prospects of economic recovery remain gloomy due to the continued incumbency of President Robert Mugabe and the lack of a clear succession plan once the veteran leader finally leaves office, an international think-tank International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned.
The country is battling a severe economic crisis whose most visible symptoms have been a debilitating liquidity crunch, company closures and high unemployment levels estimated by trade unions at over 90%.
Zimbabwe is saddled with a US$10,8 billion debt overhang and has been struggling to access lines of credit from multi-lateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and African Development Bank.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa made a written commitment at the World Bank summer gathering in Lima, Peru in August 2015 to clear US$1,8 billion owed to IMF, World Bank and AfDB by June to enable the country to access new funds.
ICG however noted in a report dated February 29 that there is “little sign of meaningful reform and sustainable, broad-based recovery.”
The group added: “Political uncertainty and economic insecurity have worsened as the Zanu PF government … is consumed by struggles over who will succeed President Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe has been trapped in political and economic crisis of varying intensity for over 15 years. Political dynamics, compounded by massive debt, policy incoherence and low domestic and international confidence, frustrate economic recovery.
“Efforts to develop and support reforms are tempered by the nonagenarian president’s incumbency. Lack of leadership, combined with infighting across the political spectrum, but especially within Zanu PF, has complicated and further blunted the ability to address multiple challenges.”
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since Independence in 1980, has not shown an intention to relinquish power despite advanced age and accompanying health problems which have seen him making numerous trips to the Far East for health check-ups. He has been endorsed by warring factions in Zanu PF as the party’s presidential candidate in the 2018 elections despite the fact that he will be 94 then.
“Mugabe, though 92 and visibly waning, shows no sign of stepping down. His endorsement by the December 2015 Zanu PF national conference to represent the party in the 2018 elections props up a coterie of dependents and defers the divisive succession issue,” ICG noted.
Zanu PF has no clear-cut succession plan and the situation has been complicated by the infighting pitting Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his loyalists against a group of young Turks known as Generation 40.
In addition to the political challenges, ICG warned that the country’s precarious situation is “likely to deteriorate further due to insolvency, drought and growing food insecurity”. The country has been hit hard by the El Nino-induced drought which is also ravaging other Sadc countries.
Zimbabwe needs about US$1,5 billion to save at least three million people from hunger and has appealed to the international community, local businesspeople, civil society, churches and humanitarian organisations for assistance.