PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s rule is becoming increasingly costly and politically unsustainable, analysts said this week in the wake of a five-day stayaway.
In the past three months, Zimbabwe has been hit by three rolling mass actions designed to force Mugabe to tackle the current economic and political crisis or go.
The latest mass action, which ends today, started on Monday and has left Zimbabwe’s already prostrate economy profusely bleeding.
Since Monday most shops, banks, and factories around the country were closed.
All towns were virtually paralysed with Harare – Zimbabwe’s commercial hub – being the most seriously affected.
The only offices in town that were working full time were those of the government, which produce nothing of value.
If Mugabe remains as the millstone around the neck of business, the political pressure will persist.
University of Zimbabwe business analyst Tony Hawkins says the situation has become unsustainable.
“Clearly, the economy is continuing to decline and everything is going backwards,” he said. “The question now is for how long is government prepared or able to allow the situation to continue like this?”
Hawkins said since the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which organised the mass action, and the ruling Zanu PF were both not prepared to give in, a negotiated settlement was the only way out.
Analysts say unless this is done, economic haemorrhaging will inevitably get worse.
Economic consultant John Robertson said the current politics are undermining the economy.
“The cross linkages between politics and economics are profound,” he said. “If there is no change from a political point of view, it’s clear we are destined for disaster.”
Analysts agree the effects of mass action, coupled with shortages of fuel and electricity, will inevitably force a number of firms to either completely close down, reduce operations, or retrench in the short- to medium-term.
And when that happens, the economy will shrink, so will tax revenues to government and the provision of social services. Unemployment and poverty will increase.
That will then lead to further political and social instability.
Zimbabwe’s economy, on a precipitous free fall for the past three years, contracted by 12,1% in 2002. Output has dropped by 19,3% over the past three years.
The manufacturing sector shrivelled by a further 8,2% since last year, in addition to the 11,5% decline that was recorded in 2001.
The agricultural sector – which before the recent land seizures by government was the mainstay of the economy – has shrunk by 25%.
The mining sector declined by 7,1% since 2002 with gold production suffering a significant fall of 18%, while tourism remains languishing in the doldrums.