Mugabe’s early departure can save Zim

ONLY immediate and drastic political and economic reforms, including President Robert Mugabe leaving power – now and not after two years – could pull Zimbabwe from the brink, analysts said on Monday.



erdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Reacting to comments by Mugabe in an interview on Sky News at the weekend that he would step down “to rest” when his term expires in 2008, the analysts said an earlier departure by the veteran leader would more than lift crisis-sapped Zimbabwe’s fortunes.


The perception within the international community and among an increasing number within Mugabe’s own ruling Zanu PF party was that he had become a stumbling block to Zimbabwe’s economic and political progress, they said.


But more critical, according to Harare economic consultant John Robertson, was the fact that Zimbabwe could not wait another two and a half years for Mugabe to step down when his term ends, before it can embark on extensive and radical reforms to resuscitate its comatose economy.


Robertson said: “The economy can hardly wait for that long, we need changes as a matter of urgency. We need to begin to see a respect for market forces which we no longer have. We must not wait until 2008 (when Mugabe goes) because the damage will be too great to fix.”


Zimbabwe’s six-year economic crisis is seen as one of the highest inflation rates in the world. Annual inflation rose to 265,1 % in August compared to 254,8 % in July, according to official figures released this week. The country’s limping economy has been worsened by foreign currency, fuel and food shortages. Foreign currency shortages have hamstrung industry, plunging production levels to below 30%.


Critics blame repression by Mugabe and his controversial economic and land policies, chiefly his expropriation of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks, for exacerbating Zimbabwe’s crisis. The veteran leader denies responsibility for the economic meltdown, instead he says Britain and its Western allies have ganged up to sabotage Zimbabwe’s economy in a bid to incite an uprising against him in retaliation for the land seizures.

Whatever the reasons behind Zimbabwe’s deepening crisis, the analysts said only the departure of Mugabe, who has ruled the country since Independence in 1980, could restore much needed confidence in the southern African country.This, if only because modern politics dictated that leadership renewal was crucial in a country’s development, according to University of Zimbabwe lecturer and political commentator Heneri Dzinotyiwei.


“It is always better with a new leadership,” Dzinotyiwei said. Asked whether Mugabe’s departure will herald a new beginning for the troubled southern African country, Dzinotyiwei responded: “There is no question about that. The government is the problem. Out of the government, the cabinet, the parliament, the only thing that has not changed since Independence in 1980 is Mugabe, so people are beginning to associate the country’s (problems) with Mugabe.”


Adored and reviled by multitudes in Africa and banned from most Western capitals for alleged human rights abuses, Mugabe has in the past insisted his Zanu PF party will decide when he should leave office. But analysts are agreed that the culture of fear within Zanu PF precludes anyone within the party from stepping forward to tell Mugabe to go.And when Mugabe eventually goes at a time of his choosing, putting the country back on track would take years as Zimbabwe has lost millions of skilled workers to neighbouring countries and abroad while there are few resources available for reconstruction.


More than three million Zimbabweans out of the country’s total 12 million people live in neighbouring countries or further abroad after fleeing home because of hunger or political persecution.


Dzinotyiwei said: “Zimbabwe is one of the biggest countries in Africa in terms of resources and it has patriotic citizens but exactly that strength is what we are losing as more people leave the country in frustration.” – zwnews.