HomeBusiness DigestWhat Mugabe's legacy means to Mnangagwa

What Mugabe’s legacy means to Mnangagwa

FORMER president Robert Mugabe’s death has become the most trending topic both locally and internationally. Several obituaries were penned since last Friday when he drew his last breath aged 95.

Some writers extolled the virtues of the ex-leader, while others vilified him. Just two years ago Mugabe had turned into a mentor-cum-tormentor for his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa.

In this analysis, we look at the highlights of Mugabe’s economic policies and what impact they have had on Zimbabwe’s economy. Mugabe, a school teacher-turned-
guerrilla fighter was driven by Marxism — the class struggle ideology.

After gaining Independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe was unequivocal on his ideology. The redistribution of land was one of the most contentious issues that
resulted in his isolation despite once being seen as a Knight.

During the first 10 years after Independence, Mugabe’s policy on land was bound by the Lancaster House Agreement which spoke about the willing buyer-willing
seller principle. As the economy started showing signs of slowing down, Mugabe’s administration adopted the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme(Esap).

The effects of the Esap generated a lot of debate on whether prescriptions from international monetary institutions would be a panacea for developing

Esap triggered growing resentment among the labour force and in 1998 many took to the streets protesting on the rising cost of living.

The food riots piled pressure on the administration which had adopted several economic blueprints since Independence. This in turn gave birth to a militant
labour movement, which would later transform into an opposition party that gave Mugabe sleepless nights.

During his 37 rule, Mugabe deployed the army to assist regional peers that were facing conflict. Angola, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo are a
case in point.

During these operations Mugabe’s foreign policy focussed on military might instead of creating a launchpad that would give local companies and investors,
business opportunities. Superpowers had the last laugh in the post conflict period of such countries, as they seized opportunities in reconstruction. Here
Mugabe failed.

After losing in the 2000 referendum, Mugabe wanted a new campaign message. His comrades in arms were getting agitated by Britain’s reneging on the land reform
programme. Around 1999, the first farm invasions were reported in Svosve village.

The land question became the national question and Mugabe buckled to pressure from war veterans who demanded expropriation of land from 5 000 white former
commercial farmers.

The controversial land reform programme became his election trump card. His re-election was a pyrrhic victory though. It came at too great a cost—the chaotic
land reform programme, noble as it was disrupted agriculture output.

Vertical and horizontal linkages between agriculture and other productive sectors suffered a knock. The sector which used to be mainstay of the economy,
contributing a fifth of the GDP is yet to fully recover due to unresolved issues relating to the land reform programme.

In 2008, Mugabe adopted the policy of nationalisation. The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act was another radical policy shift, which compelled
foreign owned investors to cede 51% stakes to locals. Investors fretted when the Bill was enacted and Zimbabwe’s economy plunged. Between 2000 and 2008, the
economy contracted by 40% and it is yet to fully recover.

Mnangagwa took a neo-liberal approach. Through his open for business mantra, he reassured investors that their assets would be profitable and secure in
Zimbabwe. That policy has not yielded much though.

Evicted farmers are yet to be compensated and studies show that it is through radical policies that a developing country can break the shackles of dependency.
Zimbabwe’s vicious circle of poverty will be in perpetuity, unless radical steps are taken to transform the economy and also when she attracts concessionary
funding from her allies.

— Econometer Global Capital.

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