31 July 2014

Zimbabwe: A Year Since Mugabe's Re-Election

Photo: New Zimbabwe
President Mugabe sworn in for the 7th term (file photo).

analysis

Robert Mugabe was re-elected as president of Zimbabwe one year ago. Since then, he has done very little: his party is dominated by a power struggle over who will succeed him.

Even in his seventh term as president, Robert Mugabe's rhetoric remains the same as ever. "Do not be too kind to white farmers. Land is yours, not theirs," he declared in a speech at the beginning of July. According to the Zimbabwe Farmers' Union, there are still around 150 white large landowners - 4000 others had their land seized and were driven out in the early 2000s, with Mugabe's approval.

Now the remaining farmers are facing the same treatment - if Mugabe follows up his talk with action. But Mugabe and his government have been doing a lot of talking since the 90-year-old and his Zanu-PF party won a huge majority in the elections on July 31, 2013. Although Mugabe has been able to regain sole control since then, having left behind his unpopular coalition partner and rival Morgan Tsvangirai, he has barely implemented any of his promises.

Whether the debt crisis, economic growth or any progress on who could take over the presidential office: everything is at a standstill. "The country is totally stagnating," says Jürgen Langen, Head of the Zimbabwe office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation - a German political think tank. Only a few Zimbabweans still believed that the government or the opposition could solve the country's problems, Langen adds.

Grave economic situation

Zimbabwe's current problems are numrerous. The country is still suffering from the aftermath of the acute economic crisis in the 2000s. At that time, Zimbabwe was making headlines with record hyperinflation levels of several hundred million percent, 4000 cholera victims and the collapse of its economy. Although inflation is now under control, there is barely any economic growth. In 2013, growth stood at 1.8 percent. "It would have been worse if we hadn't had such a good agricultural season," says Tony Hawkins, Professor of Economics at the University of Zimbabwe. The current growth rates are also not enough to reduce the high levels of poverty in the country.

Despite this, Robert Mugabe is clinging steadfastly to his indigenization project. Foreign companies in Zimbabwe are required to transfer a 51 percent holding in their business to black Zimbabwean stakeholders. Large mining companies in particular are struggling with the consequences of this policy. Very few investors are willing to hand over control of their companies - the law is putting off the new investors that the country desperately needs.

But Mugabe is not keen to soften his rhetoric. "Indigenization will remain on the agenda. Young parliamentarians attempted to make the sytem more moderate, but the boss personally put a stop to that as soon as possible," Langen said. For Mugabe, indigenization is a flagship policy. He described it last year as the "final phase of total independence" and the "final phase of the liberation struggle." Most of the mining companies in Zimbabwe are owned by foreign stakeholders - Zimbabweans themselves profit only slightly from the income generated by chromium and platinum mining.

A country crippled by power struggles

Up to now, Mugabe's concept has not seen any progress. "It's pure public relations" said Professor Hawkins. Numerous observers in Zimbabwe have suggested that he majority of the shares that the foreign companies have handed over so far have ended up in the pockets of Mugabe supporters.

A few days ago, Zimbabwe's Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, was himself at the receiving end of another kind of public relations move: he was summoned for questioning by the police. Moyo was accused of giving the post of editor of a state-run newspaper to a journalist who had previously criticized President Mugabe - a sacrilege in Zimbabwe. Observers are describing Moyo's questioning as a warning shot from Mugabe: he publically blamed Moyo for using his influence on state-run media to attack his rivals in the party.

A power struggle dominates the governing party, Zanu-PF. After the aging president and party leader traveled to Singapore in May for one of his regular "routine check-ups,"there was renewed speculation over his health. Two officials in particular are hoping to succeed Mugabe on his death: Vice President Joice Mujuru and Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

"The focus of Mugabe's party seems to be much more on who succeeds and who gets the top job, rather than on rebuilding the economy," says Professor Hawkins. But this does not mean Mugabe and his party need to fear pressure from the opposition. The opposition party MDC has seen serious splits since their devastating defeat in 2013, and are not seen as a threat to the government.

Editor: Mark Caldwell

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