Zimbabwe: 'Mnangagwa Missed a Golden Re-Engagement Chance'

President Emmerson Mnangagwa (file photo).
17 July 2019

President Emmerson Mnangagwa might have missed a golden opportunity to re-engage with the international community and take Zimbabwe out of the murky waters had he stuck to his promises prior to his election, an investment expert has said.

Mnangagwa who came to power in November 2017, after deposing former president Robert Mugabe through military intervention, was long touted to be Zimbabwe's 'Moses', who would take the country forward after decades of misrule at the hands of Mugabe's regime, which he was also a key figure.

However, since his elevation to the country's top job, Mnangagwa's administration has presided over the worst economic period post 2009.

Presenting at the Zim Real Property Investment Forum, Tara O'Connor, founder and Executive Director of Africa Risk Consulting (ARC) said Mnangagwa needed to implement radically different policies different from Mugabe's to restore confidence and instill credibility.

"An unstable political and economic climate and an unpredictable policy agenda have undermined foreign investment and Zimbabwe's prospects of a stable economic recovery," she said.

After his elevation in 2017, Mnangagwa went on a global whirlwind tour, a charm offensive, where he was preaching the Open for Business mantra while promising free, fair and credible elections.

According to O'Connor, that was supposed to be Mnangagwa's damascene moment but he bungled it after unleashing terror on citizens in the post-election violence that rocked Harare.

"That was a window of opportunity which Zimbabwe was given by the international community but state-sanctioned violence on citizens has probably prompted the worst outcome especially in renewing the ZIDERA which prevents any member of the US on the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to broker any debt with you," she said.

O'Conner further stated that despite concerted efforts by the Zanu-PF leadership to try and sweet-talk Washington DC, it will be a long time before the US government thinks about engaging with Harare.

MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa was recently quoted saying the ZIDERA Act represented the aspirations of every Zimbabwean for as long as Zanu-PF and the Mnangagwa administration continues on the current trajectory.

Last week, the US Department of State issued a statement saying the new administration needed to work on reforms, especially political if the country is to attract any meaningful investment.

Investor optimism following the November 2017 fall of President Robert Mugabe has also reportedly weakened as President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government seems slow to follow through on reforms to improve the ease of doing business.

"Zimbabwe has attracted low investment inflows of less than USD 500 million annually over the past decade. Between 2014 and 2017, foreign direct investment inflows fell from USD 545 million to USD 289 million but rose to approximately USD 470 million in 2018.

"The government announced its commitment to improving transparency, streamlining business regulations, and removing corruption, but the last two years have brought only modest progress," the Trump administration said last week.

O'Connor said there remains huge speculation within the security sector and diplomatic community that riots, a palace coup or impeachment, or rebooted inclusive talks are highly likely in the months ahead.

She said the ongoing economic meltdown is the biggest threat to the current administration.

"The deteriorating economic situation and the growing dissatisfaction of citizens with their deteriorating living conditions are, in turn, increasing the risk of civil disorder," she said.

The IMF forecasts that the economy will contract by 5.2% and slide into a recession this year on the back of political and monetary instability.

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