Zimbabwe: Poor Economy Poses High Political Risk

Orphans in Harare's Kambuzuma township eat a meal provided by the charity Faith Community Support.

ZIMBABWE'S poor regional economic performance could cause political instability that may see the country plunging into further turmoil, an economist has warned.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe Collective Bargaining Summit in Mutare, economist Prosper Chitambara said the country's recent dismal economic performance rankings were creating fertile ground for political instability.

"For this year, Zimbabwe is the worst performing economy in sub-Saharan Africa and this puts us in a difficult situation in terms of unlocking foreign direct investment and when you are the worst it also creates a heightened risk of political instability," Chitambara said.

"We have a highly toxic political environment which is a self-imposed sanction on its own. So as a country we really have to tread carefully or end up in a civil uprising."

According to the World Bank Global Prospects Report for 2019 and the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook report for October 2019, Zimbabwe was among four countries considered at high risk of political instability.

Zimbabwe is not a stranger to political instability. This was the case during the 2008 election, in which the country experienced the second highest incidence of hyperinflation which peaked at 500 billion percent, forcing government to abandon the local currency.

The IMF recently expressed concern over the snail's pace at which the government was implementing reforms in a bid to have the country's debt restructured.

Chitambara further highlighted that there was also a need to separate parastatals from political influence.

"Government has not made a lot of progress in implementing key institutional reforms to push for political personal gain. So there is need for restructuring parastatals which does not necessarily mean privatisation. There is a need to wean off parastatals from political influence and the problem is in Zimbabwe we have allowed political expediency to override economic progress," Chitambara said.

Economic woes continue to pile on Zimbabwe as poverty is projected by the World Bank to remain stagnant in 2020 as positive impacts of a rebound in agricultural production will be countered by the negative effects of continued high inflation, further undermining the purchasing power of the poor.

Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said there was an urgent need to restore the economic challenges facing the country to avoid further disaster. However, he also said he could not see the current government living up to the task.

"Zimbabwe is in a difficult situation, there is need for economic changes for there to be economic recovery but l do not think that this current government can fix this economy," emphasised Mandaza.

The government is currently engaged in a re-engagement drive after almost two decades of international ostracism, but efforts to do so have largely been unsuccessful as the Emmerson Mnangagwa administration has been accused of gross human rights abuses and corruption, both of which have had the undesirable effect of creating a hostile environment for investors.

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