Zim cit­i­zens hope for the best

Im­pov­er­ished peo­ple pin their hopes on elec­tions

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - Tawanda Karombo

ZIM­BABWE goes into its much-an­tic­i­pated elec­tion to­mor­row in a wors­en­ing econ­omy best il­lus­trated by cur­rency traders that line ev­ery street in the cap­i­tal and su­per­mar­ket doorsteps lit­tered by ven­dors sell­ing il­le­gally im­ported goods.

Cit­i­zens who con­tinue to bat­tle with cheaper goods and dis­pos­able in­comes have pinned their hopes on the elec­tion, which will see the in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa pit­ted against young lawyer and op­po­si­tion MDC leader Nel­son Chamisa.

Com­pa­nies have closed shop, with work­ers strug­gling for sur­vival with de­layed and half salaries.

Elec­tric­ity sup­ply is also reg­u­larly in­ter­rupted while in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment has taken a back seat.

Mnan­gagwa has promised a new era of open eco­nomic poli­cies aimed at at­tract­ing in­vest­ments and restoring re­la­tions with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and other fund hold­ers.

Chamisa, on the other hand, ar­gues that Mnan­gagwa can­not bring any respite for Zim­babwe’s long-stand­ing and deep-rooted eco­nomic mess. Chamisa charges that Mnan­gagwa was part of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der former leader Robert Mu­gabe, whose poli­cies are blamed for driv­ing down Zim­babwe’s once vi­brant econ­omy.

Econ­o­mist and Round Ta­ble chief ex­ec­u­tive Kip­son Gun­dani says busi­ness lead­ers are wor­ried about the state of the econ­omy.

“The eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment is seem­ingly bet­ter than it was but a ma­jor worry is the cur­rency mix we have be­cause we don’t know what cur­rency we are us­ing,” said Gun­dani.

“Com­pa­nies have bank bal­ances that are le­gal but these funds are not ac­ces­si­ble and this brings in volatil­ity in terms of plan­ning and cer­tainty for com­pany ex­ec­u­tives.” Busi­nesses, es­pe­cially those in pro­duc­tion, are bear­ing the brunt of the cur­rency woes as they have to pay a pre­mium of up to 60 per­cent to get green­back with their bank de­posits. Most rely on im­ported equip­ment and raw ma­te­ri­als.

This has had a knock-on ef­fect on prices and in­fla­tion.

In­dus­tri­al­ists say prices have in­creased de­spite the cen­tral bank’s charge that the quasi cur­rency bond notes have equal value to the US dol­lar.

Talk of adopt­ing the rand has been re­buffed by the gov­ern­ment, although the op­po­si­tion says it will adopt it if voted into power.

Former finance min­is­ter Tendai Biti, who is work­ing with Chamisa, says the eco­nomic out­look is bleak un­der the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion, with GDP growth ex­pected to be in the neg­a­tive.

“We are talk­ing of -2 per­cent in terms of GDP growth for this year.

“The finance min­is­ter (Pa­trick Chi­na­masa) is the worst min­is­ter in the world and this gov­ern­ment has failed this econ­omy, they cant run this econ­omy,” Biti told Busi­ness Re­port by phone from Harare.

Chi­na­masa, how­ever, is up­beat about his pro­jec­tions, say­ing that mea­sures un­der­taken by the gov­ern­ment, such as par­tially ad­dress­ing the in­di­geni­sa­tion pol­icy, will boost GDP growth.

He has also flagged that Zim­babwe has signed var­i­ous in­vest­ment pacts with in­vestors but ex­perts say hard cash may only flow in after the elec­tions when there is cer­tainty to the po­lit­i­cal risk frame­work.

“I pro­jected 4.5 per­cent growth and con­sider that con­ser­va­tive in the light of the mea­sures we’ve taken,” said Chi­na­masa.

“It’s clear that we are go­ing to achieve at least 6 per­cent growth this year. Much of the en­vi­ron­ment which in­vestors were com­plain­ing about has been cor­rected.”

PHOTO: AP/TSVANGIRAYI MUKWAZHI

Sup­port­ers of Nel­son Chamisa, head of the MDC op­po­si­tion al­liance, carry the Zim­bab­wean flag while at­tend­ing his rally in Chi­tung­wiza, about 30km east of the cap­i­tal Harare on Thurs­day. Chamisa ad­dressed his first rally since re­ject­ing the idea of...

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