Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
All economies, no matter how decrepit, can be revived through good institutions and economic freedom. That said, it is impossible to predict how quickly the people of Zimbabwe will be able to enjoy a notable improvement in their standard of living.
Zimbabwe today is one of the least politically and economically free countries in the world. The speed of Zimbabwe’s social and economic recovery will depend on the speed and extent of reforms.
Of immediate concern to the economic revival is hyperinflation, which will have to be stopped through dollarization or the establishment of a currency board. Taxes will have to be made simpler and lower to encourage productivity, and minimize tax evasion. Trade will have to be liberalized to allow influx of cheap imports to relieve the suffering of the Zimbabwean population. The business environment will have to be made friendly to private entrepreneurs through far-reaching deregulation.
Much will depend on the government’s success in ending political violence in Zimbabwe and restoring property rights or offering compensation to those whose land was expropriated by Mugabe. Respect for the sanctity of people and property will be an important part of a larger, long-term, goal of restoring the rule of law to Zimbabwe. Of course, the above is not an exhaustive list of reforms that the government will have to undertake, but it is a start.
The signing of an agreement between Robert Mugabe’s ZanuPF party and the two formations of the MDC marks the beginning of an exciting period in the political history of Zimbabwe. The national economy has been devastated by, inter alia, disastrous political and economic policies formulated and implemented by the Mugabe regime. Fortunately, most of the development and economic infrastructure still remains largely intact, and the Zimbabwean economy could recover from the current meltdown in a fairly short time.
Zimbabweans are reputed to be hard-working people. Although many highly skilled Zimbabweans have since left the country for greener pastures both in the region and further afield, the country still boasts a highly skilled labour force.
Is it just me, or is Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe starting to look more confident again? At the start of power sharing talks a few weeks back he appeared distinctly grim when he and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had their historic handshake.
In the past few days he has been much more his old self, lambasting the West at a speech to commemorate the dead in the liberation war, giving a national honour to George Chiweshe, who organised elections that were condemned by much of the world, and generally upbeat during three days of talks that in the end delivered no result.
Zimbabwe may lose its status as the country with the world’s highest proportion of billionaires after the central bank’s decision to lop 10 zeroes from its dollar.
What it means for the currency is that 10,000,000,000 dollars will become just one - although it will still take 25 of the new dollars to buy a loaf of bread.
President Robert Mugabe, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and a smaller MDC faction signed a framework for the talks in South Africa on Monday — a deal that South African leader Thabo Mbeki said committed Zimbabwe’s political rivals to an intense timetable.
Although Zimbabwe got all the headlines, the official theme of the African Union summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was water.
That made it all the more surprising for thirsty delegates that there was none for them to drink.
Journalists covering the summit had other complaints.
Usually, these meetings are a glorious chance for reporters to grab quotes from normally elusive heads of state as they glide through the plush halls, flanked by aides and bodyguards.
But the Egyptians had other ideas at this summit. Maybe it was a sign of the sensitivity of the discussions, with Zimbabwe’s election crisis overshadowing all other topics. Or perhaps it was an indication of the immensely tight security around Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — who escaped an assassination attempt at an African summit in Ethiopia in 1995.
Local security officials banned reporters from entering areas even two halls away from where the leaders were meeting.
A few news crews still got through, but some scuffled with President Robert Mugabe’s security men late on Sunday — the 84-year-old leader was himself knocked about. After that, security became even tighter, with journalists confined only to a smoky, overcrowded press centre.
Reporters like me and Reuters colleagues Opheera McDoom and Cynthia Johnston were banned from going to interview leaders even after their aides came to escort us to see them.
At least one official was advised not to enter the press room — to avoid provoking a crush. Egyptian security said they couldn’t guarantee the safety of officials.
Meanwhile, journalists were barricaded in one end of the building, with no food provided apart from two coffee breaks during the 12-hour days. Those offerings were devoured in seconds by a ravenous pack, depriving those who weren’t quick enough for even a dry piece of cake.
AU officials griped about the lack of hospitality too.
“This is the worst summit ever,” said one experienced AU official.
Mugabe’s victory in Friday’s one-candidate poll was condemned in the West and by all three African monitoring groups who said the vote was deeply flawed.
The decision has been met by a storm of international condemnation of the violence, with increasingly powerful voices speaking out from Africa. On Tuesday President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and ANC leader Jacob Zuma joined the condemnation and called for the vote to be postponed.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai detained twice in a week, U.S. and British diplomats forced from their cars by police, rallies banned, aid workers stopped from working, reports of violence from across the countryside. The campaign for Zimbabwe’s presidential election run-off on June 27 is being hard fought, literally.
The opposition accuses President Robert Mugabe of responsibility for violence and says 65 people have been killed. The ruling party blames Tsvangirai’s followers and says Mugabe’s Western foes and some aid agencies have been campaigning for the opposition.
After a month of withholdingZimbabwe’s presidential poll results, electoral authorities on May 2 announced what was widely known to be the real outcome: President Robert Mugabe had lost the vote. The announcement gave opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai 47.9 percent of the vote but said he faces a runoff after failing to gain enough votes for an outright majority. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change denounced the result as scandalous and maintained its stand that it had won more than 50 percent of the vote and that Mugabe’s 28-year rule was over.
The MDC faces a huge dilemma. If it boycotts a runoff poll, it would hand victory to Mugabe by default. But in the view of the MDC, human rights groups and Western governments, no fair or credible runoff poll can be held in Zimbabwe under a current climate of violence and intimidation they say is orchestrated by Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF. The MDC and Mugabe’s critics at home and abroad have also condemned the unprecedented delay in announcing the presidential result as part of the government’s grand plan to rig the vote in favour of Mugabe.