Nearly four decades after its transition from white-rule, and nearly two since the armed seizure of mostly white owned farms, the new head of state in Zimbabwe has signaled that he wants to once again attract international and white capital to Zimbabwe. Emmerson Mnangagwa was instated by the military after the November coup which ousted Robert Mugabe,
Crushed by economic mismanagement, corruption, and capital flight, they are desperately short of hard currency. According to the central bank, 97 percent of domestic transactions are cashless, superseding the rates in most developed states. They abandoned the use of their currency a decade ago, as hyperinflation drove it to unsustainable levels. Their export sector is virtually non-existent, starving the state of vital foreign reserves.
The country also finds itself deeply indebted to Western financial institutions, to the tune of over 10 billion dollars. Adding to this, years under the Mugabean push for Eastern investment have brought little gains from Russia or China. Only small amounts of development aid and FDI have trickled in, and Zimbabwean workers have complained of violations of labor laws and mistreatment.
According to officials, the Mnangagwa administration is willing to reverse several of Mugabe’s most contentious policies. These include some of its indigenization laws. Aimed at promoting black-Zimbabwean ownership in certain sectors, in most cases they only effectively dispossessed property from the remaining white-Zimbabweans and transferred them to those with connections to the ruling party ZANU-PF. This act is likely in order to bring back Western backed mining corporations, but the laws will be left in place for platinum and diamond mining.
They are also making a push for the agricultural sector, offering 99-year leases to white farmers. Reports are also now saying that Zimbabwe will institute a commission through which white-Zimbabwean land owners can apply for compensation for land seized during the turmoil in the 2000s.
The cabinet that Mnangagwa has approved has been disappointing, though, Mnangagwa stacking it with military leaders. These are likely the same responsible for leading the coup, and this act will likely perpetuate the corruption in ZANU-PF. Meanwhile, Mugabe has lended support to a new political party, dubbed the National Patriotic Front, and headed by Ambrose Mutinhiri, a veteran of the civil war in the 1970s, potentially fracturing the country before an election, apparently to be held this year. The electorate is already highly polarized, and the population is deeply divided between main tribal groups. Under “Shona” Mugabe’s rule, small bouts of genocide were perpetuated against “Ndebele” in rural areas, a reminder to some this election’s outcome is extremely important.
Because of decades of stability, deep corruption, sporadic violence, and those within ZANU-PF and South African supporters actively pushing for more forceful reappropriation of white-Zimbabwean property, Zimbabwe may be disappointed by these half-hearted efforts, instituted decades too late. The country will likely first need to undergo a transition to a more stable state, clear its debt arrears, and get rid of corruption and its more anti-capitalist political elements before international capital returns. The whole of the African continent is experiencing moderate growth rates, and turmoil within the ANC in post-Zuma South Africa may also complicate matters. Constitutional amendments this week allowing for appropriation of historically black-African land held by whites, and without compensation, could lead to a Zimbabwe style catastrophe if followed through on. International capital and racial harmony are the glues that keeps South Africa’s ANC-burdened ecomony from collapsing, and any threat to stability could lead to painful civil unrest or worse.
Staff writer: Ari B