Zimbabwe after Mugabe: Dashed hopes and economic chaos

WHEN Robert Mugabe (pictured) was deposed as Zimbabwe’s President in 2017, Karen Sundirai was convinced the country would quickly recover from years of economic turmoil and authoritarian rule.


Nearly two years later, the 36-year-old bank teller speaks of dashed hopes and expresses reverence for Mugabe, who died on Friday aged 95.

The country, now led by Mugabe’s long-serving security chief Emmerson Mnangagwa, is grappling with its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by unemployment above 80%, acute shortages of foreign currency and fuel and rolling power cuts lasting up to 18 hours a day.

“They said it was a new era, but now we know it was an error … Things are worse under Mnangagwa,” Sundirai told Reuters while queuing to buy food at a supermarket in central Harare.

For most Zimbabweans, daily life is becoming harder as small incomes earned mostly from the informal sector are chewed up by soaring prices that have evoked fears of a return to the hyperinflation of a decade ago.

When citizens go to sleep at night, often in darkened homes, they are not certain whether the price of bread, cooking oil or milk will be the same in the morning.

“I did not ever think Mnangagwa could be worse than Mugabe, but that is what it is,” Edwin Mapuranga, who makes a living hawking belts and shoes on a street sidewalk in Harare, said.

Public anger is rising over the state of the economy, but attempts by the main opposition MDC to organise anti-government protests have been crushed by the police.

“Mnangagwa’s austerity measures and the accompanying (impoverishment)… of most Zimbabweans makes many feel they were better off under Mugabe, but the former President had set the country on a unsustainable course that at some point was going to crash,” said Piers Pigou, Crisis Group’s senior consultant for southern Africa.
“Mnangagwa, to a large extent, inherited a poisoned chalice, but one that he bears partial responsibility for.”
Mnangagwa was a close confidant of Mugabe throughout his 37-year rule, often portrayed by local media as the face of political hawks in the government.

The military’s use of deadly force to quell post-election violence in August 2018 and riots over fuel price hikes in January has reinforced critics’ fears that Mnangagwa’s government is resorting to the same strong-arm tactics as its predecessor.

Some political activists say they live in fear following reports last month that at least a dozen people were abducted from their homes by unidentified armed men and assaulted on suspicion of organising demonstrations.

The government, like its predecessor, blames Western sanctions for the country’s persistent economic woes and accuses countries, including the United States and Britain, of encouraging opposition protests.

“The legacies of past practice remain very much in evidence,” Pigou said.

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  1. Mnangagwa is still very early in office in his first term which we the voters gave him and we voted for him to see what he can achieve in five years please. Let him do what he is doing whithout disturbances and we will meet him at the next polls. Let us follow the rule of law by adhering to our own constitution and that is how a civilised society operates. The nation is not going through its worst, that is simply false. I have seen much worse before may be some of us were care free then or may not yet have been born. The government is undertaking a well defined program to correct the nation’s fiscus and I wonder why very often some seemingly very educated people cannot understand such basic principles of economics! This economy was destroyed in a couple of decades and Mnangagwa cannot simply raise a staff like Moses and the things just start to hapen miraculously. We need a lot of time and hard work for us to recover economicaly and that is very natural and sensible.

    1. well said my tell them

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