Zim economy: Mugabe asks the West for help

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said Tuesday in his first State of the Nation address in eight years that he welcomed Western assistance in his country’s economy – the first such statement in a decade and a half of strained relations with the US and Europe.

The 91-year-old veteran president was booed and heckled by opposition politicians over the deteriorating economy as he delivered a policy speech that lasted less than half an hour in Parliament.

Mugabe also called for strengthening of ties with multilateral institutions, which include the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

“My government values re-engagement of the Western world in the Zimbabwe economy,” he said.

The southern African nation owes lenders about $8.4-billion, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in November. The IMF began a staff monitoring programme in Zimbabwe in 2013, its first formal contact with the country in more than a decade. The economy will probably expand 1.5% this year from an initial projection of 3.2%, Mugabe said, blaming drought.

Zimbabwe will seek to “repeal all laws that hamper business,” he said, and the government has a plan to revive agriculture, including cotton, and expand the mining industry.

Anti-corruption drive
Mugabe, who’s ruled the former British colony since 1980, said his government would create an “Anti-Corruption Trust” to battle graft, which he said was “killing the country”.

Significantly, this was Mugabe’s first State of the Nation address since 2007, the era when inflation was in the billions.

Mail & Guardian Africa‘s Harare-based sister publication News Day noted in its online report: “Mugabe’s usual apostolic sect praise-singers [were] conspicuous by their absence outside the National Assembly. Nothing like the usual pomp and fanfare associated with such events”, ahead of the Zimbabwe’s leader’s arrival.

It also said Mugabe left the house “amid chaos as opposition MPs asked him about the whereabouts of Dzamara and the promised two million jobs”.

Human rights activist Itai Dzamara was abducted in March 9 this year by as yet unknown assailants, and is still missing. His family accuses state elements of a role in his disappearance.

However, ruling Zanu-PF rallied for Mugabe and “started singing in praise of their leader”.

Chinese ally
Mugabe is a close ally of China, and with commodities tanking, its slowing economy might be one of the factors informing the veteran’s softening attitude to the West.

Another of our sister publications in Zimbabwe, The Independent, recently reported that even Beijing had become uneasy about the state of economic stewardship in Zimbabwe.

It reported that China had briefly seconded experts to the Office of the President and government departments in a move aimed at helping Harare better implement deals signed between the two countries last year. It would be unusual, echoing the “meddling” that Mugabe has long criticised institutions like the IMF and World Bank for practising.

The Independent also said that while China had committed to funding key infrastructure developments in the country, it was also “reportedly worried about leakages in government, hence the seconding of officials to set up tight financial systems, among other objectives”.

Last year, for instance, China, through Eximbank Bank, provided the Harare City Council with $144.4-million for the rehabilitation of waterworks, but part of the money was allegedly instead diverted to purchase 50 top-of-the-range vehicles worth over $2-million for politicians and officials.

Zimbabwe has also been failing to repay loans of about US$1.5-billion provided by the Chinese. There are indications that some of the money was misused and could not be accounted for, The Independent said. – M&G Africa

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Not a sweet deal, Mister

Mister Sweet workers say they will not risk their health, and the lives of others, to continue producing and packaging confectionaries

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world