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Zimbabwe: Cuts in the time of cholera

By Marshall Van Valen
Posted on Monday, 29 October 2018 10:06, updated on Monday, 11 March 2019 18:44

Mnangagwa faces tough choices - © Philimon Bulawayo/REUTERS

With his late August inauguration behind him, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has a long list of worries ahead, from tetchy relations with Western governments and a grinding economic crisis to a September cholera outbreak.

The July elections closed a chapter on the military coup against former president Robert Mugabe, but the killing of seven protesters and claims of electoral fraud meant that there was little improvement in the way Western governments view the administration. The stakes are high: Harare is counting on billions of dollars in investment in platinum-mining and other projects announced before the elections for it to create jobs and ease the pain of economic reforms.

Washington was quick to confirm that it is in no rush to remove sanctions or change its opposition to any new bailouts or aid programmes. Ambassador Brian Nichols told Voice of America in September: “Zimbabwe’s progress in building a democracy that respects the tenets of the 2013 constitution is the key thing that it needs to do.” He says his government wants to see reform of public order, privacy and freedom of speech laws before talks will begin in earnest about Zimbabwe’s return to the international fold. That, and Zimbabwe paying off its debt arrears, could take a long time.

Mnangagwa appointed a new government in September with some younger technocrats (see Hannibal, page 72), but the economic pain is likely to get worse before it gets better. If Harare is serious about getting help from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, it is going to have to slash public spending and show that it can live within its means. So far, it looks like Mnangagwa’s team privileges party loyalty over reform quality.

Both Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa are grappling with their divided bases. Some ruling ZANU-PF backers are critical

of the prominence of vice-president Constantino Chiwenga – a retired general who led the coup against Mugabe – on Mnangagwa’s team.

As for Chamisa and the MDC Alliance, he is no longer assured the support of the likes of former ministers Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube, who presented a united front in the hope of defeating Mnangagwa. The MDC did worse in the legislatives than in the presidential election, and now lacks positions of power from which to challenge the new government.

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