The country cleared its 15-year-old financial arrears to the IMF in 2016 but still owes money to the World Bank and African Development Bank. This hampers its ability to borrow more.
The IMF has told Zimbabwe not to clear its $1.75 billion (£1.32 billion) foreign arrears by borrowing from other lenders as it would add to the debt.
Instead it has suggested cuts to public sector wages, reducing farm subsidies, improving transparency in the mining sector and reaching an agreement on compensating farmers.
ZANU-PF’s long bond with rural masses was forged during the war against white minority rule. Since independence in 1980, the ruling party has maintained a patronage network that keeps traditional chiefs and villagers on its side.
ZANU-PF pervades state institutions, blurring the lines between party and government. Crucially, Mnangagwa has backing from the military, which cleared his path to power.
Rivals mock Chamisa as a political lightweight who makes wild promises, including building rural airports and bullet trains in a country with a GDP per capita of $1 175.
An unofficial survey released in Bulawayo in early June by Mass Public Opinion Institute put Mnangagwa on 42 percent and Chamisa on 31 percent. Twenty five percent gave no preference.
“Though the election looks like it will go to the wire, the greater likelihood, based on cold-blooded analysis, is that experience, depth and state incumbency will triumph over youthfulness,” said Eldred Masunungure, the institute’s director.
Chamisa led violent anti-government protests as student leader. He joined the MDC at its formation in 1999, rising to become youth leader, national spokesman and chief organiser.
Chamisa is an ethnic Karanga like Mnangagwa and comes from the southern Masvingo region, one of two swing provinces seen as guaranteeing victory to whoever wins it.
He was the youngest minister in a 2009-13 unity government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, two political gladiators missing from the ballot for the first time since 2002.
Chamisa sent a message to those who say he is too young to rule when he launched his campaign in June.
“Some have said ‘oh this is a young man’. Yes, such laborious tasks require young people and young men. This is why I want to give Mr Mnangagwa a good rest.” –Reuters