There have been no radical changes to Zimbabwe’s centralised economic system, which allows extensive rent-seeking from elites. Meanwhile, the country remains in arrears to international financial institutions, making a bailout from the International Monetary Fund unlikely as things stand.
The government has taken some measures in response to the latest troubles. It has amended import and export controls – most recently lifting some restrictions on businesses bringing in goods from neighbouring countries – and it has clamped down on informal money dealers. Zimbabwe’s central bank recently suspended four senior officials accused of fuelling black market currency trade.
At the start of October, Mnangagwa’s administration also introduced a 2% tax on internal electronic money transfers in order to raise taxes. This received some praise in some quarters, but others suggested it would simply drive commerce underground and undermine consumers’ and financiers’ confidence in the government.
In addressing the ongoing crisis, President Mnangagwa has attempted to present the problems as a necessary side-effect of reforms. “The liberalisation of the economy has its pains, and this is one of the pains that we are going to go through,” he has said.
But there are concerns that the real reforms Zimbabwe need have yet to be implemented and are not on the table. As citizens feel the effects of this, many have lost faith in the government of the ruling ZANU-PF and believe others need to be brought in.
“The lack of political will continues to suppress us as citizens,” says architect Collins Gwezuva. “We seem to be more concerned with our political parties than the country…The only way out of this predicament is for President Mnangagwa and [opposition leader Nelson] Chamisa to engage for the good of the country.”
“It is high time political leaders put their differences aside and focus on rebuilding the country,” adds omnibus operator Terrence Murozvi.
Without a significant change of direction, political or not, Zimbabweans will continue to feel the pinch. In both urban and rural areas across the country, millions of people are struggling under the effects of severe shortages of basic goods and rapidly rising prices reminiscent of the 2008-9 hyperinflation.
As ever, it is ordinary Zimbabweans that are bearing the brunt of the crisis, and many are already thinking seriously about how they will cope if things do not improve soon.
“The current situation is harsh, more people are losing their jobs and it is a recipe for disaster,” says accountant Elvis Ncube. “What it means is that many will be forced to migrate into neighbouring countries”.
By Elia Ntali for African Arguments