Many challenges for Zimbabwe after Mugabe

Zimbabwe is trying to make headway after years of disunity, power struggles and corruption. The population has suffered for some considerable time from high unemployment and is eager for democracy and economic growth.

“I do not think much will change in the short term. It is the same old Cabinet. He had the chance to form a coalition government with the opposition, and then there would have been no need for elections that the country can ill afford”, she says.

Has the life of ordinary citizens changed at all since the change in political power?
“Not yet, except for the openness to criticism and a Facebook platform where he responds to issues raised by the people”, says Virginia Makanza, lecturer at Midlands State University and expert in the fields of local economic development and sustainable livelihoods.

“Mnagagwa is trying to attract foreign companies to invest in Zimbabwe as well as repair damaged relations with the West. Whether he will succeed or not depends on his commitment to change”, she says. Some activity has started in the revival of the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Ziscosteel), Sable Chemicals, ZimAlloys among others.

The US dollar and Rand are still the currencies of choice.
“This is good because as soon as they introduce a local currency there will be runaway inflation as they will be tempted to print money in the face of current cash shortages”, says Makanza.

What would you say are the biggest challenges facing the country?
“Economic growth as all major industries have closed down. Create employment, and improvements in the standard of living through improved service provision by local authorities. Our infrastructure is in a serious state of disrepair, and roads are impassable. Also, failure to provide water and failure to collect refuse are other issues”, Makanza says.

Unemployment is a major hurdle for Zimbabwe. Makanza says that there has been no change – industries have closed down, and the informal sector continues to balloon as people desperately try to support themselves.
“Thousands of graduates churned out of the 21 universities in the country have not been able to secure employment”, she says.

Corruption and nepotism did not stop with Emmerson Mnagagwa as President, Makanza says:
“It will take time to put an end to this. The President should show commitment in trying to stop this. And the naming and shaming was a sham. We were expecting big fish to be named but it was just small companies who were in the business of importing stuff.”
There is no reversing the land reform from the year of 2000, she says. A land commission has been appointed and has started working.

Do you think that the white farmers and political adversaries that fled the country under Mugabe will return?
“They have been allowed to come back and farm in partnership with Zimbabweans. Some will come back and some of those who fled have indicated their intention to come back. We are hoping one of the recommendations will be rationalisation so that the few do not own most of the land.”

Fear of the police and intelligence service, especially in rural areas, still exists according to Makanza.
“But the police have stopped harassing people on the roads and people feel they can speak out – they are no longer afraid.

What do you think the future of Zimbabwe will look like now that Mnangagwa is President?
“The person of Emmerson Mnangagwa is different from the possibilities that can come about under his rule. Industries will not open straight away. Real change has been predicated at elections and elections are about legitimising Mnangagwa signalling a new start – not necessarily about winning them”, she says and continues:
“For the local government sector, the future looks promising as we have a new Minister who is very experienced in local government and we are hopeful that he will demand results from local authorities. The new dispensation opens space for Local Economic Development and local government development”.