Zimbabwean economist Daniel Ndlela shares his thoughts on economic recovery as part of a conference hosted by the Southern Africa Political Economy Series Trust and the National Endowment for Democracy in May 2014. The conference, entitled “Zimbabwe Going Forward” featured Zimbabwean think tanks, private sector representatives, government and civil society. (l-r: Kupukile Mlambo, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Ndlela, and Abdulwahab Alkebsi, Regional Director for Africa, the Center for International Private Enterprise).
While 50 African heads of state prepared to visit Washington for the U.S.-Africa summit held earlier this month, one president who wasn’t invited decided to throw a party of his own. In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe invited dignitaries and government officials to the State House on July 31 to mark the one year anniversary of his party’s victory over the opposition in national elections whose legitimacy was questioned by domestic and foreign observers alike.
The 90-year-old Mugabe, restricted from entering the United States due to targeted travel and financial sanctions, welcomed government friends to his official residence in Harare with a banquet and live music. Unfortunately, given Zimbabwe’s economic outlook, throwing a party is the last thing the President should be doing.
Those were the words of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai referring to a recent visit to Harare by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The leader came to Zimbabwe last week to discuss trade and cooperation agreements with President Robert Mugabe, who himself has been a target of international sanctions.
Despite being thousands of miles from each other, the two countries share similar political and economic challenges that can be addressed through similar approaches. In the wake of the unrest following presidential elections in each country, civil society has operated under tighter control with limited political space to promote constitutional reform and hold government accountable for achieving economic and social priorities.
Here is another one in a series of stories that BBC continues to publish highlighting the plight of people in Zimbabwe. This one is on teachers left to make their own living in the informal sector by all means possible and the overall collapse of the education system. If this keeps up, I wonder how low even the basic education levels will get, already in freefall since the mid 1990s.
Zimbabwe continues to be the case study for how political mismanagement can turn into an economic disaster which leads to a social collapse. The greater problem – is that Mugabe seems to be in denial about the true state of things. With all the “odd news” quotes he’s produced – these days I wonder if Mugabe himself believes what Mugabe says.
But I guess there are still groups interested in keeping him in power by all means possible.
Zimbabwe’s economy suffers from ever-escalating inflation levels, price distortions for key commodities and utilities, high unemployment rates, rising poverty levels, foreign exchange and commodity product shortages, deteriorating public services, rising inequalities, and large income disparities. This harsh economic reality is crowding out young people’s ambitions of career and entrepreneurial development.
In this Feature Service article, Roselyn Sekai Kapungu, 3rd place winner in CIPE’s 2007 Youth Essay Contest, talks about the destructive effects that this acute economic crisis has had on Zimbabwe’s education system and opportunities for the country’s youth. Education is conventionally thought to bring private benefits through increased earnings. But education brings greater social benefits as well through creating a skilled workforce capable of propelling economic growth and development. Without that engine of growth, Zimbabwe’s economy will continue to suffer.
Kapungu asks, “The question is, do we lose hope in education and flee? If the answer is no, we need to come up with strategies that reward educational attainment and reduce poverty by promoting economic growth and job creation. Together with those policies, the key issues of equal access to education for boys and girls, improved graduation rates, better access to higher education, and enhanced life skills development need more attention.”
Article at a Glance
- Poverty and economic hardship can either mobilize people to fight for quality education and a better future, or drive them away from education. The latter is disastrous to society in the long run, but it is the path many people in Zimbabwe have taken in recent years.
- The education system in Zimbabwe has long suffered from an insufficient focus on teaching practical skills, limited access to higher education opportunities, and unequal access for girls to specialized fields such as science.
- Successful educational reform is a necessary step to create the basis for sustained economic growth and requires the involvement of all stakeholders, ranging from families and civil society to national and local governments as well as the private sector.
If you wonder how democracy was stolen in Zimbabwe and have 10 minutes to spare, you absolutely must watch this clip produced by the Guardian.
Sadly, the roundup of foreign journalists continues in Zimbabwe as Mugabe does everything in his power to control the media and force his will on the Zimbabwean people in the wake of losing the presidential election. Hidden in a story about the arrest of a New York Times journalist I found a startling detail that highlights the sad state of things:
Mr. Bearak’s passport was confiscated, and he was required to put up 300 million Zimbabwe dollars as bail, about $10,000 at official exchange rates but only about $7 at black market rates.
It is hard for some of us to imagine living in such an upside-down world where inflation is so high that paying $7 in bail is even possible. It borders on the absurd that there could be so large a difference between the nominal and real value of a currency. Surely to those following events in Zimbabwe for the past couple of years, this comes as no surprise as inflation has been spiraling out of control for some time. It is just one more sad anecdote from a country that is teetering on economic and political collapse.
Will Mugabe continue to reign as Zimbabwe’s leader once all votes of the supposedly “non-rigged” election are counted. March 29th was election day in Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe fought yet again to retain his power over one the poorest country in the world which he has controlled for 28 years. With inflation at 100,000% and unemployment at 80%, change is needed, badly. Zimbabwe, once a shining gem of Africa has been on a steady path toward self-destruction. Beginning in 2000 with the mandatory seizure of white farmers’ land, to the 2005 Operation Murambatsvuina in which 570,000 were internally displaced, and the exodus of 3.4 million people mainly into South Africa, Zimbabwe has seen better days. But there is hope, as we await confirmation of the winner of Saturday’s elections.
Robert Mugabe, of the ZANU-PF party, came to power on April 18th, 1980. He is vying against Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC party and Simba Makoni of the ZANU-PF. Morgan Tsvangirai, the controversial former Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, may be better known for being charged with Treason in 2003 after it was alleged that he sought to have Mugabe killed and for being beaten up by Mugabe’s men in 2007. Simba Makoni on the other hand is a newcomer to this competition. The former Finance Minister, who was sacked after calling for the devaluation of the currency, is seen as the true contender. However, there is fear that he could split his party apart. Lastly there is the relatively unknown Langton Towungana who is running as an independent on the platform of transparency and accountability.
As of now, Morgan Tsvangirai is being reported as the winner but as Zimbabwe election rules state, a candidate must receive more than 50% of the vote otherwise a second round must be held within 3 weeks. While we wait for the results, fears are rising in the country that rigging is occurring. With CNN and other international media outlets banned from the country, we can only trust either Zimbabwe’s government or the election watchdogs sent from the SADC, Venezuela, China, Russia, and Iran to maintain that honest and fair elections have been held. The real concern now is whether Zimbabwe will now follow Kenya’s suit and fall into a chaos after elections in that country were disputed.