Zimbabwe military State capture may torpedo economic recovery

An armoured personnel carrier stations by an intersection as Zimbabwean soldiers regulate traffic in Harare on November 15, 2017. Zimbabwe's military appeared to be in control of the country on November 15 as generals denied staging a coup but used state television to vow to target "criminals" close to President Mugabe. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG – New research on Zimbabwe’s economic prospects show that the militarisation of key economic and political institutions has dented investor confidence in the country, and warn that this could fuel corruption, patronage, unconstitutional prey on properties and lack of accountability.

The research by the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) says prospects for a quick recovery have been dashed by the military’s heavy involvement, despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa pledges after the ousting of Robert Mugabe as the president last month.

“The economy was captured through capture of the political terrain that determines distribution of economic goods,” the ZDI says.

“Key positions of authority in the body politic are captured by military interests. The same interests have seen individuals associated with the military by history, descent or caste benefiting from key economic zones such as agriculture, mining and government employment opportunities.”

Mnangagwa appointed Air Marshal Perence Shiri as new Agriculture Minister and Major-General Sibusiso Moyo as Foreign Affairs Minister.

Other experts say certainty may be restored after next year’s elections although the military, which was pivotal in ending Mugabe’s lengthy stay in power, has been consolidating its hold on power.

The ZDI identifies diamond mines as having “spectacular evidences of military capture of the economy and the culture of corruption, lack of accountability and transparency related to military blood diamond dealings”.

Exotix Capital says the much-awaited elections next year will whet investor appetite if they are transparent and regain access to multilateral lenders such as the International Monetary Fund. The group says foreign capital providers are unlikely to re-engage without the IMF.

“Fixing the economy will be a key challenge. Despite an expected rebound in growth this year, the country still suffers from severe cash and foreign exchange shortages and significant imbalances,” says Exotix Capital in a note on Zimbabwe’s prospects.

The ZDI says there is a need for the government to abandon its costly securocratic state patronage network to enhance accountability and transparency and to fight corruption.

“Government’s response to the growth of the informal sector must turn from the current ambivalence and confrontation to regularisation and support,” says the ZDI. – IOL