Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa vowed on Thursday to revive the country’s moribund economy and to introduce a new currency pegged to the South African rand if he gets elected next month.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been on a downturn for more than a decade suffering low growth, high unemployment and a severe liquidity crisis that has seen people queue for hours to withdraw limited cash.
“By 2023 we want a double digit economic growth and a US$100bn economy by 2029,” Chamisa told supporters in the capital Harare as he launched the opposition’s manifesto for the July 30 election.
The Movement for Democratic Change Alliance pledged to introduce a new currency aligned to the South African rand.
It said its government would join the rand monetary union – a grouping of southern African countries that use the rand as their currency.
Becoming a member of the union “will allow Zimbabwe to issue a new Zimbabwean dollar that will be pegged to the rand,” it said in the manifesto.
Zimbabwe trashed its fiat currency in 2009 after it was ravaged by hyper-inflation which had peaked at around 500 billion percent, rendering it unusable.
It then adopted a slew of foreign currencies, including the US dollar and the South African rand, but the dollar was more popular.
A few years later US bank notes had started to run short, forcing the government to introduce a token currency – the bond notes – parallel to the dollar but widely distrusted.
Chamisa, 40, is squaring off against Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, who succeeded veteran ruler Robert Mugabe following a brief military take over last year.
The election will be the first without Mugabe who had ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1980.
Previous elections in Zimbabwe have been marred by electoral fraud, intimidation and violence, including the killing of scores of opposition supporters in 2008.
Mnangagwa has pledged to hold free and fair elections as he seeks to mend international relations, but he has also been accused of involvement in Zanu-PF’s past record of election violence.
On Tuesday, thousands of MDC supporters staged street protests in the capital to demand key reforms before the vote.
Global watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday called on Zimbabwean authorities to ensure conditions were conducive for a free and fair vote.
“President Mnangagwa needs to go beyond mere rhetoric and take genuine steps to level the playing field for all candidates and their parties,” said Dewa Mavhinga, HRW’s southern Africa director.