As Zim’s economy goes on free fall, finance minister hits campaign trail

Prof. Mthuli Ncube
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HARARE – As Zimbabwe struggles with a currency in free fall and sky-high inflation, the country’s finance minister Mthuli Ncube has embarked on a campaign to become Zanu-PF’s MP for Bulawayo’s largest suburb, Cowdray Park.

Cowdray Park is a high-density suburb about 25km west of Bulawayo with a population of more than 70,000 people, some of whom have gone years without electricity, water or a sewer system.

Ncube was uncontested in Zanu-PF’s recent primary elections and will represent the ruling party in the forthcoming elections in the newlyestablished constituency.

The finance minister is promising the impoverished residents of Cowdray Park free Wi-Fi, nurse aid training, boreholes, electricity and driving lessons.

But his running for a parliamentary seat has sparked outrage, anger and frustration in Zimbabwe.

Political analyst Alexander Rusero told TimesLIVE Ncube “is no longer a technocrat but a politician”.

“It is clear Prof Mthuli Ncube has thrown away the hat and tag of being a technocrat which he came into Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government wearing in November 2017. He is now a full-blown politician, well prepared to throw away any logic as a technocrat and academic. His campaign is quite clear he is determined to win at all cost.

“The difference between being a technocrat and a politician is that as a technocrat, professional principles, morality and integrity guide you. As a politician, idiosyncrasies and leadership ego of the party will guide you. From now onwards, he has to be judged as a politician rather than as a technocrat with sound ideas that may turn around fortunes of Zimbabwe,” said Rusero.

Ncube, a former chief economist and vice-president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), holds a PhD in mathematical finance from Cambridge University. He rose to prominence in the ruling party when he was appointed finance minister in the first cabinet of President Emmerson Mnangagwa after the 2018 elections.

In 2022, he was elected as a  Zanu-PF central committee member. The committee is Zanu-PF’s highest decision-making body outside congress.

In his role as finance minister, Ncube has repeatedly said Zimbabwe will become an upper middle-income economy by 2030 but the country’s ailing economy coupled with unemployment, high inflation and soaring food prices tells a different story.

“I have lived in Cowdray Park for over seven years.  I don’t have running water. Most residents use blair (pit) toilets, unemployment and poverty is high. These are ongoing problems which have persisted for many years, we are struggling and frustrated. The finance minister’s campaign promises and the election will bring us nothing, we are being used as pawns,” said a Cowdray Park resident.

Zimbabwean journalist and activist Hopewell Chin’ono said Ncube’s campaign appears to mock Zimbabweans.

“He is promising locals in his constituency of choice access to train as a nurse aid so that they can leave the country for England and be care assistants. In other words, Zimbabwe’s finance minister is telling the locals that their future is best secured in Britain, and not in Zimbabwe.,

“Where in the world do you find a finance minister promising you prosperity and then saying that prosperity is in another country not under his watch?” said Chin’ono.