Zimbabwe on `Right Path’ After Decades of Isolation – Mnangagwa

HARARE (Bloomberg) — Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa spoke of “truly remarkable” progress and said jobs and economic growth would come in a country beset by 18-hour power cuts and triple digit inflation.

While Mnangagwa, who replaced Robert Mugabe as leader of the southern African nation after a coup in November 2017, said his time in power had “not been easy” progress had been made in implementing economic reforms and easing the country’s international isolation. Mnangagwa replaced a leader who ruled for more than three decades during which the country lost access to international lenders and its exports collapsed after a violent land reform program that saw the seizure of commercial farms.

“We have made a return back into the international fold after two decades of isolation,” he said in a state of the nation address on national television. “We are on the right path and our ambitious vision is within grasp. We continue to engage international financial institutions and the ongoing discussions with our creditors is going well.”

Mnangagwa’s optimism jarred with a supplementary budget released by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube earlier this month where the release of annual inflation figures was suspended for six months, power prices were increased fivefold and the government admitted that the economy would contract for the first time since 2008.

Since he took power Zimbabwe has eased laws that required all mines to be controlled by black citizens of the country and ended the use of the U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies after crippling shortages of cash.

Still, annual inflation has risen to 176% and is estimated to be three times that if black-market exchange rates are used. There are also shortages of fuel and bread and the biggest opposition party plans a protest on August 16.

“Painful but necessary reforms have been made in the year gone by,” Mnangagwa said. “While the beginning may be painful, the medium term will bring about growth and jobs. ”

In October, he said he will travel to Russia for a state-visit, his second to the country this year, after an invite from President Vladimir Putin.

In an address to the nation ahead of this year’s Heroes and Defence Forces holidays, Mnangagwa said the pace of reforms has been “remarkable” and his government has the political will to address gaps in Zimbabwe’s democratic environment.

“We have signposted fundamental legislative changes which are set to address and redress the democratic deficits which have held us back in the past to create a new environment where our people enjoy fundamental rights even beginning to take them for granted in the Second Republic,” said Mnangagwa.

The Zanu PF leader took power from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe on the back of a military coup in November 2017 before scrapping through an election in which he was taken to the wire by opposition politician the MDC’s Nelson Chamisa.

Chamisa insists he won the election and has waved the legitimacy flag around Mnangagwa’s leadership despite losing a Constitutional Court petition seeking to overturn last year’s presidential result.

While Mugabe was accused of human rights abuses and stifling democratic debate, Mnangagwa, a key enforcer of the former’s 37 year-iron-fisted rule, campaigned on a pledge to widen the political landscape and repeal “toxic laws” blamed for investor flight.

Mnangagwa, in his address, said the repeal of bad laws is well and truly underway.

“As I address you, bad laws are being repealed and are set to be replaced by good ones which comply with our celebrated Constitution, and international tenets of good governance,” he said.

The President added that laws facing repeal include the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), with legislative processes now at an advanced stage.

“No piece of legislation which is deemed offensive, restrictive or undemocratic will be spared. I am determined to uphold my pledge to bring about a durable democratic dispensation under the second republic,” Mnangagwa told Zimbabweans.

The Zanu PF leader said the transition from Mugabe to his rule which had promised to be “flawless” had been marred by two bloody incidences in which over 20 people were killed by the army.