Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa warns ‘end is coming’ for economic detractors

President Mnangagwa: tough choices. EPA Images

HARARE (Bloomberg) — Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa warned his government will tackle “malpractices” that have undermined his government’s efforts to end an economic crisis.

The comments echo remarks Mnangagwa made two weeks ago, when he blamed private business for the country’s economic woes.

“We shall not allow a situation where our people live in chronic insecurity, lack and deprivation,” Mnangagwa said Wednesday in a televised speech in the capital, Harare. “It has become apparent that in our midst there are wolves in sheep’s clothing. The end is coming.”

The 77-year-old leader has ruled Zimbabwe since late 2017, after a coup ended former President Robert Mugabe’s rule. He inherited a nation beset by U.S. and European sanctions on its leaders and state companies, $9 billion of debt and an economy decimated by the state’s seizure of commercial farms that accounted for much of its exports.

Mnangagwa’s attempts to stabilize the economy have borne little fruit — consumer inflation is running at 786%, the country’s recently revived currency has collapsed and the World Bank estimates the economy will shrink as much as 10% this year.

George Charamba, the president’s spokesman, didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.

Mnangagwa’s message comes after General Philip Valerio Sibanda, commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), says the level of corruption displayed by some of the country’s leaders is tantamount to selling out.

Speaking in a rare interview posted by the ruling party Zanu-PF on Twitter, the army commander – who took over from retired general Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga after the November 2017 coup – said: “It’s unfortunate that after independence some of us went wayward and started corruptly amassing wealth, but during the war we were taught to share. It’s a value some of us maintain up to today.”

The general made the statement before the burial of Stanley Nleya, his colleague in the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) led by the late Joshua Nkomo during Zimbabwe’s war of independence.

When tanks rolled on to the streets of Harare in November 2017, one of the reasons behind the putsch was because the late former president Robert Mugabe had allegedly surrounded himself with “criminal elements” accused of corruption.

Today, Zimbabwe is ranked 158 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption index as President Emmerson Mnangagwa loses the fight against corruption.

Speaking at the National Heroes’ Acre in Harare during Nleya’s burial, Mnangagwa pleaded with people in positions of authority to be honest and exemplary in putting public interest ahead of selfishness.

“The war against our economic growth is ongoing but the enemies will never win if we remain united,” he said.

The latest corruption scandal in Zimbabwe involving US$60m siphoned in a tender scam for Covid-19 medical supplies hit closer to home for the president.

A friend of his son Collins, Delish Nguwaya, is in remand prison, while health minister Obadiah Moyo is out on bail over the same matter.