The Sunday News
It is undisputable that the late former President Mugabe advanced Zimbabwe’s disconnection from the West. Cde Mugabe’s “anti-settler” economic reforms positioned him as more of an organic post-colonial African leader committed to economic empowerment virtues of pan-Africanism (Mahomva 2014; Mahomva & Moyo, 2015; Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2015).
However, his indigenisation policies have been labelled as concealed measures for promoting primitive accumulation, corruption and cronyism.
Despite the characterisation of the Mugabe era as an epitome of Zimbabwe’s crisis political economy, Cde Mugabe’s vocal inclination to challenging the asymmetrical global order of power popularised him as a defender of Global-South decolonial aspirations.
Therefore, to some extent, his exit from power has been viewed as the demise of the prominence of racially inclined economic policy lobbying. At the same time, the Zanu-PF election rhetoric premised on the Zanu-PF 2018 manifesto dictum “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” affirms the reality of an economic policy change.
In Zimbabwe, Cde Mugabe’s departure has been perceived by some as an onslaught to Zimbabwe’s pan-Africanist political decorum which challenged the monopoly of Western ideas to democracy and post-colonial indigenisation policy frameworks.
To some extent, the current discourse of re-engagement has been criminalised and wrongfully, for potentially subjecting Zimbabwe to Western economic exploitation and ideological manipulations. Therefore, this presents the need to locate the logic of economic policy continuities and discontinuities under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The Second-Republic’s Transitional Stabilisation Programme: A Return to Neo-liberal Orthodox?
After assuming office following the 2018 election, President Mnangagwa pursued the “Engagement and Re-engagement” policy under the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP).
The bedrock of this policy was linked to promoting macro-economic stability which would increase economic growth to help restore international confidence in Zimbabwe. The second core motive of the TSP was to mobilise funding for clearing the country’s external debt.
This saw the new Minister of Finance, Prof Mthuli Ncube, adopting austerity measures through a policy high fiscal discipline. These measures were part of a broader scheme of restoring Zimbabwe’s capacity to access international credit lines (GoZ, 2019).
In summary, the TSP is premised on the following pillars: Stabilising the macro-economy, and the financial sector; Introducing necessary policy, and institutional reforms, to transform to a private sector led economy and; Launching quick-wins to stimulate growth.
In principle, the TSP’s thematic construction is premised on rational budget planning and public expenditure meant to arrest excess public sector spending and weak accountability systems. The second aspect on reform can be linked to the intentions of the policy in fostering behaviour change from the state.
The genetic traits of the state reflect a high degree of continuity in some respects.
However, it must be noted that features of discontinuity continue to feature particularly through the re-engagement foreign policy. The normative construct of “re-engagement” from a Zimbabwean perspective is inherently linked to the 2017 November democratic transition. The notion of re-engagement is relatively inclined to the key characteristics of the “new-dispensation”; which served as precursor of the Second-Republic born out of the 30 July election of 2018.
To some, the political shift from a pro-indigenisation to seemingly neo-liberal economic trajectory has been described as Zimbabwe’s subjection to neo-colonial trappings.
Contrary to the above submission, in essence the TSP heralds a departure from the longstanding political norms which defined the Mugabe era.
The ethos of re-engagement pursued by the Mnangagwa administration have been cascaded further to other sectors of the country’s economy such as the tourism sector.
Through the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy — Vision 2025, Government projects the need to recoup lost market share in the traditional markets of Europe, America, Australia and Japan. The broader aim is to also penetrate new markets in Eastern Europe, China, India as well as growing the domestic market so as to enhance the contribution of tourism to the national economy.
The tourism turnaround strategy aims to increase tourist arrivals from the anticipated 2,7 million in 2018 to over 5,5 million by 2023; as well as growing tourism receipts from US$1 billion in 2017 to US$3,5 billion by 2023 (GoZ, 2017).
The key aim of this policy commitment is to unlock the much needed contribution to elevating Zimbabwe to a middle-class economy by 2030 as prescribed in the country’s main economic blueprint, the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP).
The lost market share referred to in the Zimbabwe’s 2018 tourism blueprint is linked to the post-land reform period, where the country suffered from bad reportage in the international media. Tourism as a single sector substantiates President Mnangagwa administration’s penchant towards a new foreign investment attraction route through an open-market strategy.
Therefore, it may be valid to argue that the re-engagement policy has been relatively framed in terms of Zimbabwe’s commitment to re-establish its lost cordial interaction with the West, particularly Britain and America. The call for the removal of sanctions by the Western countries also gives substantial meaning to the motives of the re-engagement policy. Also worth-noting is negotiating Zimbabwe’s readmission into the Commonwealth.