Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, faces growing threats to his authority stemming from ongoing economic and political crises, which are being exacerbated by Covid-19 pandemic, the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) said.
EIU is a research and analysis division of The Economist Group, the sister company to The Economist newspaper. Created in 1946, EIU has over 70 years’ experience in helping businesses, financial firms and governments to navigate the ever-changing global landscape.
In March this year, the country imposed a lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 and is now in place indefinitely, although restrictions have been gradually loosened. According to its Country Report Zimbabwe 3th Quarter, generated on 13 July 2020, EIU said: “Many people live in crowded slums, making effective social distancing almost impossible, and the government is keen to protect formal sectors of the economy as Zimbabwe’s recession deepens”.
“Informal markets have been ordered to close, although some traders still attempt to operate. Several clashes have occurred between workers and security services as many people struggle to earn a living. Further unrest is likely as restrictions remain in place for most workers and the economic crisis continues.”
President Mnangagwa came to office promising sweeping political and economic changes, raising public—and international—expectations. “However, reform efforts to revive the moribund economy have been slow and piecemeal,” EIU stated.
The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), EIU said, has been pressing for dialogue between the two main parties to address the economic crisis. “However, several MDC activists and members of parliament have been arrested as the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), attempts to stifle opposition voices.”
Public-sector strikes over poor working conditions and low real wages have been increasingly common in recent months. As the economy contracts further in 2020 and 2021, with extremely weak fundamentals exacerbated by the domestic and international economic effects of the pandemic, EIU said, “Further strikes and protests are likely”.
“The government is likely to continue to crack down heavily on protesters to maintain its grip on power,” it said. EIU noted that the southern African nation’s military plays a central role in domestic politics. “If senior military figures perceive the president to be incapable of preventing economic collapse, they could move against him,” it said.
Last month, Zimbabwe’s National Security Council dismissed rumors of an imminent coup against President Mnangagwa, lashing out at Western governments and the MDC. “Nevertheless, EIU expects President Mnangagwa to remain in power throughout the forecast period as he cements his power base, with proposed constitutional amendments granting the executive more authority and critics within ZANU-PF being pushed out.”