19 Jan

New President Plans Zimbabwe Revival by Restoring Economy, Democracy

Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has a plan to revive one of the world’s worst-performing economies and end its isolation: pay compensation to white farmers whose land was confiscated, sell bonds to rebuild infrastructure and hold internationally acceptable elections.

It’s a tall order for a man who served more than half a century at the side of former President Robert Mugabe and was a key figure in a government that oversaw an economy that halved in size since 2000 and the collapse of the agricultural industry.

Yet, Mnangagwa, a 75-year-old former spy chief, remains optimistic he can win lender support and tap international capital markets.

“Can we not do it? We think we should do it,” he said of a potential bond sale in an interview Thursday in Harare, the capital. He wore a gray suit in an office decorated with photographs of himself as a young man and there’s a crocodile-themed mug, a reference to his nickname earned during the liberation war against white-minority ruled Rhodesia. “We really need a substantial investment in the productive economy.”

Mnangagwa’s rise to power was problematic. After seemingly Mugabe’s heir apparent for decades, in recent months he clashed with the president’s wife, Grace, and finally fled the country on Nov. 6 after she accused him of plotting a coup.

That day, he was fired as vice president, and two hours later he learned that his life was in danger. He set out for the eastern border with Mozambique and crossed the frontier with his son and three soldiers.

“I could not use the formal border so I used the informal one which resulted in me walking for over 30 kilometers at night,” he said, adding that some tracks were filled with land mines. “Because I am a former guerrilla I understand the area, I operated there.”

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