In the wake of Operation Restore Legacy, the ranks of the young, educated and angry is swelling.
The economic boom they anticipated when they marched on that historic November 18 Saturday has remained pie in the sky.
Armed with honours degrees, better educated than their parents, wired to the world and sceptical of empty promises from the Zanu PF, the young who vigorously backed the military-assisted ouster of Robert Mugabe, are at their wits’ end, with their patience running thin. They see the revolution being rolled back. The lot of young Zimbabweans is getting worse off.
This is creating conditions for a sharp electoral rebuke for President Emmerson Mnangagwa in elections due in four to five months’ time.
Nowhere is the poisonous mix of demographic strain, political repression and economic hardships more disconcerting than in Zimbabwe under its strongman, Mnangagwa.
Many are querying the president’s failure to infuse his Cabinet with opposition faces, especially the tried and tested leadership of indefatigable opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Since that ill-advised move, the economy has been screaming, with prices rocketing and the regime turning to command economics to fix prices.
The regime is bust, sustained only by forex inflows from seasonal tobacco inflows and dwindling Diaspora remittances. Industry is virtually dead, with the country forced to import everything at a time of critical forex shortages.
In the meantime, shortages of cash are intensifying, and banks queues are lengthening. Zimbabwe’s budget and current account deficits are gaping. For all of Mnangagwa’s nationalist posturing, he has rolled back all indigenisation policies and gone beret in hand to the Breton Woods institutions and rich Western nations, for a bail-out.
He knows failure to revive the economy will be his waterloo and has openly said this to his party’s post-coup extraordinary congress last month.
Youth unemployment is giving him headaches and the civil service is bloated. And in Zimbabwe’s sclerotic, statist economy, the private sector is incapable of absorbing the legions of new workers who join the labour market each year.
Astonishingly, in Zimbabwe’s broken system university graduates are more likely to be jobless than the country’s near-illiterate.
These economic woes are crystallising anger against Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa is making things worse by making outlandish promises to fix everything in 100 days. Its been over 60 days but he has dismally failed to avoid stoking inflation. He thinks he can control the cost of food, much of which is imported, by deploying retired general and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga.
Threats to impose a 10-year jail term for illegal currency dealing and capital controls have failed to prevent the emergence of a black market for dollars, and has also created shortages of imported spare parts and machinery. This is hurting industry and scaring away investors.
He has also been forced to marginally reduce the price of fuel in a desperate bid to arrest the rising cost of doing business and possibly stem price increases. Even then, our fuel remains the most expensive in the sub-region.
Rather than deploy scarce dollars into productive sectors of the economy, Mnangagwa pours taxpayers’ cash into grandiose vote-buying projects such as buying $60 000 cars for chiefs.
He has taken to populism, and has also revived a hospitals subsidy without cash to bankroll it.
Right now he is failing to raise funds to pay civil servants bonuses. His regime faces a critical funding shortfall and is now grappling with a crisis of expectation that it authored by refusing to work with the opposition.
Even some regime cronies such as war veterans appear to be losing patience. Many are frustrated by an ossified executive and a knucklehead leadership whose economic stewardship has been appalling so far.
He has taken a begging bowl to the west, and that bloc has said show us electoral reforms and we will show you the money.
Western countries should treat him with a cocktail of pressure, persuasion and pragmatism. Any economic help should come with strict conditions: stage free and fair elections, trim the bloated civil service, phase out costly and corruption-riddled subsidy schemes such as Command Agriculture.
It’s unfathomable that the GMB has to post $208m loss at such a time.
All this should be done gradually. Zimbabwe is too fragile, and too volatile, for shock therapy. The bureaucracy would anyway struggle to enact radical change.