As economic crisis deepens, Zimbabwe's president pleads patience

Zimbabweans are grappling with acute shortages of fuel and electricity as well as soaring prices.

    Zimbabwe currently has the world's highest inflation rate, according to the International Monetary Fund [File: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]
    Zimbabwe currently has the world's highest inflation rate, according to the International Monetary Fund [File: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]

    Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has pleaded for time and patience to bring the country's economy back from the "dead", as his government faces blame for surging inflation that evokes dark days under late former leader Robert Mugabe.

    Hopes that the economy would quickly rebound under Mnangagwa, who took over after Mugabe was deposed in a coup in November 2017, have faded fast with Zimbabweans grappling with acute shortages of fuel and electricity as well as soaring prices.

    In a state of the nation address in the Parliament of Zimbabwe on Tuesday - a speech boycotted by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which disputes his election - Mnangagwa acknowledged the economic crisis as well as the need for reforms.

    "I'm aware of the pain being experienced by the poor and the marginalised. Getting the economy working again from being dead will require time, patience, unity of purpose and perseverance," Mnangagwa said.

    Zimbabwe has suspended the publication of official annual inflation data since August 1. In its last official figures, inflation hit more than 175 percent in June, its highest level since hyperinflation under Mugabe wiped out the economy in 2009.

    Mnangagwa's opponents accuse him of lacking commitment to political reforms and using his predecessor's heavy-handed tactics to stifle dissent.

    The International Monetary Fund said last week that Zimbabwe needed to intensify reform efforts and meaningfully improve transparency to boost economic growth.

    Mnangagwa and senior officials say they are doing their best to lay the foundations for future growth, and they blame Western sanctions for hampering recovery and deterring investment.

    A United Nations human rights envoy said on Friday that Zimbabwe's political and economic environment was deteriorating, causing anxiety as hopes fade for a long-awaited improvement in people's living conditions.

    In his address on Tuesday, Mnangagwa repeated his commitment to implement recommendations made by election-observer missions to Zimbabwe's 2018 election, as well as a commission of inquiry led by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.

    The observers and the commission had called for broad security, political and electoral reforms.

    Mnangagwa, whose election last year remains disputed by the MDC, once again invited the opposition party to dialogue.

    The MDC, led by Nelson Chamisa, has refused to take part in a dialogue forum convened by Mnangagwa, insisting on talks led by a neutral mediator.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency