Zimbabwe by the Numbers: Mugabe’s ‘First’ 100 Days
Here are a few numbers that illustrate the state of Zimbabwe roughly 100 days after President Robert Mugabe’s landslide reelection.
The share of National Assembly seats won by Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) in the July parliamentary elections.
ZANU-PF only needed 140 seats to achieve a two-thirds supermajority, but thanks to expertly executed electoral rigging, the party managed to win 160 of the 210 contested seats. The rival Movement for Democratic Change–Tsvangirai (MDC-T) secured 49 seats, and an independent candidate aligned with ZANU-PF took one. With a parliamentary supermajority and full control of the executive, ZANU-PF now determines the legislative agenda, which Mugabe has said will focus on aligning existing legislation with the new constitution. However, Veritas, a Zimbabwean parliamentary observation organization, points out that many of the laws in urgent need of revision or reform—such as the Citizenship Act, the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Electoral Act, and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA)—were not mentioned in the president’s September 17 speech on the topic. Only a complete overhaul would make these laws, crafted to limit political opposition and restrict civil liberties, compatible with the new Bill of Rights.
The drop in the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange on August 5, the first day of trading after the announcement of Mugabe’s reelection.
During the month following the elections, Zimbabwe’s commercial banks also saw “major declines in deposits,” totaling $56.08 million in net outflows, according to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s monthly economic review. In the words of a high-ranking Zimbabwean official, “You can rig an election, but you can’t rig the economy.” The two indicators suggest a major lapse in confidence among investors and businesses after ZANU-PF regained total control of the government. The party’s last period in power, before the 2009–2013 Government of National Unity (GNU), was marked by economic collapse, and there are signs that its future policies could be equally disastrous. ZANU-PF’s election manifesto, “Taking Back the Economy: Indigenise, Empower, Develop and Create Employment,” clearly lays out the party’s plan to ensure that “at least 51 percent of the shares (ownership) of every public company and any other business shall be owned by indigenous Zimbabweans.” The program represents an expansion of Mugabe’s past efforts to seize white-owned agricultural land and hand it to loyalists, which had a devastating effect on the national economy. Adding to investors’ uncertainty, the government has indicated that it intends to eventually bring back the Zimbabwean dollar. The currency was scrapped in 2009 after reaching 500 billion percent inflation.
The projected growth of Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Initial projections had put growth at 5 percent for 2013, and ZANU-PF’s own estimates put it at 7.3 percent, but before the July elections, then finance minister Tendai Biti revised the estimate to 3.4 percent. ZANU-PF has offered multiple explanations for the downturn, ranging from sanctions by the United States to failures by the MDC-T during the GNU period, but it has never acknowledged financial mismanagement or poor economic planning on its own part. Ever optimistic, ZANU-PF promised in its 2013 manifesto to increase GDP growth to 9 percent by 2018. In October, though, the IMF revised its initial 2018 projection from 5.5 percent to 4.5 percent. This lost growth will manifest itself primarily in poor delivery of basic services for most Zimbabweans.
The number of Zimbabweans who will require food assistance during the “hunger season” from October to March, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).
This figure represents a 32 percent increase over the previous year, with food shortages expected to affect one-fourth of the rural population. There are already reports of citizens searching for wild fruits to sustain themselves and students dropping out of primary and secondary schools in Matabeleland South due to hunger. Members of Parliament are warning of starvation in their districts if food assistance is not provided soon. In an attempt to help curb this shortage, the U.S. government will provide a total of $25 million to the WFP this year. The food insecurity, according to the WFP, is the result of harsh weather conditions, the high cost of fertilizers and seeds, and a poor harvest. But long-term production declines can be blamed in large part on the chaotic land-reform program implemented by the ZANU-PF government beginning in 2000, which forcibly removed skilled white commercial farmers from their lands and parceled out the property to senior political leaders and new black farmers loyal to ZANU-PF. Skilled farmworkers were mostly excluded from the land allocations, and many of the farmers who did receive land were not provided with the training or financial support necessary to maintain efficient commercial farms.
The hours per day some Zimbabweans have endured without electricity as the country undergoes rolling blackouts.
These blackouts, which began shortly after the July elections, were reportedly at their worst in October, but they are expected to continue through February 2014 or until all necessary upgrades have been made to Zimbabwe’s power supply infrastructure. Far more than a minor inconvenience, the outages are disrupting the ability of Zimbabwean businesses and ordinary citizens to function. Upgraded infrastructure is undoubtedly necessary, however, as no new power plants have been built in the country since 1986.
The average number of undocumented migrants crossing from Zimbabwe to neighboring countries each day.
According to Inter Press Service, the number of migrants crossing into South Africa alone is over 700 per day, nearly double what it was before the elections. Many Zimbabweans were hopeful that the balloting would signal a new chapter for the country, but with the reelection of Mugabe, a ZANU-PF supermajority in Parliament, and no sign of reform on the horizon, some citizens appear to have decided that emigration is their best option.
The number of mobile-phone subscribers who will be affected by a new government surveillance law.
Just weeks after retaking power, ZANU-PF passed Statutory Instrument 142 of 2013 on Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations. The law requires mobile users to register their SIM cards, obliges telecommunication service providers to create databases of user information (such as name, address, and identity number), and authorizes law enforcement agencies to access the data with a simple written request. With the mobile-phone subscription rate at 97 percent in Zimbabwe, this law would theoretically allow the government to monitor some 12.61 million of its citizens. Although the authorities probably lack the capacity to engage in such extensive surveillance, the new legislation will sanction the continued tracking of specific opposition figures, activists, and other perceived enemies.
The number of months until Zimbabwe hosts the 34th Ordinary Summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Shortly after rigging the July elections, Mugabe was elected to the vice chairmanship of SADC and is slated to assume the chairmanship in August 2014 at the summit in Zimbabwe. The regional bloc has a rotating chairmanship and did not feel the need to interrupt that rotation to condemn or even acknowledge ZANU-PF’s electoral manipulation. In fact, SADC hailed the polls as “free, peaceful and generally credible,” setting a worrying precedent as six other SADC countries prepare for elections over the next year. As evidenced in the international response to this year’s voting in Zimbabwe and Kenya, a mere lack of violence has apparently become the new standard for African elections. With Mugabe set to hold the SADC chairmanship as other incumbents seek to duplicate his success, the region may be headed for significant democratic backsliding.
The number of years Mugabe has been in power.
After winning his seventh election with 61 percent of the vote, the 89-year-old is holding firmly on to his status as Zimbabwe’s perpetual strongman. While it may seem like the political landscape for the next five years is already determined, considerable uncertainty, instability, and opportunity lie ahead.
This post is the second in a three-part series on Zimbabwe.
Photo Credit: GovernmentZA
Analyses and recommendations offered by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of Freedom House.