President Emmerson Mnangagwa says elections are done and preparing for a coming drought is top on the agenda of his new term, but a disputed poll once again raises the risk of another dry season for his economic agenda.
Mnangagwa was on Saturday night declared winner of the election with 52.6%, granting him a term that he says will be his last.
Asked by a reporter on Sunday what his priorities will be for the next five years, Mnangagwa said his immediate task is preparing for the next farming season, likely to be affected by low rain.
“My thrust, by my new government, will be towards consolidation of food security. That’s the primary objective. We want to be food secure in terms of corn and wheat production,” Mnangagwa. “I’m informed that we are likely to have an El Nino climate attack this coming summer season. Because of that, we shall pursue the increasing of irrigation in our country.
This will be done “using our domestic and local resources”, Mnangagwa said, repeating a favourite rallying point of his campaign.
He is also pledging more infrastructure spending, targeting social sectors: “We shall make sure that we shall pursue development across all areas in our country, so that every place is secure and has access to good health and education.”
In his first full term, Mnangagwa led increased spending into infrastructure, including repairs to one major highway, irrigation systems, and the completion of two new power units at the Hwange power station. However, critics, and the government’s own analysis, said some of the budget-funded projects collapsed the Zimdollar and fueled inflation in the last year of his term.
Despite a challenge by the opposition and criticism from observers, including a SADC team, Mnangagwa said he is already looking beyond the election.
He said: “The elections have come and gone. I’m humbled by the trust and confidence that you, my fellow countrymen and women, have reposed in me to once again serve as President of our great country, Zimbabwe. There’s much more work to be done. Together, we shall continue on the growth trajectory witnessed over the past five years.”
The disputed election will have an impact on Mnangagwa’s economic agenda. A deal with creditors for debt restructuring was already tough before the poll, with lenders demanding free elections and broad democratic reforms. Reactions to disputes around the election by creditor countries, including concern by the UN, suggest that chances of any agreement are now even slimmer.
Last year, Zimbabwe appointed Africa Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina, to champion its debt talks. In May, at a creditors’ meeting in Harare, Adesina said Zimbabwe would need more than economic reforms to win debt relief.
“The issues are not just economic or financial. They also involve governance, rule of law, human rights, freedom of speech, political level playing field, electoral reforms that will assure free and fair elections; as well as fairness, equity and justice for the commercial farmers and other businesses who were dispossessed of their lands, for which there is a clear need for restitution and compensation,” Adesina said.
Zimbabwe needs debt restructuring so that it can again borrow offshore. Without foreign credit, Zimbabwe has struggled to maintain currency stability and is lagging behind regional peers on infrastructure. This has seen government using the budget for such projects, the downside of which has been inflation.
Zimbabwe’s total public and publicly guaranteed debt was US$18 billion in December 2022. This is made up of US$12.8 billion of foreign debt and domestic debt of US$5.2 billion. Of the 2022 foreign debt, US$5.89 billion is bilateral debt – money owed to other countries. Multilateral debt – money borrowed from lenders like AfDB and the World Bank – is US$2.7 billion. Most of what Zimbabwe owes these lenders – US$2.47 billion – is arrears and penalties for not paying up. External debt was US$14.4 billion at the end of 2021.