Mthuli Ncube’s budget is “positive” and can make an impact on the country’s fiscal crisis, but Zimbabwe needs “profound” political and economic reforms to end isolation and win debt relief, says US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Matthew Harrington.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa sent good signals by appointing techocrats to his cabinet, but he will need to repeal repressive laws and end the harassment of opposition if he is to repair the damage of the post-election army killings, Harrington told a US Senate subcommittee hearing in Washington yesterday.
“Since the election, we have seen some promising signs from the government, including appointment of a new, more technocratic cabinet, announcement of an economic plan acknowledging the need for significant monetary and fiscal reform, and a budget which, if implemented, would make important strides in that direction. So far, however, the pace and scale of reforms has been too gradual and not nearly ambitious enough,” he said.
The post-election violence had overshadowed an “encouraging” pre-election period that had seen open campaigns and international observers.
“It is clear that Zimbabwe has a long way to go – and requires profound political and economic reforms – to sustainably change the path on which it has been for nearly four decades,” Harrington said.
On how relations between the US and Zimbabwe have changed since Robert Mugabe’s ouster, Harrington said “there’s been a change in tone, a change in access, our engagements with senior officials including President Mnangagwa are much easier than they were under in the Mugabe years”.
Still, he said, Mnangagwa has to act on his rhetoric.
Even if Zimbabwe did qualify for debt relief, Harrington says it would still be hard for the US to support debt clearance since a third of Zimbabwe’s arrears are with non-Paris Club members, which makes transparency difficult.
Asked by Senator Jeff Flake to assess factionalism in ZANU-PF, Harrington said the new techocrats trying to push for reforms might meet resistance from the old guard.
“The political elites would be threatened by some of the reforms that are being proposed and will do anything to try and undermine those efforts,” he said.
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