Jambanja could backfire – analysts

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe is pushing ahead with nationalization of foreign owned assets to try to save the presidency for himself or his party at the expense of Zimbabwe's economy, independent analysts said this week.
The analysts say the 83-year-old president's gamble could backfire

because the presidential race, like the March 2005 parliamentary election his ruling Zanu (PF) party narrowly won amid allegations of vote rigging, is likely to be decided on the health of the economy.
The Zanu (PF) government wants to bulldoze the Indigenisation and Empowerment Bill in Parliament that will among other things compel businesses to sell 51 percent of their holding to locals. This comes at a time government is also expected to table the long-awaited Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill in August, which will require foreign miners to cede majority stakes to locals. This has sent shivers in the sector and most of the miners have stopped all expansion projects.
“I think Mugabe is continuing with his controversial nationalisation programme because, in his calculation, he is probably seeing it as a vote winner for the coming elections, either for himself,” said Zimbabwean political analyst Brian Raftopoulos, now with SA-based Institute of Transitional Justice and Reconciliation. Political analysts say Mugabe’s primary goal now is to try to stop the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) from winning the presidency by adopting populist policies.
Some political analysts expect Mugabe to abandon his militant approach after the elections and try to win back crucial donor support lost over the land policy and lawlessness. Donors say they will not renew aid until Zimbabwe restores order and respects human and property rights. Without their support, Mugabe has little chance of addressing a severe fuel and foreign currency crisis and taming runaway inflation, analysts say.
Economic experts said there were dire consequences to the nationalization project.
“This has serious consequences for the economy and if you look at the skills base it is shrinking, so you ask who will be able to manage these businesses,” John Robertson, a Harare-based consultant economist said. “But nothing makes sense anymore and what I can only think is that this is part of the government’s patronage system to reward supporters. It started with the farms and now because there are no more farms to give they have to look for other opportunities,” said Robertson. – Chief Reporter

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