Mugabe is warning off foreign firms

Will the new model work for Zimbabwe?

Following their recent election win, Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF government has issued a new warning to foreign firms. They ran a full-page advertisement in local papers this week saying that their comprehensive election win was an endorsement of their “indigenisation plans” that will see all foreign owned companies forced to give up 51 per cent of their equity to black Zimbabweans.

It is expected that this means that Mugabe will force the remaining 1100+ white and foreign owned companies left in the country, as well as local banks with foreign interests, to hand over 51 per cent of their businesses to the Zanu PF government.

"Over the next five years, Zimbabwe is going to witness a unique wealth transfer model that will see ordinary people take charge of the economy," the adverts read.

Saviour Kusukwere, one of Mugabe’s ministers, revealed separately that the country planned to seize 51 per cent of foreign-owned mines, worth an estimated US$7bn without any compensation. He warned that mines that refused to surrender more than half of their assets would lose their licences.

Recent Economic Trends

Following the 2000 referendum, Zimbabwe experienced 7 years of negative economic growth, with GDP per capita figures falling from US$535 in 2000 to US$415 in 2008. Then after introducing the US dollar as it currency in February 2009, the country witnessed a resurgence, with GDP per capita levels rising to US$788 by 2012 (Source: World Bank).

However, despite this small improvement, most African countries have surged ahead of it over this twelve year period as reflected in the table below.

Timeline: Mugabe’s 33 years in power

  • Mugabe and his Zanu PF party took power following the 1980 general elections.
  • Following droughts in the country in the late 90s and slowing economic growth, Mugabe was coming under increasing pressure to step aside.
  • Mugabe then held a referendum in 2000 in order to extend his powers. This referendum was unexpectedly defeated by a new opposition party formed from a labour union movement, the MDC and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
  • Months after the referendum, the MDC ran a candidate in every district in the country and emerged with nearly half the seats in parliament.
  • Zanu PF responded by launching a campaign of violence to intimidate the MDC. It also destabilized the country by ordering the invasion of commercial farms by so called War veterans.
  • Following the invasions and general public outcry, new media laws were passed prior to the 2002 elections which led to the closure of all independent newspapers in the country.
  • Zanu PF won majorities in the 2002 and 2005 elections. These results were heavily disputed by the MDC and international bodies.
  • MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was severely beaten by government officials in 2007 and his bodyguard, Nhamo Musekiwa, was killed.
  • The MDC won a majority in the 2008 election but they did not achieve over 50 per cent of the vote and a run-off election was therefore required.
  • Prior to the run-off election, Zanu PF launched another campaign of violence against MDC supporters, forcing the MDC to pull out of runoff elections and effectively handing power back to Mugabe.
  • Susan Tsvangirai was killed in a car crash in 2009, which is believed by many to be the work of Zanu PF officials who were attempting to assassinate her husband Morgan Tsvangirai, who was in the same car at the time. He survived.
  • In a deal brokered by South African president Thabo Mbeki following the 2008 elections, Mugabe remained president and kept control over the army and the country as a whole.
  • Mugabe won the recent elections held on the 31st July 2013, taking over 60 per cent of the presidential vote and over two thirds of parliamentary vote. These results have been heavily disputed by the MDC, as well as by various independent bodies and the UK and US government. However, most regional powerhouses including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the South African government said the elections were free and fair. In fact, the only African country to officially speak out against the result was Botswana.
Robert Mugabe. Photograph: Getty Images

Andrew Amoils is a writer for WealthInsight

Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.