U.S. Analysts Urge Businesses to Invest in Zimbabwe as Chaos Continues

Emmerson Mnangagwa
AP Photo/Ben Curtis

Some American analysts are calling on investors in the United States to re-engage with Zimbabwe, ignoring the unrest that has been plaguing the African nation since the military’s removal of the continent’s oldest dictator Robert Mugabe last November.

Zimbabwe did not venture out too far to look for someone to replace dictator Mugabe, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 37 years.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former the murderous dictator’s vice-president, has replaced Mugabe. The transition has been anything but smooth.

At least one NGO has already accused the new leader of being linked to mass killings in Zimbabwe.

In what appears to be an open letter to the Zimbabwe government, the pro-democratic change group known as the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition alleges that the military recently detained young activists while they were attending a church service and subsequently “tortured” them at a military barrack where they “suffered severe fractures.”

The troops reportedly arrested the activists at the request of the Mnangagwa administration for demanding that the new president “comes clean on his role in Gukurahundi which saw the mass killings of an estimated 20,000 citizens in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.”

Meanwhile, American analysts Anna Rosenberg and William Attwell argue in an article published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that Zimbabwe “entered a new chapter in November 2017,” bringing the long “dictatorship and destructive economic policies” to an end.

The HBR article suggests:

For companies willing to take on some risks, now is the time to buy local assets, which, though priced in USD [U.S. dollars], are still fairly cheap because of the associated risk.

This is also a good time to look for the best possible potential business partners—they are eager for investment but may not be available for long if interest in the market picks up. However, companies should stay clear of sectors with high levels of political interference, such as mining.”

The suggestion for American investors to consider business dealings in Zimbabwe comes as violence linked to Mugabe’s resignation continues to grip the country.

This week, “attackers allegedly fired live bullets and reportedly smashed [the] windows” of the Movement for Democratic (MDC) opposition party’s headquarters in the Zimbabwe capital of Harare,” reports the New Zimbabwe news agency.

The opposition party blamed the ruling Zanu-PF party for the violent incident.

“Zimbabwe’s political landscape has been characterized by violence, with the opposition MDC-T especially on the receiving end of state-sponsored aggression over the past two decades,” notes New Zimbabwe. “The [opposition] party says hundreds of its activists have resultantly been killed while thousands of others were maimed.”

In the Harvard Business Review article, the U.S. analysts acknowledge that investors should be mindful of the ongoing risks in Zimbabwe, noting that Mnangagwa worked for Mugabe’s administration and “is operating within a largely similar political system.”

“It is not yet clear which direction the new government will take. Mnangagwa, though more pragmatic than Mugabe, has nevertheless worked with Mugabe for years and is operating within a largely similar political system,” they explain.

The analysts concede that any progress in addressing Zimbabwe’s woes stemming from more than 35 years of disastrous economic policies will be “slow and incremental.”

The people of Zimbabwe are expected to vote for a new president this year.

“Mugabe’s successor Emmerson Mnangagwa has signaled his intention to usher in a more democratic era, although analysts have questioned whether opposition parties will be allowed to operate freely,” reports CNN.

In November, news reports surfaced that the 93-year-old dictator Mugabe had been placed under house arrest because he refused to step down.

“The military remains in the streets of the capital, Harare, as the mood is tense,” reported the Associated Press (AP) at the time. “Regional officials are meeting on the crisis as civil society groups and churches in Zimbabwe issue appeals for calm.”

Mugabe’s influence remains alive and well, according to various assessments, including one by the Harvard Political Review (HPR).

“Recent unrest in Zimbabwe has been unpredictable, but not unforeseen. Robert Mugabe, the now the country’s former president, long dominated the Zimbabwean political sphere with his divisive and authoritarian perspectives and politics,” notes HPR. “However, with his recent resignation and the reshuffling of the government, there is a tangible absence at the government’s helm.”

“With the ascension of the former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to Mugabe’s former role, the populace’s excitement for a new era is palpable,” it continues. “Regardless, there remains uncertainty about how the shadow of Mugabe and his associates will affect a possible democratic transition and its outcomes.”

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