Panelists discussing the state of Zimbabwe’s democracy and economic development at an event hosted by the Washington Based think tank, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), expressed cautious optimism, of the country’s future.
United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, one three panelists at the NED event, titled, “The Challenges of Democratization and Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe”, dismissed an “Arab spring”-like revolt in Zimbabwe, despite the country’s political and economic hardships, citing the population’s high level of education and strong religious belief.
Wharton further said he was optimistic because Zimbabwe was in a very slow generational transition from a generation of men and women who fought against the minority government in the 60s and 70s to a modern pragmatic and less didactic group of people who are coming behind them.
Wharton attributed part of Zimbabwe’s problem to the caliber of the country’s politicians, whom he says are more interested in it as a way of living to pay their bills and get nice cars, than protecting the people.
Academic and Southern African Economic and Political Trust chairperson, Ibbo Mandaza, also a panelist, too expressed optimism for Zimbabwe, but described the last ten years as “tumultuous” but filled with “incorrigible optimism.”
But he questioned Zimbabwe’s ability to reform under the current leadership.
Mandaza, who is part of a movement called the National Convergence Convection, with Bishop Sebastian Bakare, advocates for engagement with the 50 percent of Zimbabwe’s skilled professionals living in the Diaspora.
Businessman and consultant, Shingi Munyeza, who was also part of a business delegation from Zimbabwe that is currently on a fact-finding mission to the U.S., said while prospects for an economic turnaround are high, raised concern over the lack of liquidity in the formal sector.
Munyeza said the adoption of the US dollar as a currency of exchange has plunged the country into a crisis because goods and services are more expensive than from South Africa.
Among the crowd in attendance for the discussion, which included members of Zimbabwe’s embassy staff, was Sharon Hwekwete, a Hubert Humphrey fellow and human rights lawyer.
Mandaza said he and his partners in the national convergence hope to raise $10 billion that will go toward debt relief, education and other programs that could help jump start the country’s economy.