JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe remained on the edge on Thursday despite calls by the government for people to go back to work, with economic activity still grounded and the country’s economic productivity remaining crippled amid calls for President Emerson Mnangagwa’s administration to dialogue with opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa to find lasting solutions to Harare’s prolonged crisis.
Zimbabweans have been a frustrated lot after the government shut down the internet for more than 30 hours. Internet services were restored yesterday around 5pm but social networking platforms Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp have remained down, with Econet saying it has been directed not to open the sites until further notice.
Economists say the three day #Shutdown protest has been catastrophic for the economy as all industries and businesses virtually grounded to a halt. Roads have been blockaded and on Thursday morning, commuter operators were not on the road to ferry people to work.
The military and police have been deployed to residential areas and to hot spots but this has not helped matters. The Zimbabwean workers are protesting a hike in commuter fares by more than 200 percent after a massive increase in fuel prices announced by Mnangagwa on Saturday.
“We are calling for dialogue to end the crisis. This illegitimate government should also stop harassment of people and address their concerns – the people have suffered for long,” Jacob Mafume, spokesperson for the Chamisa lead MDC Alliance opposition party said.
As Zimbabwe’s economy implodes, the opposition and Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF have continued to draw lines in the sand, with the ruling party saying it will not be stampeded into dialogue. However, economists in Zimbabwe say the country is losing out on productivity in its economic sectors.
“An hour of lost productivity will have an impact, what more a whole week where there has been virtually no industry functioning? The government should listen to the concerns being raised and address those so that the country moves forward,” said economist Johannes Kwangwari.
Mnangagwa has continued with his international trip to woe investors. He ended a bilateral visit to Russia where he met Vladimir Putin yesterday and today he will be in Belarus for another official visit. Next week he heads to Davos for the World Economic Forum despite calls for him to return home and fix the worsening crisis.
Managers with international investment funds say the country’s risk perception is inching up after it improved following the ouster of former leader, Robert Mugabe in 2017. The country has been battling foreign currency shortages that have prevented investors from remitting their dividends back home although Mnangagwa has sought to downplay the impact of the currency crisis.
“Let me reassure you that all foreign investments are safe in Zimbabwe and my administration guarantees the protection of private property rights. We shall observe Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements and foreign investors are free to repatriate their investment proceeds in accordance with our laws,” Mnangagwa was quoted saying from Russia by state media on Thursday morning.