Zimbabwe: Formal Economy, Informal Economy, Under Economy.




Developments on the socio-political front in Zimbabwe in 2020 have been curious to say the least.


Firstly, in their published financial reports, I’ve noticed that companies have a reemerging theme in the chairman’s statements. This is that the operating environment as characterized by erratic energy supply (electricity and fuel) not only affects productivity but also fuels inflation.


Of course this is an undeniable fact.  You just have to walk into any of the leading supermarkets and you’ll see this for yourself.


To say the least, some of the prices in there are quite ridiculous.


For instance a kilogram of beef is going for ZW240 in leading supermarkets. However if you head to the local butchery, a kilo of beef is going for anything between ZW60 and ZW85.


So you don’t have to stick to muriwo and potatoes! Just go round the corner to the local butchery for a good deal!


Informal Economy Can Drive Growth


Essentially, you’ll find similar price disparities when you compare the prices of several other groceries.


The fact is that it’s much cheaper to buy things from the informal economy than the formal economy, and that’s why you find people selling all sorts of groceries from their cars right outside supermarkets at your local shopping center.


Because of this trend I’ve been taking 2020 economic projections with a pinch of salt.


While economic analysts are predicting that the Zimbabwean economy will shrink by anything between 10% and 20% in 2020, I want to emphasis here that while that prediction may be accurate on paper, it however applies to formal economy (i.e. Pick n Pay and the likes), but necessarily to the informal economy.


Indeed, formal business will undeniably be affected by fuel and power shortages.  Erratic energy supplies forces formal businesses to use generators 24/7 and inevitably this pushes the prices of their goods and services up and makes them less competitive in the process.


However, the same does not necessarily apply to the informal sector.


In fact the butchery round the corner and the dude selling clothes and soap out of the trunk of his car are arguably thriving at the expense of Pick and Pay and the likes, bringing me to the proposition that the Zimbabwean informal sector is swallowing the formal sector.



Some may raise eyebrows and perhaps say “how can we be a country characterized by ‘musika’ and selling out of cars?”


That’s a fair remark, but the reality is that Zimbabwe’s formal economy has become less and less competitive over the years, and now it’s clear from market trends that the informal sector is becoming a viable alternative for consumers.


For instance, since formal private schools are becoming outrageously expensive, more and more “colleges” are emerging in people’s houses.


It’s also clear home manufacturing industries are on the increase, and this is not necessarily a bad thing.


In fact, internationally, data clearly suggests that the informal economy can drive national GDP growth.


For instance in India, the informal sector (including agriculture) contributed over 50% of the total GDP in 2008.


Also in Ghana 80%-90% of the Ghanaian workforce is employed in the informal sector.


According to The Ghana Living Standards Survey (6) the Ghanaian informal sector is predominantly made up of small to medium-scale businesses, consisting of producers, wholesale and retail traders and service providers which comprise family workers, casual wage workers, home-based workers, and street vendors, among others.


In light of that fact, it’s my argument that the Zimbabwean informal economy is similar to the Ghanaian.


What we often report in Zimbabwe as 90 % unemployment is actually meant as 90% formal unemployment, because 80%-90% of the Zimbabwean workforce is employed in the informal economy, and it’s my observation that businesses in the informal economy are doing a lot better than those in the formal economy.


As a result, the formal economy is being swallowed up by the informal economy.


Just take a trip to Mbare musika one of these days. Business is booming out there!


The Under-Economy.


While there is a clear indication that the informal economy is swallowing up the formal economy, there is also a disturbing increase in under-economy activity.


The under-economy, (also known as underground economy) refers to economic transactions that are deemed illegal. The underground economy in the United States mainly comprises the sale of street drugs and illegal prostitution while other examples of underground economic activity include smuggling and human trafficking.


In Zimbabwean terms, the continued proliferation of narcotics and the consequent violent crime are issues that need urgent attention.


I’ve argued before and will state again here that this “Mashurugwi” phenomenon and all other forms of violent crime currently underway in the country are directly linked to substance abuse and the proliferation of synthetic narcotics on the Zimbabwean market. I’ve got the data, get in touch if you would like me to present it to you.




While I think that it’s clear that the informal economy is swallowing the formal economy, government still has a lot of work to do in order to gain the confidence of informal businesses and consequently benefit from the informal sector boom.


However, what the government can do is stop the under-economy from growing, particularly by dealing with the problem of synthetic substance abuse (particularly Chrystal meth and cocaine) which are fueling violent crime.


I’ve argued before and I’ll state again here that if the drug problem in the under-economy is left unabated, Zimbabwe will in the not too distant future become a country like Mexico which is largely controlled by drug cartels and gangs.


Judging from the national trend of machete gangsters, we are clearly heading in that direction.


Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director

ZACC should take an interest in the Crime Explosion in Zimbabwe




I took interest when President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently swore in the new and improved Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC).


The previous commission was disbanded owing to allegations of rampant corruption.


The last ZACC was also criticized for being “toothless” unlike the new Anti-Corruption Commission which has been given the powers to investigateand arrest.


It’s in the light of ZACC’s recent enablement to investigate and arrest that I make the argument that ZACC should also take an interest in the upsurge of crime in Zimbabwe- particularly violent crime.


It goes without saying that crime in general Zimbabwe (and Harare in particular) has escalated to levels that are seemingly out of control.


While crimeisgenerally not a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe, perhaps the current high levels of criminal activities being experienced in the country (particularly violent crimes in the form of armed robberies and house-break-ins) are unprecedented.


Outside of urban areas, there are also reports of high levels of violent crime in mining towns and areas such as Zvishavane, Mazowe, and Kwekwe where it is alleged that “mabhembha” (machete wielding militias’) are wreaking havoc in those parts of the country.


A recent media report on the machete wars in mining town of Kwekwe reads as follows:


“….gory stories of bloody violence and crime that have claimed many and injured countless others. Gold panners walk around with machetes tucked in their trouser pockets to protect their hard-earned grains of gold although the weapons have also been used to rob unsuspecting citizens. No place is safe in the Midlands mining town… Attacks have been experienced at primary schools, hospitals, bus termini, bars while some have been attacked in the comfort of their homes.” (April 2019).


Although South Africa has a much bigger population, perhaps one could argue that the types of violent crime we are currently experiencing in the Zimbabwe are mirroring those experienced in places like Johannesburg, albeit on a smaller scale.


Nevertheless, I argue in this article that there is direct relationship between substance abuse,violent crimeandinstitutional corruption, and this perhaps, is something that ZACC should take an interest in.



Violent Crime and Hidden Communities


As I write this, I’m in the process of concluding a research project on “hidden communities” in Harare Central Business district.


As researcherswe have access to several international reports online and in libraries relating to drug abuse and violent crime.


However, we have limited home-grown Zimbabwean research that applies qualitative ethnographic methodology to the “hidden populations” where “hidden populations” is a euphuism for subculture groups that consist of people such as: the homeless, the unemployed, high school and college dropouts, criminal offenders, drug addictcs, “mabhembha”, juvenile delinquents, gang members, runaways and other “street people.”


In the process of writing up the project, it’s come to my attention that the commonly held opinions on the causes of the high crime rate in the country are ill-conceived resulting in misconceptions concerning the causes of crime.


For instance it is commonly held that the ever increasing crime rate in Zimbabwe is a direct result of economic contraction.


This is a misconception.


It is a fact that between 2000 and 2008, the economy contracted to levels much worse than what we are experiencing today, and that inflation rose to levels much higher than what we are experiencing today.


Nevertheless, the crime rate in 2008 was much lower than what it is today. Why is that?


If anything, the economic decline experienced in Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2008 directlyresulted to economic migration, where our citizens left the country in favor of various destinations which are perceived as “greener pastures.”


Ultimately, the economic decline of that period did not necessarily catalyze crime.


This brings me to the causes of crime in Zimbabwe presently.


In the course of compiling data I’ve found that the current catalysts of crime in Zimbabwe to be different from what the media often suggests.


I’ve listed some of these below.


The Causes of High Crime Levels in Zimbabwe.


  • Substance Abuse and Addiction,


The primary cause of crime is substance abuse. There is currently a drug epidemic underway in the country. In fact, drug abuse in the country is becoming so commonplace and so widespread that one can draw comparisons with the crack (cocaine) epidemic that wreaked havoc in black communities in the USA in the 1980s and 1990s.Aonline report on the crack epidemic reads as follows:


“Few skills and resources were needed to sell crack….A small-time drug dealer who sold crack daily earned a median net income of [USD] $2,000 per month. The increase in the demand for crack cocaine caused intense competition between drug dealers as they fought to profit from the same customers. Consequently, violence became linked to crack cocaine as these small-time drug dealers defended their economic boundaries.”


The situation is Zimbabwe today is similar. Unscrupulous drug dealers have set-up shop over the years and deliberately target unsuspecting high-school and college students as well as youths that are informally employed with the intent of getting them addictedto drugs.


Once these people are addicted to drugs, they start to not only steal from their own homes and families, but they also start stealing from unsuspecting members of their own communities… often violently.


This ostensibly explains the surge random handbag snatchings and house-break-ins currently underway in the suburbs of Harare.


  • Dollarization


This point is linked to the point of substance abuse and addiction, in the context that prior to dollarization in 2009, Zimbabwe had an uncompetitive (perhaps even worthless) currency in the form of the Zimbabwe dollar.


In this light, one could argue that Zimbabwe was not an attractive  destination for drug traffickers prior to dollarization as few people could afford or access the hard currency required for purchase of cocaine.


However after dollarization in 2009 and the economic growth that followed, Zimbabwe became an attractive destination for international drug traffickers, and consequently, many small-time peddlers began to mushrooming the various cities and towns across the country.


As I mentioned earlier, drug peddlers are in the business of actively recruiting new clients, and their main targets are often high-school and college students, and professionals. These people are targeted by unscrupulous peddlers who get them addicted to drugs even to the point of death.


Below is a report from a Zimbabwean daily dating back to 2010. It reads as follows:


“Two weeks ago, two men from Harare’s leafy suburb of Glen Lorne died after taking an overdose of cocaine… both 35, died at Parirenyatwa Hospital where they had been taken after taking an over dose of the drug.” (Aug 2010).


Today, even after the re-introduction of the Zimbabwe dollar, the number of drug peddlers has multiplied across the country, and drug dealers are coming up with new and innovative ways to recruiting new clients.


Some of the methods they use are the hosting of “all-white” and “vuzu” parties.


A recent report from a Zimbabwean daily describing the proliferation of “vuzu” parties in Bulawayo reads as follows:


Imagine your 13-year-old daughter being crowned Bulawayo’s queen for sleeping with a minimum of 10 boys in a single night. How would it feel to have your 17-year-old son bragging about having a bunch of $5 notes as reward for being a sex master? These shocking revelations of youths being crowned for sleeping with many partners were shared during a vuzu party engagement forum in the city recently….” (July 2019)


The “vuzu” parties are parties during which youths indulge in drugs before participating in orgies. They are facilitated by drug peddlers and the motive behind them is to get youths addicted to drugs.


  • De-Dollariasation


The recent reintroduction of the Zimbabwe dollar has meant that more and more people are holding on to hard currency which they keep in their homes and their work places instead of depositing the money in banks.


Arguably, this has led to an increase in armed robberies particularly in homes. Below is a recent report from a local daily on a tragedy that occurred in the North-eastern suburbs of Harare.


“Police have launched a manhunt for armed robbers … National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said the murder and armed robbery occurred in Umwinsidale, Harare, on Sunday evening, when the suspects, wielding a pistol and brick … pounced on a family of three while they were having dinner at their house…One of the accused struck the victim with a brick on the head, while the other suspect produced a pistol and shot the victim on the left shoulder.” (July 2018).


The upsurge of armed robberies in homes can be linked to the assumption by criminals that people are keeping large amounts of cash in their homes.


Such assumptions are usually made by criminals after liaising with domestic workers who confirm the existence of cash within households to criminals.


Furthermore, when one digs deeper, it becomes apparent that criminals who engage in armed robbery heists are more often than not also addicted to hard drugs like crack cocaine, and in some instances the criminals may be working with corrupt elements in certain government departments, and it is in this context that ZACC should take an interest in the relationship between violent crime, substance abuse and corrupt government officials.




While I commend the swearing in of the new Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission under the leadership of Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo, I believe that it is important for ZACC and the wider community to contract researchers like myself to present the research I’m concluding to them and demonstrate how the Anti-Corruption Commission can use its powers to assist in the fight against drug-abuse and violent crime.


For instance one of the ways ZACC can assist is by identifying and investigating immigration a law-enforcement officials who facilitate the smuggling of drugs into the country in similar ways to how the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) uses surveillance tactics to curb drug trafficking in America.


I have stated before and will state again here, that if the issue of substance abuse and violent crime is not adequately and urgently addressed, Zimbabwe will in the not too distant future become a country controlled by drug cartels and gangs, much like Mexico is today.



Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director

Zimbabwe: We cannot go left and right at the same time


“…..We are enveloped in the politics of hate. The amount of hate that is being preached today in this country is frightful. What Zimbabwe fought for
was peace, progress, love, respect, justice, equality, not the opposite…
No country can live by slogans, pasi [down with] this and pasi that. When you are ruling you should never say pasi to anyone. If there is something wrong with someone you must try to uplift him, not oppress him. We cannot condemn other people and then do things even worse than they did.”- Joshua Nkomo 1986….


I remember when land reform started in Zimbabwe in the year 2000. It was in my final year of high school when “war veterans” began invading commercial farms owned by white Zimbabweans.


That was a confusing time for some of us who were born into political families.


On the one had the political ideology surrounding land reform  seemed to make sense in the context of the country’s colonial history, yet on the other hand, it was unpleasant to watch the often violent dispossession of white farmers and their families… many of whom I went to school with at the time.


In that period slogans were rife.


Pasi this and Pasi that, were the order of the day.


Pasi ne Britain, and Pasi na Blair, Pasi ne MDC and so on and so on. The list was endless.


Ironically, in 2001 it started to become clear that Joshu Nkomo was right;  a country cannot be run by slogans.


In the year 2001, farm invasions intensified, and concurrently, the Zimbabwean economy started to shrink.


At that time I was working in my father’s butchery in Glen Veiw, and for the first time in my life I heard the words “price controls,” “shortages” and “fuel queues.”


Below is a newspaper excerpt from The Telegraph, published in the year 2001.


“Robert Mugabe’s government yesterday announced the imposition of price controls on basic foodstuffs, dealing a shattering blow to the already crippled economy and threatening widespread food shortages… Annual inflation in Zimbabwe is around 80 per cent, and unemployment is at record levels…the trade and industry minister, said an official order freezing prices at the levels of two months ago was being prepared. The economic collapse since Mr. Mugabe ordered invasions of white-owned farms 18 months ago has made Zimbabweans poorer than ever before. The costs of basics are now beyond the reach of more than half the population… Zimbabwe has no foreign currency for imports and is surviving from day to day.


Sound familiar? I’m sure it does.  As they say, history repeats itself.


To me, it’s somewhat ironic that in 2019, Zimbabwe is once again experiencing inflation near 80 per cent, and that government is once again making references to price controls on basic foodstuffs.


The inflationary period of 2000-2008 clearly demonstrated to all and sundry in Zimbabwe that price controls don’t work.


If anything, implementing price controls will simply fuel shortages in shops and lead to an increase in illicit black market trade.


Still, the question on everybody’s mind is this: why is it that ED and the Zimbabwean government are failing to bank-in on the international goodwill that they have received following events surrounding November 2017?


Our problem is that we are trying to go left and right at the same time.


Don’t get me wrong, the government has taken some positive steps, particularly the recent decision to compensate former farmers.


However, these piecemeal steps taken  so far have not attracted foreign investment. If anything, investors are leaving Zimbabwe.


The problem is that we speak progressively and often act regressively.


We try to go left and right at the same time.


For instance, on August 1 2018, after a relatively peaceful election that had impressed the world, we suddenly did an about turn and unleashed violence in full view of international cameras.


We spoke progressively before the elections and acted regressively on August 1.


Even recently, our finance minister Mthuli Ncube was in the USA for the IMF’s spring meetings.


On the sidelines of those meetings, he attended a symposium held at the Cato institute where Professor Steve Hanke was one of the speakers.


Steve Hanke is a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and this is what he reportedly said in the presence of finance minister Ncube:


“To get to a micro point, in February 2019, the Gaika Mine was invaded. This is a property rights issue… If you look at this mine, it was invaded and taken over and the looting began… then … within the past two weeks, the mine was finally sealed and the trespassers were thrown out…. But that’s not the end of the story, we have had 14 months since this particular mine in the Midlands was invaded … over 80 people killed, at least US$100 million has been looted from the mine, maybe double that….Then the mine manager’s home in Kwekwe was invaded by youth wielding machetes. The group, or shall we say the gang, is Al Shabaab and the leader of this crime syndicate is … [a] current minister….” 


I can only imagine the embarrassment that finance minister Ncube suffered while professor Hanke spoke those words.


I mean, there he was as Zimbabwe’s Finance chief, trying to convince the world that Zimbabwe has reformed and is open for business , only to have the allegations of looting by a senior government official at Gaika mine thrown in his face.


Again, this shows that we try to go left and right at the same time.


We preach progression and practice regression, and that is the major problem with Zimbabwe.


Even the Botswana President has joined the international community in making jokes about Zimbabwe.


According to reports, while recently meeting with young entrepreneurs President Masisi joked that Botswana had a sound investment climate, unlike an unnamed African country were payment to creditors and repatriation of profits to foreign countries in the currencies of their choice was impossible.


“We are run, not just conveniently, but very well and we work. We are open and this stability along with our addiction to the rule of law makes us attractive for spring boarding from Botswana… I will not name the other country, would you rather have your business headquarters in country X somewhere else in Africa or in Botswana? In terms of assuring yourself that what you put in the bank is yours and will be there. In terms of assuring yourself and your creditors that you will be able to pay them in whatever currency they need to be paid in, so these advantages should be utilized to the fullest.”


Although he didn’t mention ‘country X’ by name, the problems he pointed out in the unnamed country are very similar to those currently being experienced in Zimbabwe.


So what do we do as nation? How do we come out of our current mess?


From where I’m looking, the only way out is to have significant dialogue with the MDC-Alliance with the aim of implementing substantial political and structural reforms in Zimbabwe, in such a way that both domestic and international capital will collectively accept that we pass the credibility test.


While someone once said “Zanu-PF will never reform itself out of power,” my view is that this is the time to reflect on the late great Joshua Nkomo’s words, and accept that What Zimbabwe fought forwas peace, progress, love, respect, justice, equality, not the opposite.”



Put simply, Zimbabwe needs to implement far-reaching reforms that open up the political space, promote freedoms and attract investment, even is those reforms impact Zanu-PF’s power retention ambitions in 2023.


What’s clear today is that Zimbabwe is crawling towards the hyperinflation horrors of 2008, and no-amount of scapegoating or sloganeering will save the country from this crisis.


We need to focus as a country.


We need our  eyes and our feet to cooperatively face forward.


As it stands, we are trying to go left and right at the same time.


Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director





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Malema’s Remarks are Misplaced


According to reports, the forever feisty Julius Malema recently lashed out at President Mnangagwa in Johannesburg, describing him as a “sellout” for his plans to pay compensation to white farmers whose land was forcibly expropriated by Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF government led by former President Robert Mugabe nearly two decades ago.


Apparently addressing the media at his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Malema said Zimbabwe was still full of poverty and could not afford basic things like primary healthcare, proper education and infrastructure.


“It’s a sellout position taking money to people who don’t deserve it,” he said.


Malema apparently also warned Mnangagwa that the people of Zimbabwe would soon turn on him.


“Anyone who compensates them for stolen land is a sellout. Anyone who compensates for the expropriation of land is a sellout,” he charged.


Now to the undiscerning ear, Malema may have a point given Africa’s history of colonial oppression and land dispossession by European settlers.


However here is why I think Malema’s comments are inappropriate and perhaps even in bad taste.


Firstly Malema himself is no socialist- he is a capitalist. In fact he reportedly drives a 1.2million rand car (among many others).


Furthermore, it appears  that he procured his impressive fleet of vehicles through years of “tenderpreneuring” using various entities that he owns such as Segwalo Consulting Engineers CC (through which he received 10% commission on the value of each tender given to Segwalo Consulting Engineers), Ngape Mining Investment, and the infamous Ratanang family trust.


As a result of his effective career as a tenderpreneur, he reportedly owns these properties: a house in Flora Park; a house in Sandown worth 3.6 million rand; his Sandown home worth 8.5 million rand; and ironically two farms that he bought in 2009 and 2011 for 9million rand.


The point is that all and sundry need to understand that Julius Malema is a property owner- a landlord- and therefore he automatically becomes interested in the protection of his private property rights.


If he is interested in property rights, he automatically becomes a capitalist. He is NOT a socialist.


If anything, all the noise that he makes around the issue of “land expropriation without compensation” is part of a very dangerous populist political game that he is playing alongside his sponsors in the ANC.


Oh yes, for those who are not in the know, it has long been held that Julius Malema and the EFF are a project of Cyril Ramaphosa and the anti-Jacob Zuma faction in the ANC…but those are matters for another day.


The critical point I want to make here is that Zimbabwe’s economic problems since 2000 have been, and will always be centered on the issue of property rights.


While the populist program of “land expropriation without compensation” may seem and sound like the right path- it is in fact regressive and dangerous.


I know, because I am one of many who witnessed Zimbabwe’s land reform programme first hand.


When Robert Mugabe’s land reform began in 2000, I was in my final high school year, In the middle of which many of my white friends had their farms invaded, often violently.



At the time, Robert Mugabe’s populism around land reform sounded a lot like Julius Malema’s rants today, and as a result many landless black Zimbabweans were deceived into believing that land reform without compensation would do more good than harm for Zimbabwe.


Unfortunately, the opposite has proven to be true.


20 years down the line the writing is on the wall- Zimbabwe is desperate for a financial bailout, millions of citizens have left the country (some even to work on farms in neighboring countries), and today, in 2019 Zimbabweans  are still emigrating for economic reasons.


All in all the legacy of Zimbabwe’s post 2000 land reform programme comprises of a battered economy, separated families, mass-emigration and trauma.


While some beneficiaries of land reform have indeed managed to make good use of resettled land, it is also true that many in fact have not, and a sizeable portion of Zimbabwe’s agricultural land remains underutilized- the land audit currently underway will soon reveal this.


Nevertheless, I must unequivocally state that President Emmerson Mnagwagwa’s decision to compensate former farmers for the improvements on their former farms is correct and necessary.


The fact is that the very institutions that Zimbabwe is seeking for bailout funds from (particularly the IMF and World bank) are essentially capitalist institutions that consider the principle of protection of private property rights as pivotal, and no amount of populist politicking will change that.


In that light I commend President Mnangagwa for his course of action concerning compensation of former farmers. It is the right thing to do.


If Zimbabwe had taken the same approach in 2000 instead of the “forcible acquisitions” route, our economic condition would have been different today.


In short Zimbabwe’s decision to compensate former farmers for land as well as the developments thereon is 20 years overdue.


It is also the result of the realization that there are no free lunches in the contemporary global economy.


As long as Julius Malema’s EFF, the ANC and South Africa as a whole continue on the dangerous path of “land expropriation without compensation” , they too will eventually come to realize that nothing is for free… you WILL pay for what you take… even if that realization takes 20 years.


Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director





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Zimbabwe: Bumpy Ride yet Bright Future


The just-ended three-day national strike ( Monday 13  January 2019- Wednesday 15 January) gave me an opportunity to read the government’s Transitional Stabilization Program (TSP) and try to understand where we are as a nation and whether there is light at the end of the tunnel for our political-economy.


I must state here that I’m often criticized by my Marxist schooled and labour-centered friends for being biased towards capital and “big-business.”


That is a bias I cannot deny- I am a capitalist, perhaps even an elitist.


Nevertheless I also strongly believe that the state is obligated to: 1) facilitate a socio-economic environment where citizens can live decently and with enough opportunity to aspire to become whatever they want to be in life and 2) to build strong institutions that guarantee the rule of law.


It’s with these two themes in mind that I decided to take time to understand whether or not the TSP and the consequent government interventions are going to do Zimbabwe any good in the long run.


Ironically, as it stands today, worker’s organisations such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and even industrialists unions such as the Confederation of Zimbabwean Industries (CZI) are concurrently calling upon the executive to expeditiously intervene in the economy.


Business and labour are usually on opposite ends. It’s very rare to hear the two singing from the same songbook.


One the one hand the ZCTU (and affiliate bodies) are calling upon the government to remunerate workers in hard currency- United States Dollars in particular- while on the other hand the CZI has been lobbying the government to avail foreign currency so that industry can import raw materials needed for production.


The CZI has unequivocally stated that Zimbabwe’s businesses are left with less than a month’s supply of foreign-sourced raw materials and that the country could come to a complete standstill if hard currency is not availed urgently.


Interestingly, in the midst of this furore, the executive has insisted that the country is on the right track, and that the most recent government intervention (in the form of increasing the price of fuel) is the right move.


In this article, I will try to make sense of the current state of Zimbabwe’s political economy, and attempt to determine whether or not we are moving in the right direction as a country.


Bumpy Ride Ahead


On Christmas Eve 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed the nation.


In his address, he informed that while the process of national renewal and economic recovery was started in 2018, citizens should brace for more difficulties lying ahead.


“There is so much more to be done and there will be further bumps along the road. I am aware that many will have a difficult Christmas. I encourage all of us to be patient, resilient and to work harder in collective unity as we create a better, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe for all.” He stated.


While many misinterpreted this statement to mean that the president is arrogant, uncompassionate and even detached from the sufferings of ordinary citizens, I believe that the opposite is true.


I think the President is well aware of the difficulties currently faced by Zimbabweans, and as he rightly stated- there is no easy way out.The road to the promised land will be a bumpy one.


In fact it is not a secret that Zimbabwe needs to implement extensive political and economic reforms before the country can unlock significant funding from Bretton Woods institutions in the forms of the IMF and the World Bank.


In short, in order to unlock fresh funding, Zimbabwe is required to effect a comprehensive Structural Adjustment Programme similar to the Economic Structural Adjust Programme (E.S.A.P) that we implemented in the early 1990s.


For those who are not in the know, the World Bank backed E.S.A.P came at a time when Zimbabwe’s economy was deep in recession owing particularly to the severe 1991/1992 drought which deeply affected Zimbabwe’s agro-economy.


ESAP was proposed as a World Bank backed intervention which would liberalize Zimbabwe’s economy and put the country back on a growth trajectory.


Essentially E.S.A.P contained the following key deliverables : 1) the reduction of Government expenditure by retrenching 25 percent of the civil service, 2) removing government subsidies on essential products, 3) commercialising and privatising some state-owned companies and 4) introducing user-fees in the health and education sectors.


While it is widely agreed that E.S.A.P assisted in stabilizing the Zimbabwean macro-economy, it is also argued that E.S.A.P did not  address unemployment and poverty.


If anything, unemployment worsened owing to retrenchments and privatization.


Arguably, the impact of ESAP fuelled labour strikes and food-riots that characterized the country in the mid-nineties, perhaps in the same way that the TSP is fueling the same today.


In fact, an article on E.S.A.P in the mid-nineties published in the Indiana University Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare stated the following:


“… It has been noted that the programs [E.S.A.Ps] generally lead to retrenchment, skyrocketing of prices of goods, rising inflation to record levels and steep devaluation of local currencies… These situations have lead (sic) to loss of power, instability and /or increased military repression.”


I believe that statement is true even today.


The T.S.P is Another E.S.A.P


Now, it’s important to note that Zimbabwe’s T.S.P has all the characteristics of the neo-liberal E.S.A.P.


I will highlight three key components of the T.S.P that expose its neo-liberal nature.


Firstly, the TSP speaks about restructuring the Civil Service- which should be read as mass-lay-offs.


In fact paragraph 374 of the TSP states that “the imperative for the Transitional Stabilisation Programme is to… reposition, re-dimension and pivot the Civil Service to become a more efficient and cost-effective vehicle to deliver national development results and outcomes”


Simply put, this means the government will effect mass-lay-offs.


Arguably, this is inspired by observations made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in recent years that “the public sector employment costs remain at an unsustainable level.”


Consequently it’s no coincidence that in January 2019 Zimbabwe’s government began the process of laying off just over 3,000 workers from its youth ministry.


The most recent retrenchments followed government’s 2018 initiatives to retire senior civil servants who are above the age of 65.


The reason for the “restructuring” is simply that the government has to cut expenditure in order to repay about $2 billion in arrears to creditors — this is a precondition of the IMF before we are able to access fresh support.


While labour unions and other civic bodies may disagree with the intent to implement mass-layoffs in the civil service, personally, I think it’s the way forward, because our civil service is bloated and largely unproductive, and therefore retrenchment of government workers is a noteworthy intervention.


Secondly, the T.S.P speaks to the matter of privatisation.


Paragraph 384 of the T.S.P says the following:


“Public Enterprises Reform 384. Review of the ownership and oversight model of the State Owned Enterprises sector is provided for in the short to medium term Reform Framework whose implementation is now underway”


Furthermore, Paragraph 387 of the T.S.P highlights the following deliverables:


“The privatisation of 11 State Owned Enterprises, 6 IDC Subsidiaries, and 17 ZMDC subsidiaries. • Liquidation of 2 State Owned Enterprises and 3 IDC Subsidiaries. • Merging of 11 entities. • Departmentalisation of 7 State Owned Enterprises into Line Ministries.”


Essentially, privatisation is a key component of structural adjustment, and it is therefore no wonder that the issue of privatisation is contained in the T.S.P.


However, my hope is that while government goes ahead with its privatisation push, state assets are disposed of transparently and at fair market prices. We do not want key state resources to be sold off for a pittance as we have observed recently in Zambia.


Again, privatisation is the right way to go as it will raise much needed revenue for government. In this light, the pandemonium we observed when Olivine announced its indefinite closure was uncalled for.


As it stands Olivine is already on the list of State Owned Entities that are to be privatised, and in that context, there is no need for government to continue pumping scarce foreign currency into a loss-making entity that is soon to be disposed of.


The closure of entities like Olivine is not Armageddon. In fact it is in line with the T.S.P.


Finally two recent pronouncements by the executive are telling clues that demonstrate Zimbabwe is in the midst of structural adjustment. The first was the executive’s pronouncement of the separation of FCA and RTGS bank accounts and the second was the executive’s pronouncement that fuel prices will increase.


While the T.S.P does not explicitly make mention of these interventions, our finance minister did tacitly indicate that our local currency has been devalued.


Responding to questions on the issue during a dialogue at Chatham House in London in October 2018, Prof Ncube said he would not argue against market forces, as he admitted that the bloated RTGS balances were being devalued on the parallel market despite being officially rated at par with the US$ value.


“On the currency front, I think the market is doing all the work for me, I don’t have to announce…it’s very clear that the economy is in essence self-dollarizing… If you look at the RTGS exchange rate and bond note exchange rate, the market has said these are not at par and I am not about to argue with the market” said Professor Mthuli Ncube.


The devaluation of the local currency, has not been welcomed by Zimbabwean workers, as it diminishes their buying power and eats into their savings while at the same time fueling inflation.


However from where I’m sitting, there is no other way. Indeed it is a painful intervention, but it is also a necessary intervention. In the middle to long term we will start seeing the results.




Let me conclude by using what happened in South Africa in the past as an example.


When Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa in 1994, the trade union and communist partners of the African National congress (ANC) in the forms of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) assumed that the right economic policy for the country was the pro-poor, socialist-centered Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).


While that policy was a noble initiative on paper, in flopped in practice.


It was noble, because it sought to address the main socio-economic challenges of black South Africans; particularly: housing, healthcare, electrification, land-reform and access to healthcare.


Nevertheless the RDP policy flopped, simply because the South African government didn’t have the finances or human resources to implement those initiatives at that time.


As a result by the time that the pro-capital economist in the form of Thabo Mbeki took office in 1999, the South African government had abandoned RDP for the neo-liberal and pro-capital, Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy, which focused on removing exchange controls, privatisation, and the introduction of flexible labour (which should be read as the ability to fire or retrench easily).


The GEAR policy was a neo-liberal structural adjustment inspired policy, just like the T.S.P is in Zimbabwe today.


The GEAR policy brought positive economic growth to South Africa.Additionally, management of public finances improved drastically under GEAR.


While the policy was constantly criticized by the South African opposition and COSATU for being anti–poor and pro-capital, arguably, South Africa is what it is today because of Thabo Mbeki’s leadership and the GEAR policy.


Similarly, we Zimbabweans should give President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and the T.S.P the opportunity to flourish.


Indeed it will be a bumpy ride, but we are in the right direction.


Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director





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Omotoso: Church leader or Cult leader?


“My father in the Lord reverent Tim Omotoso gave my life back he reminded me that I am a human being, when I lost hope didn’t know myself at all, devel (sic) used me a lot but go to JDI was a blessing to me because teachings of my father wake up my soul now I can pray, I can read bible loving of gospel music my life has totaly (sic) changed through Dady (sic). May God bless JDI”


The above statement was extracted from the Facebook page of Jesus Dominion International Church- a seemingly charismatic religious movement located in Durban South Africa led by Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso who is currently on trial for  racketeering, human trafficking and sexual assault.


Like many others, the ongoing Tim Omotoso trial has caught my attention.


Of course, like anyone else he is innocent until proven guilty and he should be afforded the right to defend himself in court.


Nevertheless, the allegations of sexual assault and the circumstances under which the alleged sexual offences occurred (according to witness and former congregant Cheryl Zondi) makes one wonder why a so-called “man of God” would allow himself into such compromising positions in the first place.


For instance why were female church congregants living in his house?


Why would a church leader allow himself to be in a bedroom alone with a woman that is not his wife?


The ongoing melee concerning Tim Omotoso took me back to my university notes, from a few years ago when I did research on a Pentecostal church in Pretoria.


After reading around the matter, I resolved to determine two things in this article.


Firstly, whether or not Tim Omotoso’s group can be sociologically defined as a formal religious institution or conversely as a religious cult.


Secondly to determine how society can prevent or thwart the operations of cults and crime syndicates disguised as religious groups.


While Omotoso’s movement is definitely charismatic in the context that it embraces ‘charismata’ or spiritual gifts (which include speaking in tongues, healing by touch and prophesying) ostensibly it seems to fall short of a formal religious institution.


Below I’ve listed the characteristics of a formal religious institution according to sociologists.


Firstly, a religious institution must consist of a group of at least six people with established patterns of interaction, common goals and shared norms.


Secondly, a religious institution must have a clear structure and division of labour must be present in the group in the sense that each member has a specific role.


Essentially a religious institution must portray a form of hierarchy, and the individual members must feel and express a sense of identification with the group.


Third, a religious institution must be guided by a body of beliefs in the form of a sacred book sacred (eg .The Bible, The Koran, The Book of Mormon, and the Bhagavad -Gita etc)


Fourthly, a religious institution is characterized by a set of practices, rituals, worship dances and prayers.


Finally (and, perhaps most importantly) a religious institution must impart clear moral prescriptions in the form of strict differentiation between good thoughts or practices from bad.


Now I must highlight here that until I read about his arrest last year, I didn’t know about Tim Omotoso or his group.


This means that I like many others only have the information availed by Tim Omotoso on various social media platforms to judge whether or not we can categorize his group as a genuine religious institution.


Below are some of the observations I’ve made.


Firstly, neither the website nor the Facebook pages attributed to Omotoso’s group make any explicit reference to a church constitution, or a document of any kind which shows a hierarchy, a division of labour or organogram.


The absence of a constitution tacitly implies that the group is not governed by any formal or codified rules, and that is unlike a formal religious institution.


In short, from the information available online, the church has no official structure outside of Tim Omotoso himself- it is arguably a one man show.


This is problematic because it’s never good news for an unsuspecting congregation to be under the authoritarian leadership of a charismatic cleric who is not bound by any church constitution with clear rules.


Furthermore, the “one man show” issue raises a red flag, as history contains several examples of such cults claiming to be Christian churches, yet led by psychopaths.


One example is Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ in which Jones fused Pentecostal preaching with the revolutionary ideals of the Sixties and Seventies.


Ultimately, Jones convinced his followers to move to a site in Guyana infamously known as “Jonestown.”


Soon after migrating to Guyana, the “Jonestown massacre” of 18 November 1978 occurred, where 918 of Jones’s followers (304 of whom were children) were persuaded to consume poisonous “Kool-Aid” leading to their deaths.


It was a mass-suicide and remains one of the greatest tragedies in American history.


Ms Wagner-Wilson, a survivor of Jonestown, had this to say:


“There’s a need. People want to be a part of something. They want to feel safe; they want to feel a sense of community.  


“There are still folks out there and they are running under the guise of religious organisations. I just want people to be careful. I want Jonestown to be a lesson.”


The escape of Ms Wagner Wilson from Jonestown betrays the existence of fear and anxiety among Jim Jones’s followers.


This is important, because fear and anxiety within a religious group is also indicative of a cult.


If members of any group ever at all start to fear the leader, or fear their fellow congregants for any reason, that is the moment that they should leave that group.


Psychologists say that fear is the human emotion that alerts us to the presence of danger… so I repeat, the moment that one starts to fear a religious leader, that is the moment one should leave the group.


The sociologically recognized characteristics of a cult are:


 Authoritarian Leadership- Meaning all power and authority over the group resides in the leader as was the case with Jim Jones.


 Exclusivism- Cults often believe that they alone have the truth. The cult views itself as the single means of salvation on earth.


 Isolationism-Cults can require members to renounce and break off associations with parents and siblings.


 Opposition to Independent Thinking- Some cultic groups discourage members from thinking independently and teach their members that the proper response is merely to submit.


 Fear of Being “Disfellowshiped”– in cults people are urged to remain faithful to avoid being “disfellowshiped,” or disbarred, from the group.


 Threats of Satanic Attack- Finally, as mentioned earlier, cults often use fear and intimidation to keep members in line. For example members may be told that Satan will attack them. Such fear tactics are designed to induce submission.


As I mentioned earlier Tim Omotoso is innocent until proven guilty.


In that light perhaps I don’t have enough information about his organisation and its operations in order to label it “a cult”, although ostensibly, his group is leaning in that direction.


I’m sure that the various witness accounts during the course of his trial will give us a clearer picture.


But still, he must be given a chance to defend himself in court.


Having said that, and in conclusion, I think it’s important for us as members of society to encourage more discussions focused around religious groups, their practices and doctrines.


Such discussions should take place in the mainstream media, in schools, in the workplace and even in families.


While I for one strongly believe in freedom of religion and freedom of association, I also think that it’s important for members of society to conscientize each other on what constitutes “good faith” or “bad faith” (i,e: good or bad religious practices).


In my view, the best way to empower members of society against cults is by conscientizing people on what a cult is, and how to identify a cult. That way people will empowered to make better decisions on whether or not to join a particular religious group.


One thing for sure is that there is an increasingly dangerous trend of fantasy religiosity occurring throughout Africa under the guise of Charismatic Pentecostalism.


Nowadays there seems to be an oversupply of “prophets” who thrive on the mystically bizarre.


In recent times we have heard about congregants who were made to eat snakes and sometimes grass by their “prophet” leaders.


In Zimbabwe we have heard of the so-called “prophets” speaking about “miracle money,” miracle pens” and “anointed condoms.”


Perhaps these “prophets” thrive because of the predominant poverty on the continent and the desperation of the people for quick-fix solutions.


Whatever the reason, the best way to protect our people from cults, is to ensure that they are empowered to make better choices through educational and informative programs.


Tau Tawengwa  Executive Director





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Zimbabwe is Open for Business: Time to Buy Zimbabwe


I recently had interesting discussions with family members and colleagues regarding the repeated reports about cement shortages being experienced in Zimbabwe and the causes thereof.


Of course, the usual defeatists, doomsayers and alarmists repeatedly made inaccurate reference to the so-called “political illegitimacy” that they guessed was somehow causing cement shortages.


Fortunately however, Zimbabwe’s major cement manufacturers publicly put to rest the pessimists by issuing a statement which read as follows:


“The [cement] consumption spike being witnessed is a very positive economic growth indicator, which may be attributed to a rise in mortgage finance as well as improved disposable income following a successful tobacco and maize farming season on the back of the Command Agriculture Programme.”


In summary, the cement companies stated that the recent spike in demand for cement, which resulted in a supply backlog on the market, is a positive signal of economic growth.


There are two interesting observations that I made during this “cement shortage” saga.


The first was that in our country we have what I call the subgroup of perpetual skeptics.


Arguably, the subgroup of skeptics consists of those ordinary citizens, politicians and even business leaders that choose to whine and whimper about socio-economic conditions without professing practical solutions to the problems thereof.


It is this sub-group of skeptics that I’ll be speaking to when I make my point later in this article.


The second observation that I made was simply this: If the demand of cement exceeds supply (in a country where we are constantly reminded by doomsayers and skeptics that unemployment is above 80%) then my question is: who is buying cement? Who is building houses?


Let me tell you who.


It is the farmers, the informal miners, the kombi drivers, the money-changers, the commodity-brokers, the cross-border traders, or in summary the members of that community that we commonly refer to as the informal sector.


Let’s remember that in 2017 some of Zimbabwe’s cement producing firms recorded up to 40% increases in profit.


To the discerning eye, it becomes clear that there is a vibrant consumer base in Zimbabwe, where people operating in both the formal and informal economies are earning enough to consider building houses.


It’s also clear that the moment a person plans to build a house, he or she would know that furniture is also needed alongside, food, electricity-supply and water- all of which require the potential home-owner to have a constant supply of money.


In this context it again becomes clear that there is money circulating in our informal sector.


Simply put, people who are building will also need places where they can purchase goods and services, like supermarkets schools and transport, and the supply of those goods and services essentially means employment creation and consequently more tax revenue for the state.


This all points to potential economic growth as indicated by the cement producer’s statement that I highlighted earlier.


Nevertheless, why should all this concern you, the reader, as a citizen, potential investor or a business owner?


The answer is simple. Where there is going to be economic growth as is the case with Zimbabwe today, there is also going to be an increase in competition.


While the prospective arrival of foreign businesses, investors and capital is good news for our job-seeking citizens, the same prospect should alert local business-owners to adequately prepare for competition.


Studies in countries like South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique have demonstrated that when the economic environment is ripe to attract foreign businesses, we find that those foreign firms come in equipped with adequate capital as well as precise market intelligence and this often results in those foreign firms excelling in our markets and ultimately taking business from locals.


In summary, for any business owner, it’s important to plan and strategize on how to remain competitive, especially since we anticipate that more and more foreign businesses will be entering the Zimbabwean market very soon.


Here are some of the strategies that local businesses can implement in order to remain competitive:

  • Businesses should adopt global best practices and technology (particularly internet). This is particularly necessary in the tourism and hospitality sector where our foreign visitors should be charmed by our Zimbabwean hospitality.
  • Citizens and businesses alike should cultivate the “Buy Zimbabwe” culture. For citizens this means supporting local products, and for businesses this means producing products that are not only locally affordable but also globally competitive.
  • Local businesses should invest in substantive market intelligence. This involves investing in the various forms of market research which benefit business efficiency, explore brand reach and quality and even determine levels of customer satisfaction.


Judging from neighboring countries like South Africa, foreign businesses more often than not rigorously implement at least two of the three aforementioned strategies and as a result they excel more than local businesses.


As Zimbabwe, we should therefore avoid what is currently the South African situation where politicians and non-competitive local businesses blame their non-competitiveness on “white-monopoly-capital.”


Just look at the ongoing war between Uber and The South Taxi associations as an example.


Let us not be like that. Instead, let’s embrace the “Zimbabwe is Open for business Policy.” Let’s also Buy-Zimbabwe. But more than anything let’s do adequate market research.


If our local businesses follow that approach, they will undoubtedly see positive results in the near future.


Tau Tawengwa





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