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Press review Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe

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African press review 24 November 2017


There are tough times ahead for Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's incoming president. The national budget should, for example, have been presented to parliament yesterday. But no one knows where the minister who should have presented it is at the moment. And there could be tough times ahead for South Africa, too.

There aren't too many people envying Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's incoming president, his new job.

Wilf Mbanga, editor of the Zimbabwean weekly, says the new man has to dismantle nearly four decades of Mugabeism, a blanket term for corruption, vote-rigging, human rights abuses, rampant nepotism, the looting of state resources by those in power   in short, a heartless dictatorship that has reduced as many as 90 percent of Zimbabweans to unemployment and abject poverty.

The first tough issue on the table is the national budget, which was supposed to have been presented to parliament yesterday.

Zimbabwe will run a huge fiscal deficit this year after the nearly two-billion-euro gap between government spending and income in 2016, warns Mbanga. The economy is shrinking, inflation is suddenly accelerating. Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a relative and fervent supporter of the disgraced Robert Mugabe, is believed to be in military custody.

Where will Mugabe spend his retirement?

There are two Mugabe-related stories on the front page of regional paper the East African.

One headline reads "Where will Mugabe spend his twilight days?" The other wonders what happened to Grace Mugabe.

On Robert Mugabe's future, the regional daily says the veteran leader now has to pick a "retirement home".

The former president is reviled at home and abroad for running down the economy of a country once rated as the continent’s breadbasket, for his clampdown on freedom of expression and for the massacre of civilians from the Ndebele ethnic group in the early 80s at Gukurahundi.

He owns properties in South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and Zimbabwe.

As for the former first lady, Grace Mugabe has not been seen in public since the military action which displaced her husband on 14 November.

Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere, his colleague at the local government ministry, both Mugabe stalwarts, reportedly escaped from their Harare homes under a hail of bullets and have not been seen in public since, either.

So far only Chombo's arrest has been made public but he has yet to be brought before a court, a week after his detention.

Human rights activists are getting worried about everybody's whereabouts.

Fitch keep South Africa in the junk pile

It is international financial ratings time for South Africa.

First out of the starting gate, Fitch has reaffirmed the country’s status at sub-investment grade with a stable outlook. That's not very good but it beats a further downgrade. Or an unstable outlook.

The Johannesburg-based financial paper BusinessDay reminds us that this a crunch week, with statements expected from each of the three major credit ratings agencies.

Fitch are one day ahead of Standard & Poor's Global and Moody’s, both scheduled to make announcements this evening. Fitch is the only one of the three that already has South African local and foreign debt in junk territory.

The roots of the problem are crystal clear, according to the folk at Fitch: low growth, sizeable government debt, too many liabilities and deteriorating governance are all working against an improvement in South Africa's global standing.

It's hard to see the S&P and Moody's people coming up with a better diagnosis.

Downside of a further downgrade

Just in case you haven't got the gloomy message, a separate article in BusinessDay warns that, if Moody’s and S&P cut the government’s rand-denominated bonds to junk this Friday evening, as is widely expected, the South African economy is likely to contract by more than one percent in the first quarter of 2018.

Averaging what happened to Brazil, Turkey, Russia and Hungary after they were cut to junk by the same credit ratings agencies, Investec Bank economist Annabel Bishop says that South Africa needs to brace itself for a contraction in Gross Domestic Product of about 1.1 percent in the initial three months following the downgrade.

Which won't make it any easier for whoever wins next month's race for the presidency of the ruling African National Congress.