Are the new investment policies under the new dispensation enough to lure the mystical investor?

Investor optimism following the 2017 fall of former President Robert Mugabe has dissipated as the new dispensation has been slow to follow through on its promises to reform and improve the business environment. The economy has suffered hyperinflation and contracted sharply in 2019 worsened by the climatic shocks that crippled agriculture and electricity generation. Unsustainable monetary policy has led to a protracted currency crisis which continues to strain the economy. The Zimbabwean dollar introduced in February 2019 has already lost approximately 98 percent of its value on the black market. Failure to implement finance ministry efforts to rein in the budget deficit undermined public confidence in the financial sector. The government adopted a stabilization and reform agenda supported by IMF Staff-Monitored Program but by February 2020 the IMF reported the SMP had gone off track due to government failures to fully implement reforms. Zimbabwe remains in arrears to the World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral institutions restraining many forms of multilateral assistance.

By Netsai Muchemwa

Although the government has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to improve transparency, streamline business regulations and address corruption, the last two years have brought limited progress. Zimbabwe has attracted less than USD 600 million a year on average in foreign direct investment over the past decade. Zimbabwe’s incentives to attract foreign direct investment include tax breaks for new investment by foreign and domestic companies and making capital expenditures on new factories, machinery, and improvements fully tax-deductible. The government waives important taxes and surtaxes on capital equipment. The government has made slow progress at improving the business environment by reducing regulatory costs but policy inconsistency, weak institutions and lack of fiscal discipline have continued to frustrate business and investment.

Corruption remains rife and there is little protection of property rights, particularly with respect to agricultural land. In 2016, the government introduced a surrogate currency called the bond note officially pegged at USD only for domestic transactions. Money printing caused the currency to lose value and in February 2019 the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe de-linked the local currency from the USD and has not yet implemented a market-clearing exchange rate regime. As a result, it remains difficult to access dollars at the official exchange rate and this has given much opportunity to the black market which has a higher rate. The government banned the use of foreign currencies for domestic transactions in 2019 further complicating the business environment but introduced some exceptions for investors and further relaxed the rules in March 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Inflation has jumped from 10.6% in 2018 to 676% in March 2020 reflecting monetary expansion, currency depreciation, and removal of subsidies on fuel and electricity. The sectors that attract the most investor interest are tobacco, mining, energy, and tourism. Zimbabwe has a well-earned reputation for the high education levels of its workers. In order to attract investment and encourage competitiveness, the government has encouraged public-private partnerships and emphasized the need to improve the investment climate by lowering the cost of doing business and restoring the rule of law and sanctity of contracts.

Zimbabwe Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Law limits the number of shares owned by foreigners in the diamonds and platinum sectors to 49% with specific indigenous organizations owning the remaining 51%. The government has signaled its intends to remove these restrictions. The Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) promotes and facilitates both foreign direct investment and local investment. ZIA also facilitates and processes investment applications for approval. While the government has committed to prioritizing investor retention, there are still no mechanisms or formal structures to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the investors. While there is a right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activities, foreign ownership of businesses remains 49/51%.

Foreign investment is free to invest in the vast majority of non-resource sectors without any restrictions as the government aims to bring new technologies, generate employment, and value-added manufacturing.  The government reserves certain sectors for Zimbabweans such as car hire, taxis, employment agencies, grain milling, passenger buses, bakeries, advertising, estate agencies, and dairy processing. According to the country, U.S. investors are not especially disadvantaged or singled out by any of the ownership or control mechanisms relative to other foreign investors. That being said, it is quite apparent that the new investment policies under the new dispensation are not enough to lure the mystical investor.

Written by Netsai Muchemwa, a Student at the University of Zimbabwe. For comments contact

The 1 trillion dollar 2022 National Budget:

Dr Tapiwa Mashakada


By Dr Tapiwa G. Mashakada, PhD

There can be no doubt, that the 2022 budget is juxtaposed against so many odds which include but are not limited to price and Exchange rate stability, new COVID-19 variant shocks and possible climatic shocks. In the face of all these shocks, government is still expected to chart a course anchored by macro economic and fiscal balance while providing basic social services.

The 2022 national budget slightly falls short of the 1 trillion dollar mark raising fears of new inflationary pressures in the economy largely driven by parallel market rates and speculative behaviour. The widening gap between the Dutch auction system rate and the parallel market rate will pose a serious threat on the impact of the budget. While the premium between the parallel markets rates and the official rates is widening there maybe a case for the improvement of the bidding system so that it yields a competitive exchange rate that reflects market fundamentals. I opine that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe must not reject highest bids.

The other huge challenge undermining the budget is the dollarisation of the economy. The fact of the matter is that whereas the budget is in Zimbabwe dollars, on the ground 90% of goods and services are charged in United States dollars. Civil servants salaries are paid in Zimbabwe dollars but the fact that government has promised to pay bonuses in hard currency itself is an admission that the Zimbabwe dollar has been debauched. It then raises the question – who is benefitting from the Zimbabwe dollar? Is government printing money and getting seigniorage revenues?

The 2022 national budget must see improvement in the disbursement of government funds to Ministries, departments and priority national projects. In the previous budgets disbursement was under 40% thereby giving a false impression of a surplus budget.

Despite these problematic issues it is encouraging to note that the economy is poised to grow by 5.5% in 2022, with exports jumping to over US$4 billion. This has strengthened the current account and will provide the necessary forex for importation of essential goods and services, and raw materials. I also note that the fiscal framework remains on balance although the is still no fiscal space to raise more revenues. This is the reason why out of total bids amounting to ZWL2.7 trillion dollars government only allocated ZWL927 billion dollars.

Development partners are also playing an important role as they are contributing a huge chunk to the budget and so is the diaspora which is now contributing US$1.5 billion per annum. Government must stay the course by continuing to finance capital expenditure and the public sector investment programme underpinned by infrastructural development.

I now turn to vote allocations and with measured caution, commend government for almost meeting the Abuja target in the health sector which was allocated 117 billion dollars or 14.9% of the budget. But I have been advised by other Economists that the vote for health is about 12% which falls short of the Abuja threshold. This begs the question whether the Minister made a genuine error or not? I personally think the Minister is smart enough and would not mislead both the President and the Nation. For now I take it that the Abuja declaration was met. The health sector must be adequately resourced in order to cope with the health care needs of a growing population ravaged by Covid-19.

Vote allocations for agriculture, education, energy, mining, tourism and industry will boost economic growth. But on Agriculture government must put more resources towards livestock health. The ‘January disease’ has caused serious de-stocking throughout the country especially in rural areas where the situation is aptly described as ‘kupisa matanga’ or burning cattle kraals.

The women and youth, SMEs and social protection received a reasonable allocation in the budget. However, despite chewing almost 60% of the budget, the purchasing parity of civil servants incomes is very low, which begs the question – why can’t government collect revenue in US dollars and pay civil servants salaries in hard currency anyway? One thing that is certain is that civil servants, being agents, will offload their earned hard currency bonus on the parallel market and this has the potential to increase parallel market rates. The payment of bonus in hard currency, welcome as it is, is however a sign of lack of confidence in the mono- currency by government itself.

The Minister of Finance calls the 2022 budget the People’s Budget but regrettably there is little or no pro-poor policies in the budget. We expect to see the plight of pensioners comprehensively addressed. The tax-free threshold must be raised to ZWL$50 000 dollars if it is going to cushion the working class. Despite harping on supporting economic value chains, there’s no clear jobs creation strategy in the budget. It is also not clear how government is going to ensure that minerals are value added and beneficiated locally, during our lifetime!. Yet these are the same issues we keep on raising year after year in pre-budget consultative meetings.

I urge government to increase the budget allocation to the local government sector which is in shambles. The urban road network needs complete overhaul. Motorists are driving on bumpy and pot holed roads which require urgent capital outlays. Economic growth is hollow if it does not lead to the improvement in the lives of people and clearly the poor state of urban roads, reduces the happiness index of citizens.

Urban water and sanitation, government must urgently intervene and make sure that urban settlements have clean running water and efficient liquid waste management systems.

On key infrastructural projects, I appeal to government to finish the Harare airport road – the section linking Enterprise road and the Flyover bridge on Mukuvisi river was abandoned many years ago. The other urgent project requiring urgent attention is the decongestion of the Mbudzi traffic circle by the construction of flyover and associated rumps.

Turning to Matabeleland, the Beitbridge border post must be modernised and turned into a one stop border post in order to improve the movement of traffic, people, goods and services. Government must complete the Zambezi water project in 2022 in order to provide a lasting solution to the water challenges faced by that region. The Kwekwe-Nkayi-Lupane road must be constructed and tarred in order to shorten the distance to the tourist resort of Victoria falls.

More schools and tertiary colleges must be constructed in Mashonaland East and Central provinces. I have raised some of these project issues so that government remains alive to the development gaps that exist.

In conclusion, this cursory look at the 2022 national budget is meant to provoke further debate on the manner in which government has proposed its budget measures. It is hoped that the global economy will not be adversely impacted by the new COVID-19 variant which has got a potential to reverse the economic stimulus measures which have been provided by the IMF through the SDRs. And talking about SDRs, civil society and none- state actors must now engage authorities on the proposed allocation of the $1 billion SDRs that Zimbabwe recently received from the IMF.

Last but not least, the US$50 tax on new cellular handsets flies in the face of digitalization. We must promote mobile banking and handshake with technology. Zimbabweans had long transited from being digital migrants to becoming digital natives. This tax must be reversed while other revenue raising measures are explored.

Rural Young Women Plunge Into Poverty Due To Poor Land Policies

The country has joined the rest of the world in observing the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence with a focus to eliminate violence against women and girls. However, young women are being sidelined by the current land tenure system in Zimbabwe.

Young women in rural communities are battling with obstacles to access to, use of and control of the land. Land in rural communities is critical for poverty reduction, food security, fostering gender equality and inclusiveness.

The land size of Chipinge district is 5,220 km² and with a population density of 57.24/km (Zimstat 2012). There are 160,682 women and 138,159 men, translating to more women than men in the district. The women are a majority in a district where They live in a district where land is the most fundamental asset and source of wealth, power, social status and economic opportunity.

In recent times, Chipinge district has become a centre of land dispossession where rural women bore the brunt of land grabs by large scale investments as well as land conversion by the local authority. With the advent of Green fuel in 2009, common villagers lost their land to the company that was allocated 5112 hectares of land but had an insatiable appetite for more land.

The company has since encroached onto 45 000 hectares of communal land. On the other hand, the Chipinge Rural District Council has written notice of evictions to families from at least four (4) communities. The local authority has set the aforementioned communities for growth point expansion or status.

The land grab and land conversion has had a serious impact on young women’s livelihood. The young women have no legal title to the customary land that has sustained them for generations and this has exposed them to arbitrary evictions.

Alice Chebani (35) of Mahachi village in Chipinge said;

The 2014/2015 farming season was horrible, to say the least as my crops were slashed down by the local authority employees and was told that I could stay for the meantime but not supposed to till the land and grow anything on it.”

Rural women have often been excluded from development agendas by local authorities and even large-scale investments. They play a catalytic role towards the achievement of transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development in rural communities. However, the land conversion by local authorities and land grab by large scale investments further aggravate their vulnerability in communities that are entrenched in power relations. Rural women have a large presence in agricultural activities.

Chipinge has become a land dispute hotspot and it would have been prudent to witness amicable enforcement of the law. This could have been through equal access to institutions but this has been jeopardized by weakness in the institutional capacity of the judicial system to handle such cases.

Affected women have witnessed time and again political elites interfering with the legal system and law enforcement tend to be run on the instigation of local political elites. Section 68 (1) states that “Every person has a right to administrative conduct that is lawful, prompt, efficient, reasonable, proportionate, impartial and both substantively and procedurally fair.” Rural women in Chipinge district are yet to experience administrative justice as far as access to land is concerned.

On the 5th of October 2021, women in Chipinge presented a declaration on land rights in which they demanded an immediate stop on forced removals of locals living on customary land especially women and children by the Chipinge Rural District Council and Green fuel.

Gendered land administration plays an important role in creating equal access to land in different systems of land tenure and protecting rural women from societal vulnerabilities.

Displacement of local villagers has become prevalent during the Second Republic with its Open for Business mantra. Chilonga villagers, Mutoko villagers, Chisumbanje and Chinyamukwakwa villagers including the Dinde community is currently under siege from their own government.

MDC blew an opportunity, they don’t deserve another chance. 

Douglas Mwonzora and Nelson Chamisa

Political analyst Wilbert Mukori says the country’s biggest opposition party MDC doesn’t deserve another chance for dialogue as they slept on duty during the government of national unity (GNU).

The government of national unity formed by Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC-N, was supposed to champion necessary reforms for the country.

However, the GNU ended abruptly in 2013 when the court sided with Jealous Mawarire to compel President Robert Mugabe to proclaim the elections.

Seven years after the GNU, the two formations of MDC (MDC-T and MDC Alliance) are all pushing for dialogue. An inclusive government, or a transitional authority.

According to the MDCs, the inclusive government or transitional authority will be for putting reforms that are necessary for credible, free and fair elections.

However, speaking during The Debate on OpenParly, Mukori the opposition doesn’t deserve another chance because they forgot about reforms when they went in the GNU with Mugabe.

He said they are even willing to give Zanu PF legitimacy by contesting in the 2023 general elections without reforms.

“If MDC made a mistake, then we should give them another chance. But was that a mistake, the answer is definitely no.

‘’MDC went into the GNU and the minute they were in power they completely forgot about the reforms. They were confident that without any reforms they would still win the 2013 elections.

“So why should we give them another chance, the truth is they don’t deserve another chance. Right now, MDC are the ones gearing to participate in the 2023 elections and they keep participating in these flawed elections only to give Zanu PF legitimacy. And yet they are determined to do it because Zanu PF is offering them something.

“As long as MDC leaders are getting a share of the spoils of power they will continue to participate in these meaningless elections.

“Even if there was to be another GNU, the MDC guys, as far as they are concerned if they get a concession where they get some Parliamentary or cabinet positions, they will be content with that,’’ he said.

GNU did not deliver in 2009

Mukori added that everyone is agreed that the unity government of 2009 to 2013 did not deliver. He argued that GNU was the reason for the current challenges in the country.

He said Zanu PF was and still is not going to reform itself out of power. Mukori added that MDC had the onus to bring to force those reforms in the GNU, but they failed.

“Many people accept that the GNU of 2008 and 2013 did not deliver and that is the reason why we are in this mess.

“Zanu PF will never reform itself out of office. So, the onus of implementing the democratic reforms necessary for free, fair and credible elections did fall on MDC and it failed to implement even one meaningful democratic change.

“The primary task of the GNU was to move the country away from the one-party state and that process failed in 2008 because Zanu PF didn’t have the political will to do it and MDC slept on the job.”

MDC blew an opportunity, they don’t deserve another chance.

Endemic poverty and lack of clean water diminish efforts to end period poverty in marginalized areas

Managing a menstrual cycle without any sanitary wear is almost impossible for most women and one would imagine how devastating it can be for 10-year or 11-year-old girls. Like any other poverty-related challenges such as homelessness and shortages of food and water, the prevalence of period poverty is high in Zimbabwe, especially in the country’s rural areas, where girls at times have to abscond school because they cannot cope without sanitary wear.

Period poverty is the state whereby women and girls are unable to access sanitary products and will be having inadequate knowledge of how to care for themselves during menstruation mainly due to financial constraints, and it is usually experienced by less privileged girls and women who come from extremely poor backgrounds.

Not having access to a safe and hygienic way to deal with menstruation can have profound consequences, particularly on a girl’s education. With more than 3 million girls in Zimbabwe menstruating, there is, therefore, high demand for feminine products. However, there is a backlog in meeting such a demand as sanitary wear production is low in the country, forcing women to rely on imported pads, which are very expensive.

Most underprivileged girls end up wearing rags and using cow dung, which is risky as it does not only affect their health by exposing them to infections but also degrades their dignity, especially in school where they have to go through the embarrassment of being ridiculed by boys after, for instance, a leakage stains a girl’s clothing or uniform.

According to a study by Stitching Nenderlandse Vrijwilligers  (SNV), a Foundation of Netherlands Volunteers – Zimbabwe, 72 percent of menstruating schoolgirls do not use sanitary pads because they can’t afford them. However, with the coming in of reusable pads, the probability of the situation improving seem to be high as are cheap and accessible. But according to health experts based in Mudzi, safety and hygiene are difficult to preserve if re-usable pads are used in the absence of reliable sources of potable water.

“In terms of hygiene, re-usable pads are not 100 percent safe due to lack of knowledge on how to properly use them. Girls here spend long hours wearing the pads which exposes them to high risks of diseases like cervical cancer and other infections as they need to be constantly changed.

Mudzi is one of the areas that have been receiving donations of reusable and disposable pads from various voluntary organizations with an aim to end period poverty in Zimbabwe.

“As girls, we encounter certain challenges while using reusable pads. Reusable pads require thorough cleaning, but some of the girls are not able to properly rinse the pads, which is a risk as it exposes them to sores in genital areas. Other girls in our area come from poor backgrounds where affording laundry soap is beyond their reach. They end up leaving the pads dirty and not properly washed which is a threat to their health and wellbeing. So,  we plead that these donations come along with the handy soap to wash them”, added Kimberly Pahuwa, a 16-year-old one of Mudzi’s local schools.

Although volunteer teachers and nonprofit organizations have been making an effort to try and close the period poverty gap, there is need for increased penetration in remote areas, where knowledge deficiency on sexual reproduction is still rampant and sometimes considered taboo.

“It is important that we work together as a country to make pads accessible and affordable to the less privileged girls. It is also important to educate young boys because they one day they may become become single fathers, so they will understand the gravity of the matter”, said Thandekile Magqina,  Towels for Girls project founder and co-ordinator,.

Meanwhile, women and girls in other rural communities like Wedza, are forking out US$1 or ZWL$200 for a packet of pads.

“Sanitary wear is very expensive for most women and girls in our community and this undermines our self-esteem, especially that of young girls who usually end up engaging in immoral activities to get money for the pads because if they do not have the pads they abscond from school during their cycles. This is killing any form of development from women in our country,” said Tafadzwa Gwatidzo, a local woman from Wedza.

Zimbabwe’s protracted economic crisis has severely damaged the country’s economic potential. Basic needs like food, water, and sanitary wear are scarce which significantly lowers the standard of living. Girls’ and women’s health must be prioritized, especially during their menstrual cycle. This can only be attained if sanitary wear is made available, accessible,, and affordable for every woman and girl child.


Access to public health monitoring report

During the period under review, Zimbabwe faced a health sector brain drain that threatens sound service delivery. The problem of brain drain comes against a background of continued failure by the government to address grievances of the health industry personnel. The accessibility of health care in rural areas remains a challenge and the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation. The polyclinics have also been hit by a critical shortage of nurses as revealed by an investigation conducted by the ZDI around Harare. The failure by the two governments of Zimbabwe and India to ensure the delivery of a donation of 35 000 doses of the Indian Covaxin vaccine to the southern African country meant the recipients of the first and same quantity of donation had to restart the vaccination process.

Download the report here

“No Jab – No Church is a violation of freedom of worship” – Epworth residents

Vice President and Health Minister Constantine Chiwenga displays a Covid-19 vaccination card. (File pic)

The government’s directive to restrict church gatherings to only vaccinated members as a measure to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has been largely viewed by residents in Epworth as is a veiled denial of the freedom of worship.

The directive which was promulgated at a time when there is a shortage of vaccines in the country has been viewed as a  tacit coercive way by the government to get believers vaccinated can be an indicator of the failure to strike a balance between public health safety and religious orientation.

A church environment should remain non-discriminatory and a welcoming space for everyone. Any restrictions then automatically violate the citizens’ rights to freedom of worship.

According to section 1(19) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Act 2013;  no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of conscience, that is to say, freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to manifest and propagate religious beliefs through worshipping and teaching. The constitution, therefore, guarantees that every Zimbabwean citizen should attend church regardless of whether one is vaccinated or not, as section 19(4) of the same constitution states that, no person shall be compelled to take an oath that is contrary to his religion and belief.

On 11th August 2021, government prohibited unvaccinated citizens from attending church. The restriction allowed the public to attend full church services only if they were fully vaccinated, a directive that triggered mixed reactions from the public.

Epworth resident, one Farai Mutare said being vaccinated has to be voluntary and all people have to attend church.

 “Vaccination must be based on a voluntary basis but with this directive, the government is now denying citizens their rights and freedom of worship,” said Mutare.

The tacit denial of the right to worship by the executive works against the principle of openness that guides the church as one pastor based in Epworth noted.

“The reality is that church doors are not yet open. The majority of the population is not yet vaccinated and considering that children are exempted, it is therefore impossible for the elders to go to church leaving their kids behind. So there is need to look for other ways of conducting church services without gathering physically,” he said.

The unavailability of the Covid-19 vaccines in most cases when one wants to access them has complicated matters.

“The problem is there are not enough vaccines, people have to wait for hours or otherwise sleep at the vaccination centers and clinics to get vaccinated. Usually by the time the vaccination center opens the vaccine will not be available yet the government is claiming that vaccines are compulsory” the pastor added.

The government order also violates the rights of churches that do not believe in vaccines and medical solutions to all forms of illnesses such as the apostolic sects.

“We have religions like Johanne Marange who believes in faith healing and do not depend on medical health facilities, by restricting church attendance to the vaccinated members these churches are forbidden to attend church,” said Sarah Njanji of Epworth.

However, the restrictions might prove to be a waste of time considering that congregations like the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church (the sect constituting the largest chunk of the country’s apostolic believers) do not believe in biomedical health and have consistently defied every manner of Covid-19 preventive measures.

Additionally, the fact that intercity travel is now allowed and in most cases with people using public transport without the vaccination cards exposes the fallacy behind the no jab, no church rule. In market places in Harare like Mbare Mupedzanhamo, people are always crowded as they buy their food and clothes without even proving that they are vaccinated. This fact highlights the extent to which the no jab, no church rule is perceived as a violation of the freedom of religious association.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted normal life and most governments around the world have come up with emergency measures and regulations that are meant to protect the public from the deadly disease.  However, the measures have to strike a balance between objectives of public safety and respect of fundamental rights like

Vice President and Health Minister Constantine Chiwenga displays a Covid-19 vaccination card. (File pic)

the freedom of worship.







Abuse of Covid-19 funds

The month of August 2021 saw the Auditor General’s latest special audit report on the financial management and utilization of public resources in combating the Covid-19 exposing gross embezzlement of funds. This proves to be a step backwards in the fight against the Covid- 19 pandemic. As Zimbabwe continues to take delivery of additional Covid-19 vaccines, the number of fully vaccinated people as of 22 August 2021 constituted 35.2% of people who can be fully vaccinated from the available vaccines while 64.8% of the people who can utilise the available vaccines are yet to be fully vaccinated. Click here to find report

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Zambia elections: Six lessons for African electoral democracy

President-elect of Zambia Hakainde Hichilema. (Photo: Salim Dawood / AFP / Getty Images)

Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema defeated incumbent Edgar Lungu in Zambia’s presidential election on 12 August. Hichilema secured 2,810,757 votes while Lungu had 1,814,201. The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) declared Hichilema president-elect on 16 August as Lungu conceded defeat. What are the lessons for Africa?

First, general elections must not be political theatre meant to legitimise the incumbent.

In 2021, Africa witnessed some elections characterised by procedural uncertainty and outcome certainty. For example, in Djibouti Ismail Guelleh “won” a fifth term with an extravagant display of  97.44%. The late president of Chad, Idriss Déby, “won” a sixth term with 79.32%. Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, in power since 1986, retained power and in the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso “won” a fifth term with 88.57%.

Elections were held to portray at least a semblance of legitimacy, but at the same time to allow authoritarian controls for the incumbent to continue. Elections should allow for procedural certainty and outcome uncertainty. This allows any contestant to win and take over state power.

Second, democracy needs strong institutions and not strong men.

What enabled the smooth transfer of power was not just the goodwill of Lungu, but also independent institutions. The professional conduct of the Zambian military institution and its non-involvement in civilian political processes has been a critical factor in ensuring peaceful transitions from one leadership to the other. This is contrary to Zimbabwe, where there is a symbiotic relationship between the army and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF).

Militarised politics, which is anathema to electoral democracy, is prevalent in Uganda, Togo, Sudan, Mali, and Egypt. Other institutions that fought back authoritarian resurgence were the ECZ, civil society, the judiciary, and independent media. As went the institutions so went the transition in Zambia.

Governance by strong men has failed to deliver electoral democracy in Africa. Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, in power for 41 years,  produced another sham election in 2016 where he got 93.7% of the vote. El-Sisi of Egypt held a farcical election in 2018 with a dramatic 97 % win. Cameroon’s Paul Biya, in power for 38 years and 88 years old, had a phony election in 2018. Paul Kagame of Rwanda seems allergic to electoral democracy. Zimbabwe’s new strongman, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has shown no penchant for genuine democratic reforms as the country heads for another political ritual in 2023 disguised as a general election. A practical take from Zambia is to invest in reforms of institutions that will outlast reformers.

Third, swift diplomatic interventions are important in enabling state power transfer. 

Behind the scenes, Zambia’s fourth president, Rupiah Banda, former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, and former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete engaged Lungu and Hichilema to facilitate a peaceful democratic transition. They did not wait for a formal Southern African Development Community (SADC) team once there was a Donald Trump-like signal from Lungu and his team. Autocrats like Museveni, who tried to block the transition by urging Lungu to stay on, became isolated.

Crisis-torn countries like Eswatini do not need to wait for the formal mediation processes from moribund institutions like the SADC. There is room for critical actors — visible or invisible — to unlock, shape, and catalyse electoral democratisation processes.

Zambians wait to cast their ballots at a polling station during the general elections in Lusaka on 12 August 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / STR)

Fourth, election rigging has a ceiling.

This was not an ideal free and fair election. Police selectively stopped opposition parties’ campaign meetings, citing Covid-19 regulations; public media favored Lungu, some traditional leaders were partisan, Lungu’s party was the main perpetrator of political violence, the government restricted use of the internet and the incumbent partly used state resources for party campaigns.

To mitigate against rigging, a whopping 83.5% of eligible voters registered. Voter turnout rose to 70.8%. compared with 56.45% in 2016 which made it difficult to reverse the outcome. A robust Parallel Voter Tabulation system was in place. Alongside was an active citizenry committed to defending the vote. This reduced rigging related to inflation and deflation of numbers.

Fifth, the youth are not clueless about politics.

The relationship between youth, politics, and elections was stark. About 54% of the 7,023,499 registered voters were under the age of 35. They voted in large numbers. The youth were responding to increasing socioeconomic hardships. In 2020, the estimated youth unemployment rate in Zambia was 22.63%.

However, most of the employed are in precarious informal jobs that lack social security. This is a lesson to Africa, where almost 60% of the population is under the age of 25. Even in Africa’s most industrialised country, South Africa, the official youth unemployment rate was 46.3% in the first quarter of 2021. The youth bulge in Africa is an electoral time bomb.

Sixth, Africa needs transformative pro-poor policies.

Lungu’s development policies were detached from the quotidian concerns of the peasantry and the working class. The government borrowed up to $12.74-billion to partly finance utopian white elephant urban projects while people were hungry. In the countryside, big mines like First Quantum Minerals in Solwezi destroyed the peasantry’s livelihoods through the acquisition of 60,000 hectares of farmland. It was not surprising when Lungu received a paltry number of votes in such areas. The mining policies favoured the elite and were characterised by patronage and corruption. Across Africa, foreign investors are targeting more than 10 million hectares of land.

In the absence of transformative pro-poor policies, one lesson from Zambia is that citizens can reclaim their power. DM/MC