How not to run an economy.

Author:Ankomah, Baffour
Position:Around Africa: Zimbabwe - Mthuli Ncube's foray into national politics as Finance Minister

The academic, Prof. Mthuli Ncube's foray into national politics as the Finance Minister has had a disastrous beginning, virtually sending the economy into a tailspin. Now, writes Baffour Ankomah from Harare, President 'Economic Dialogue' Mnangagwa is having to deal with economics as well as politics.

Initials are a big deal in Zimbabwe, a country where you apparently cannot become a proper public official unless you have a string of patriotic-sounding middle names, preferably acquired from the liberation war that gave birth to independence in April 1980.

For a long time, RG (standing for Robert Gabriel), the initials of former President Mugabe, dominated the scene. Today it is ED (standing for Emmerson Dambudzo), the first two names of the current president, Mnangagwa.

Dambudzo is Shona for 'Trouble' but fortunately for Zimbabweans, this 'Trouble' says he is instead 'as soft as wool'. Even better, according to sources close to him, his initials ED are morphing into 'Economic Dialogue', reflecting the President's penchant for tackling economic issues.

Just as well. Because the economy under Emmerson the Trouble has been in deep trouble ever since he appointed Prof. Mthuli Ncube as Finance Minister on 10 September 2018. Now serious-minded people are asking if the learned professor has any positive value to add to ED's government, as everything Ncube touches appears to turn to ashes.

On paper, though, Prof. Ncube has all the credentials to make a successful finance minister. In practice, however, he has been the very opposite since he took office.

Remarkably, until his entry, the economy was coasting along fine. Though things were not rosy, Zimbabweans had become used to their quasi local currency, the bond note, which the government introduced at the end of November 2016, insisting that it was at par with the US dollar, the country's main medium of exchange since February 2009.

Though cash had miraculously disappeared from the banks in late 2017 and people could no longer withdraw money from ATMs and had to queue in banks to be given $50 per week by overworked tellers, the citizenry had somehow come to terms with the economic difficulties and were comfortably soldering on with their unpalatable circumstances.

Then arose Prof. Ncube (born 1963), a man who had seen the Barbican Bank he founded in December 2002 collapse in March 2004, after which he left the country for greener pastures abroad, working in academia in the UK and South Africa and...

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