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30 May 2018

Zimbabwe: Safety and access to justice

Zimbabwe has entered a new era.  The incoming President, Emerson Mnangagwa, has determined that his government will represent a decisive break with the past; and has declared himself and his party to be the agents of change that Zimbabwe needs.  Determined to end years of relative isolation, the President is seeking to present his administration as the solution to a set of complex and inter-related problems.  Although many of these problems are large, few are ultimately likely to prove harder than the challenge of promoting equitable and transparent safety and access to justice for all Zimbabweans.  
The purpose of this study is to attempt to understand the perspectives of ordinary citizens on an issue of grave importance to them, their new leaders, the country and the international community. The focus of the work was on understanding the lived experiences and perceptions of ordinary Zimbabweans relating to safety and access to justice in their communities. It takes place against a backdrop of an impending election where safety, security and justice[1]will be key issues of concern to people and politicians alike.  Differentiating between the safety and justice concerns of ordinary people on the one hand, and the role of security in the body politick is difficult.    But by focussing on the perspectives of ordinary citizens, this report seeks to be able to offer some insight into the (micro) context within which any (macro) change might land.  This task is made slightly easier by the widely held view (encapsulated in 2015 Sustainable Development Goals amongst others) that security and justice are essential enablers for sustainable development – something borne out by the central importance afforded to safety and justice by almost everyone to whom we have spoken in pursuit of its work.
Zimbabwe has a number of social assets upon which to build:  its institutions are relatively strong; it has decision makers and officials who are skilled at policy development and administration; and it has experienced justice and security actors.  It also has a population which wants to work with government to ensure that the services it delivers are designed around the needs of the citizens.  The country can also rely on significant international goodwill if the forthcoming elections go well.
What we did
The study – carried out in May 2018 - is based on a review of secondary data, and field visits to six urban, peri-urban and/or rural areas in Harare, Mutare, Masvingo, Kwekwe, Bulawayo and Gwanda.  During the field visits, twelve Focus Group Discussions (FGD) were convened, each constructed to capture a cross-section of Zimbabwean society.  This cross-section was designed to represent the views of young people, women, key populations (including the LGBTI community) and people living in both agricultural and artisanal mining areas.  In parallel, fourteen Key Informant Interviews (KII) with senior managers of various Zimbabwean organisations working with local communities, heads and senior practitioners in civil society organisations were also held.  In total the work draws on the views of approximately 200 Zimbabweans.
What we found
Zimbabwe is sometimes held up as an example of how resilient institutions can help to navigate difficult politics.  (Although that is not to say that these institutions would not themselves benefit from transformation.)  And, political violence aside, the relatively low level of inter- and intra-communal violence in the years since independence appear to be a testament to this.  But years of erosion have taken a toll on the resilience and effectiveness of the key institutions, leaving Zimbabwe currently little better than mid-table, for example in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index (2017-18).  It has also left Zimbabweans sure that they shouldenjoy better formalsafety and justice services, but increasingly feeling that they have been left little choice but to take matters into their own hands. 
Perceptions of safety
Zimbabweans have a sophisticated understanding of the mix of factors which affect their safety – as individuals, as members of interest groups and in their communities.
3.1.1    A surge in violent crime, driven by the economic situation, concerns citizens
Citizens report that they have experienced a rise in violent crime in their communities since the Government of National Unity (2008-13) and in particular in recent years.  They believe that this rise is as a result of the economic conditions in the country – something which they acknowledge is not just a recent phenomenon.  But, as previously reported, since the change of government high levels of citizen expectation have generally been disappointed; and there is a growing sense that lack of economic opportunity is driving both crime against the person and the household; and crimes flowing from the negative social consequences of long term unemployment and hopelessness, such as substance abuse and drug taking.  There is some sense that such crime is affecting women and girls disproportionately; and that the authorities are either not paying enough attention or are choosing not to act.
3.1.2    Pressure on gender roles is contributing to a rise in domestic violence
Perhaps partly associated with this rise in violent crime driven by the poor state of the economy is an increase in domestic violence, again affecting women and girls disproportionately.  But interviews also suggest that changing gender roles in (especially traditional) society is also to blame.  Many people, including many women, appear to believe that the role of providing for a family is that of the man.  With men experiencing difficulty in obtaining a stake in the formal economy, women have – as is often the case – had to step in as providers and protectors for their families.  The tensions resulting from this emerging role reversal are causing difficulties within families, households and communities.  The police response to domestic violence is cited as a further source of difficulty.  Citizens report that some police personnel still assume that a woman victim of domestic violence has in some way “earned” their punishment and they are often, therefore, left to the mercies of their menfolk.  
3.1.3    A rise in violence associated with the informal economy
Another consequence of the poor economy is the increasing reliance of many on the informal economy.  But many respondents reported that they are uncomfortable with the rising level of violence associated with it.  Women of all ages in particular report increasing levels of unwanted and unwarranted harassment and violence on taxis, on the streets and in their communities. As previously reported, the informal economy is the only credible source of livelihood for the vast majority of Zimbabweans.  By definition unregulated, and largely unpoliced, the informal sector appears to be setting its own rules and limits.  People report that the police are barely responsive to the situation, and whilst they appreciate interventions by the military many citizens also report becoming unwitting victims of the brutal street justice meted out by some soldiers.  And this same street justice is affecting those people trying to make what passes for an honest living on the streets.  In many respects, the extractive brutality of the police is being replaced by that of individuals in the military, who lack the professionalism to behave in any other way.
One particular sector of the informal economy is experiencing a significant wave of violence.  Communities built around artisanal mining, itself a valuable contribution to the economy, report that they are suffering violence from both the politically-associated “machete” gangs which control the business; and the military which purports to try and control them, but which is in fact in direct competition with the artisanal miners.  To compound this, variability in production leads to lean periods and periods of high income.  During the lean periods, desperate artisanal miners often turn to robbery, theft and even murder to assure their livelihoods.
3.1.4    Pardons may be putting unrepentant criminals back on the streets
In an effort to reduce prison over-crowding, a large number of prisoners have been pardoned and returned to the streets and their communities.  Although some of those released may well have been improperly imprisoned themselves, many citizens believe that the releases have contributed to the supply of people in their communities with a penchant for criminal violence; and blame the policy for exacerbating their safety concerns.  There is some evidence to suggest that a number of people released under the Presidential pardon have indeed been re-arrested for new acts of criminal violence and subsequently re-imprisoned.
3.1.5    Concerns about the election
Fears about the forthcoming election – and the nature of the political dispensation which will flow from it - have focussed minds on a source of potential external threat.  Perhaps picking up on government’s desire – verging on need – to bank a credible election in 2018, coupled with statements of international support for Zimbabwe’s new dispensation, people are apprehensive about the forthcoming plebiscite.  Despite the oft repeated urging of political leaders of all stripes to avoid violence and intimidation in the electoral process, citizens report that they still feel under pressure to conform to norms which may owe more to the practices of the past than any new, more liberal direction for the future.  For instance, some say that they are routinely required to show their voter registration documents in exchange for goods and services from government.  Others report being asked for their voter identification number and watching it being entered into a ledger but with no explanation as to why.  Citizens fear that to not conform will leave them even more vulnerable, although to what proximate threat is hard to say.  It is not clear that this is an officially sanctioned practice – it could just be evidence of an ingrained habit borne of years of top-down direction.  But older voters, with experience of a number of elections in Zimbabwe’s recent past are unsure to what degree official assurances about free and fair elections can be trusted.
3.1.6    The pressures of an unresolved past
Behind all these current concerns lurks the spectre of Zimbabwe’s unresolved past.  A recurring theme in some of the FGDs was the enduring damage of past events like the Gukurahundi killings and the electoral violence of previous elections, particularly those in 2008.  Aside from the trauma associated with being a primary victim of events like these, the ramifications for ordinary people rumble on. Secondary victims, including families and descendants of primary victims, report enduring difficulty with obtaining basic documentation such as birth certificates and National Identity Cards. The impact of these difficulties is hard to quantify, but aside from access to government services, the lack of formal means of identity means that another generation is being side-lined in the education system with obvious consequences for their access to the economy in the future.  Solving these problems is not straightforward.  But tackling the bureaucratic obstacles might well prove easier than addressing the very real need for reconciliation and restitution over the years to come.
3.2 The role of the security sector
As well as these perceptions about the communities within which they live, citizens also fear that competition within and between formal security sector institutions leaves them additionally vulnerable.  This report is not primarily about the formal security sector institutions but these reflections might offer useful insight to those planning work with them in the future:
3.2.1    The police are resentful about the events of November 2017
The police are filtering back onto the streets and into communities in Zimbabwe.  Although their removal, following the resignation of the former President in November 2017, was initially welcomed, it has become clear to many that society does indeed want and need the legitimate services of the police.  But a new problem has appeared.  It is clear that the police – mostly individuals, but perhaps also at an institutional level – are resentful about the manner of their removal from public life.  Many have suffered a reduction in living standards with the reduced opportunities for extortion.  But they are also still smarting at their treatment at the hands of the military in recent months, which they regard as a form of humiliation.  Now that the police are returning to something like normal duties (albeit with reduced levels of corruption), they appear to be engaging in what might be described as ‘revenge indifference’, often refusing to take action whilst urging complainants to seek the help they need from the military.  
3.2.2    Growing discomfort with the perceived militarisation of society
Related to the growing sense that Zimbabwean society is lacking something important through the absence (or inactivity) of the police, is a growing concern about the behaviour, impunity, and lack of appropriate experience and training of the military.  Citizens generally acknowledge that the military were a necessary presence in their lives during the transition.  But they now believe that the absence of the kinds of mediation and community conflict resolution skills which the police offer are a threat to their everyday safety and welfare.  Even the very best military training is poor preparation for police work in communities, and every day citizens observe examples of overzealous action taken by some soldiers trying but failing to promote the rule of law.  The result is a growing apprehension (verging on fear) about the conduct of the military in civilian life.  Citizens now appear to understand that the roles of the police and the military are different; and that – in the right place and at the right time – they need both.
Perceptions of justice
Similarly, Zimbabweans have a sophisticated understanding of issues related to justice as it affects them in their communities.
3.3.1    Justice is beyond the reach of ordinary people
In exploring citizen perspectives on justice, there is a clear sense that ordinary people believe they should be able to enjoy equitable access to fair dispute resolution mechanisms. They want to have access to courts and lawyers; and they want to benefit from justice mechanisms which uphold the law. But there are two key constraints which hinder this access: the cost of legal recourse and, related to this, the time it takes to get it; and external interference in the processes.
Ordinary people cannot afford the costs of legal representation.  And they cannot afford the cost of travelling to and from courts which often schedule hearings far away which are delayed or adjourned frequently. As a result, people either abandon formal legal proceedings; or do not initiate them.  There is a real sense that the costs and logistics of formal legal recourse are forcing people to turn to community based (and entirely unregulated in a formal sense) justice.  In many peri-urban (and in some urban areas), this can take the form of vigilante justice.  (Traditional dispute resolution mechanisms continue to be used in rural areas.)  Citizens also believe that those who can pay, can pay for the result they want.  They almost never take cases against important or influential people or institutions fearing that the justice system will simply be bought off.
3.3.2    The criminal justice system is not working as well as it should
Aside from the cost of access to the formal criminal justice system, the sense that vested interests will always outgun the little person acts as a brake on the effectiveness of the system as a whole. Justice denied leaves a lingering sense of resentment amongst a population which expects and wants better from the formal mechanisms.  Court officers, lawyers and the police are all seen to be complicit in perverting the course of natural justice, further undermining confidence in the system. These problems are further amplified by the shortage of personnel in a criminal justice system which is beset by – real - backlogs and delays.  One of the consequences of this is that detainees can remain in jail for a very long time awaiting trial.  Some people believe that this too is evidence of corruption in the system, potentially leading to a lack of fairness and miscarriages of justice.
Perversely though, the criminal justice system is thought to work relatively well in instances where there are no elite interests involved.  If, for example, a case of sexual violence makes it through the filters of culture and police indifference, the formalcourts are considered to deal with them fairly and well. (Although it takes a degree of tenacity to get a case to court in the first place.)
3.3.3    Traditional justice is excluding the people it is meant to serve
Ordinary people are increasingly concerned that traditional justice mechanisms are being compromised by rent seeking, political co-option and influence peddling.  In Zimbabwe, traditional justice mechanisms have generally been thought of as accessible to rural people and as acceptably fair forums within which justice of a type can be seen to be done (albeit often to the detriment of the interests of women and other minorities).  But the spectre of corruption is starting to permeate the traditional mechanisms too. Low level factors (such as nepotism) are reported to be increasing; as is the co-option of the traditional structures by political interests.  This has a particularly detrimental effect on issues of inheritance and access to land and water – easily the most significant disputes at local level for both women and men. 
3.3.4    Minorities are routinely excluded
Neither the formal nor the traditional mechanisms of justice appear to handle the concerns of minorities particularly well.  Women, disabled people and internally displaced people find access to either system particularly difficult.  But at least they are acknowledged as having rights, even if they are subjugated to the interests of local (and usually male) elites.  Zimbabwean society continues to frown on homosexuality, and people from the lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) communities who suffer doubly from societal disapproval and a legal system that does not either recognise or uphold their rights.  This is symptomatic of a legal system which cannot or does not adapt to embrace emerging and/or new ideas of inclusion and protection.  Whilst the LGBTI community is a prominent example of this, others might include the protection of illegal migrants and sex workers, groups which society generally disapproves of; and for whom there is no societal will to adapt the law in order to extend its protection to them.
There is a growing sense amongst ordinary people in Zimbabwe that their safety is under increasing threat; and that the mechanisms of justice are either effectively denied to them or are co-opted by elite interests and will work against the citizen. What is striking about this is not any form of hopelessness about the situation, but a strong sense on the part of ordinary people that this is not right; and that Zimbabwe could and should be better than it is.  
The lack of safety appears to stem from the dire economic situation and the violence increasingly associated with the informal sector; apprehension about the forthcoming elections and the nature of any future dispensation; and the ability of elites (even local ones) to act with impunity.  This lack of safety is amplified, in part, by fears that the police and military are both part of the solution but – unfortunately – currently part of the problem; and that ordinary people will be the victims of any tension between the two.  Put simply, there is little confidence that actions by, and choices made about, the security and justice sectors in Zimbabwe will place the needs and interests of citizens at their heart.
The lack of access to justice is at once both easier and harder to define.  The justice system suffers from the same corruption and co-option problems of other sectors, including the security sector.  But there is a latent capacity in the sector to be better and to do the right thing.  The problem is both political will and the incentives which govern the behaviour of the people in the system.  But citizens want and need better access to fair and effective justice mechanisms, and are willing to collaborate with them to secure the improvements that they want.
Against this backdrop, there is much that can be done to ameliorate the situation.  The structural problems of delivering safety, security and access to justice for both citizen and state should not be underestimated. But, as in other areas, it is clear that ordinary people want to work with government to achieve both cultural and institutional reform for mutual benefit.  The creation of forums within which citizen and state can work collaboratively first to identify the problems that they share, and then to develop solutions which meet the needs of both would be a good starting place.  As would a clear and unequivocal statement about the centrality of the rights and interests of ordinary citizens in defining the future role and purpose of the security and justice sectors in Zimbabwe’s civilian-led democracy.  
30 May 2018

[1]For the purposes of this report, “safety” generally refers to the citizen experience; and “security” generally refers to the agencies of the security sector, or their actions.  “Justice” generally refers to the citizen experience of justice as opposed to the institutions of the formal or traditional justice systems.

Zimbabwe: Citizens’ voice and inclusive growth

1.    Introduction 
The new president of Zimbabwe Emerson Mnangagwa has promised the people of Zimbabwe that his priority is reviving the economic fortunes of the country. He has committed his new administration to end the years of economic isolation by declaring Zimbabwe “open for business”. 
He has his work cut out. While Zimbabwe’s long-term growth prospects are considered positive in terms of its human capital and natural resources, its current economic situation is highly precariousThe era of hyperinflation and economic mismanagement has seen the economy halve in size since the turn of the century. The country’s industrial base has been eroded, prompting a rapid expansion of the informal sector, where livelihoods are characterised by low wages (indeed many jobs are not paid at all), weak productivity and poor working conditions. The country is chronically indebted and expansionary fiscal policy in recent years has provoked a serious credit shortage and liquidity crisis that is stifling growth.
Tackling this economic malaise will require policy change on several levels, enacted in the short-, medium- and long-term. Not only is the scale of the challenge substantial but following the events that led to the change in power, public expectations for change are very (often unrealistically) high. The euphoria that spilled onto the streets in November 2017 reflects the fact the people of Zimbabwe are eager to see their country develop.  
President Mnangagwa recognises the need to respond to public demands for economic improvement ahead of the election later this year. Hence the flurry of activity in his first 100 days which have been characterised by the promise of action, the implementation of some early initiatives, and a concerted effort to drum up foreign investment. 
The purpose of this study is to present an initial snapshot of what ordinary Zimbabweans think about their own economic prospects and that of their community 100 days into the new government. How are they coping? Are there early signs that things are improving, or is it more a case of business as usual? Are they optimistic about their future or do they fear little will really change? Do ordinary Zimbabweans believe they will benefit from potential economic growth, or are they concerned they will once again be left behind? Is government policy focused on issues that resonate with ordinary Zimbabweans – are policies addressing the issues that matter to them? Are there signs that government policy will heal the deep divisions in Zimbabwe, or do people think the “new dispensation” is likely to continue with the old politics? 
These are obviously big questions and we do not claim this study can answer them comprehensively so early in the life of the new government. Moreover, we fully appreciate that opinions of the people we spoke to will be shaped by their own longstanding economic circumstances and their experiences of the previous administration, as much as by their view of the new government. 
Acknowledging these caveats our aim has been (i) to try and capture the current mood of ordinary Zimbabweans in respect of their own livelihoods shortly after a major moment of political change, and (ii) provide a very early assessment of how ordinary Zimbabweans think about the new government’s performance on the economy. 
2.    What we did 
The study is based on ten Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and 20 supplementary interviews, which were held in five study sites in Zimbabwe, carried out in the final week of the new government’s first 100 days. FGDs (and supplementary interviews) were selected as the most appropriate method for quickly gathering data on the mood and perceptions of ordinary Zimbabweans on a range of economic issues. While focus groups are not based on a representative sample of the population, and thus do not allow us to extrapolate wider trends from the population, they are an effective way of providing insights into how people understand and experience their own economic circumstances. 
FGDs, averaging 8-15 participants each, covered a cross section of 6 Urban/Peri-Urban and 4 rural sites in Harare, Mutare, Masvingo, Kwekwe and Bulawayo. The sampling targeted people working in the informal sector, which accounts for around 90% of the Zimbabwean economy. In urban and peri-urban areas we sampled young entrepreneurs; small and medium sized enterprises (SME); and microenterprises, including vendors and traders. In rural areas we sampled small-scale farmers, general dealers and traders. One FGD was comprised solely of women, and two solely of young people. 
3.            What We Found

Below we summarise the key themes we heard from the focus groups and interviews. 
 3.1 As reality bites is the honeymoon over?
One hundred days in and the euphoria that greeted the change in political leadership has been replaced with a growing frustration at the slow pace of change.  While it is too early meaningfully to judge the new government’s stewardship of the economy, it is nonetheless striking that few Zimbabweans we spoke to report any improvement in their livelihoods (one important exception concerns the removal of road blocks discussed below). A recurrent theme we came across is the desire for warm – and welcome - words to be backed with some tangible improvements, however small, in people’s everyday lives. 
Reality biting is hardly surprising given the scale of the challenges the country faces, and the struggle with which so many ordinary Zimbabweans grapple in their day-to-day lives. The question facing Zimbabweans, many of whom have that morning-after-the-night-before feeling, is how their own economic situation will shape the way they feel about the new government. Will most Zimbabweans retain faith in the new government, but just become more realistic about what is possible: will they become “cautious realists”? Or will they lose faith and become “out and out pessimists”?  It is too early to say which response will prevail, but our study shows both strands of thinking are already evident.   
Many of the Zimbabweans we spoke to are still willing to give the new government the benefit of the doubt. While few respondents reported any noticeable improvement in their own economic situation, several remained hopeful that things would get better in the future.“We look forward to light at the end of the tunnel” said a male artisanal miner in Kwekwe.  Yet this optimism was certainly tempered by a sense of realism. The cautious realist view was well captured by a young man in Bulawayo who spoke allegorically, when he said: “The current situation in Zimbabwe can be likened to a pregnant woman; she can either successfully deliver her newborn baby or have a stillborn.” For many the jury is still out. 

For a significant minority, however, pessimism has started to set in. “Nothing has changed. It is only the driver that changed, it’s still the same bus” (Female, Fruit and Vegetable Vendor, Mutare). That this sentiment has taken hold so soon should be of potential concern to the government. This pessimistic account is especially strong in relation to perceptions about political cronyism (see section 3.4 below).

Overall, we found that Zimbabweans we spoke to have recalibrated their expectations about the likely scale and pace of change. “It will probably take up to 2-3 years to start seeing real change if the right kind of efforts are made now”(Small Soft Beverage Manufacturer, Mutare). While respondents recognise that change won’t happen overnight, they nonetheless need reassurance that things are heading in the right direction.  Based on our initial assessment it appears the government could to do more to reassure. As one woman vendor operating at Chitima Market in Masvingo put it: 

“When the government changed, we had hoped for change, but now we are confused. We don’t know whether we are still heading in the right direction” 

3.2 Life remains very tough for the vast majority of Zimbabweans
What is difficult to disentangle is the extent to which the more cautiously realistic mood we encountered is principally down to respondents reiterating long-standing concerns about the challenges of life in Zimbabwe; or whether it is based on the perceived shortcomings of the new government. Inevitably respondents conflated both in their reflections. 
There was, however, little ambiguity when we asked people about their own economic situation. A clear majority reported that nothing had changed for the better: their primary concern remained one of survival. The economic activities that they were engaged in were highly precarious and operated on a hand-to-mouth basis. 
Surviving in an informal economy often meant moving from one ‘job’ to another, with no single and clearly defined source of livelihood. As noted by one respondent in Mutare: 
“If something crops up that gives more income all the youth … hurry to join the new gold rush. There is no specific business and long-term investment in growing any sort of business, it is about survival.” 
Most respondents struggled to make ends meet. A majority acknowledged they live below the poverty line. Food security is a major concern for the people we spoke to. As one Kwekwe parent told us: 
“While I may forgive myself for not having money in my pocket for other daily expenses, what my conscience cannot deal with is not being able to put food on the table for my family or dependents. This for me is the most humiliating experience a father or breadwinner could ever face. All we want is to be able to take care of our families and provide for their basic minimums, is that too much to ask?” 
Our study confirmed the strong gender dimension to poverty. A woman trader from Chitima Market said: “it is tough especially for women as we are hardly ever given a chance. I am a single mother with 4 children to look after and I need a job”. We also heard how women and young girls are additionally vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence in their search for economic opportunities.
3.3 Ordinary Zimbabweans are frustrated at the lack of change
Reviving the Zimbabwean economy is undoubtedly a herculean task. Nonetheless the new government is under pressure ahead of the election both to deliver some quick wins for Zimbabweans – the low hanging fruit of economic reform – and, more importantly, reassure voters that the new government is capable of change and is steering the country in the right direction.
Yet we found little evidence to suggest the new government’s current policies are especially popular with respondents. Indeed, some policies appear to be unpopular, such as the treatment of vendors (see 3.3.4 below). And the government’s approach to foreign investment provokes suspicion (see 3.3.5 below).This is not to suggest naively that elections in Zimbabwe are won and lost on the efficacy of policy alone, but for a president who is not perceived to be a natural “change candidate”, it is at least arguable that he would benefit from having policies which visibly give effect to his otherwise popular political narrative. 
Discussants distinguished between four broad experiences of government economic policy: (i) the low hanging fruit – the small changes that have had an immediate and positive impact on livelihoods (the only example raised was the removal of road blocks); (ii) areas where insufficient progress has been made (the cost of living, cash shortages, and the business environment); (iii) policies that are unpopular – the key example here is the treatment of informal traders and vendors; and (iv) policies that arouse suspicion – here we discus foreign investment.  
3.3.1      The low hanging fruit:  the removal of roadblocks resonates strongly but is the exception to the rule 
The one concrete example of a popular policy that clearly resonates with our respondents, and which has delivered a tangible improvement in everyday lives, is the removal of police road blocks. A number spoke of their immense relief at no longer having to pay bribes to abusive police officers. As one mini-bus operator told us: 
“I used to budget $10 a day to pay bribes so we could operate our routes and stop my driver and his conductor getting harrassed.  To make you understand, $10 is slightly more than what we gross for a trip into town with passengers. To us such losses are significant and very difficult to recover. It’s a relief therefore that these rogue officers have been reigned in”.
The removal of road blocks proved to be the exception to the rule. When pressed respondents could not think of other government policies which have had a similar positive impact on everyday lives. Discussants pointed to lifting regulations on small firms as potential other ‘quick wins’ the government could introduce to deliver demonstrable improvements (see 3.3.3).
Insufficient progress: addressing the cost of living and cash shortage
Across a wide range of other policy areas our respondents expressed concern that insufficient progress has been made. On the cost of living respondents acknowledged some effort by the government to ease pressures, for instance through marginally reducing the cost of fuel, but overall this is an area where ordinary Zimbabweans believe more action is needed:“the struggle continues, prices of basic commodities are already out of reach of many and the changes do not seem to be happening fast enough” (Male vendor, Harare). Price stabilisation was a key priority respondents wanted the government to address urgently. As one woman we spoke to in Bulawayo said: 
“…we had thought with the new dispensation prices would stabilise, but by end of December we could not even afford the basics that our families required. Things seem to be getting worse and I don’t know what we will do to take care of our families as the little we get gradually means nothing due to these unstable exchange rates.”
Respondents spoke of the adverse effect cash restrictions have on their livelihoods. Vendors and traders are hit particularly hard:  they tend to get paid in bond notes or Ecocash but have to pay their suppliers in US dollars, exposing themselves to serious exchange rate risk. 
“Where we order, they don’t want Ecocash. They want cash. We end up buying money from money changers. This affects us greatly and most of us end up being broke.”(General trader, Masvingo) 
Scarcity of cash is also blamed on corruption with politicians and party officials popularly perceived to be “hoarding cash”. Another significant factor is the lack confidence in the banks: our respondents said they fear they won’t be able to get their money out if they deposit it in banks. Boosting confidence in banking was identified by our respondents as something that needs quickly to be addressed.  
3.3.2      Insufficient progress: doing business has yet to get any easier
We asked small business figures, informal traders, farmers, and young entrepreneurs about the ‘ease of doing business’ in Zimbabwe. Three key points emerged: the first is that many, especially the young, lament the bureaucratic barriers that continue to inhibit doing business in Zimbabwe.  As one young entrepreneur in Harare put it: 

“government departments are full of dinosaur leaderswho are still into the traditional way of doing business. It is so frustrating to have to rely on them to provide essential services for us young, tech-savvy and generally efficiency-hungry entrepreneurs. The Zimbabwean government should prioritise reforms like e-procurement to enhance its operations. Bureaucracy is a multinational disease that we should fight against as a country” 

Second is a concern that the new government’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ agenda, while welcome, is insufficiently focused on removing the bottlenecks impeding the growth of small Zimbabwean businesses. Respondents felt government policy was more concerned with improving the business environment for big business and foreign investment than in dealing with the informal sector. Indeed, some believed it was easier for foreign firms to do business in Zimbabwe than local businesses (see also section 3.3.5) as the foreign firms were not subjected to the same regulatory burden (or if they are, they are more easily able to ignore it).  

The third theme raised by small businesses was that while improving the overall business environment is difficult, there are plenty of quick win reforms the government could enact to help remove red tape. Examples cited include rationalising statutory obligations and regulation fees.

3.3.3      Unpopular: Government treatment of vendors and traders shows a lack of empathy for ordinary Zimbabwean livelihoods 
The new government continues to insist that vendors should relocate to designated sites, which vendors say are too far from their customers thus preventing them from earning a living. Vendors we spoke to felt strongly that they are being treated unfairly and denied the opportunity to improve their economic circumstances. This is compounded by the belief that vending sites continue to be heavily controlled by party officials (see 3.4). 
Focus groups in Mutare and Masvingo also complained that the removal of vendors from the streets negatively affected the livelihoods not only of vendors but of the wider community: “some of the people who were removed from the streets by the new government were our customers and this has reduced our sales” (Female, Mutare).
Tension between government and traders is a long-standing problem and illustrates the apparent mismatch between government policy which aspires to expand the formal sector, and the reality facing many Zimbabweans who depend now and for the foreseeable future on the informal economy to earn a living. 
Whatever the merits of the policy, the continued removal of vendors and traders from streets was cited by our respondents – both vendors and non-vendors – as symptomatic of the government’s insufficient understanding of the reality of ordinary life in Zimbabwe. Moreover, this lack of empathy is considered a contributory factor behind the waning optimism in the new government. 
3.3.4       Arouse suspicion: For the few not the many? Zimbabweans are concerned foreign investment will not lead to inclusive growth 
Our respondents were suspicious that local Zimbabwean businesses could potentially lose out from foreign investment. This suggests a potential tension with the new government’s “open for business” policy. The new president has gone on a charm offensive to woo foreign investors and has sought to remove barriers to investment through the partial reform of the country’s indigenisation and economic empowerment law. 
However, local entrepreneurs are concerned they will not be able to compete on a level playing field and called for measures to protect Zimbabwean businesses. They spoke about the danger of being “emasculated”by an influx of foreign companies. “Wewill never survive as entrepreneurs in this country if there is no protection of businesses that locals can exclusively embark on without being out-competed by foreigners who have more financial muscle than us” (male entrepreneur, Harare).This view was echoed by a small business person in Bulawayo:
‘Hapana chedu apa [there is nothing for us] as long as government does not regulate the type of investment getting into the country to make sure foreign companies don’t violate labour rights or don’t encroach in sectors where ordinary citizens have been trying to earn an honest living out of in such difficult circumstances.
A number complained that some foreign firms were circumventing regulations once they had been authorised to operate in ‘reserved’ economic sectors. Chinese firms were singled out as the main culprits, with questions raised about their poor labour market practices and their failure to employ local labour. The perceived lack of skills and technology transfer from these foreign firms to locals left many wondering what Zimbabwe really gained from such external investment. 
This is not to say our respondents are against foreign investment per se. They understand the positive role it can play to help stabilise the macroeconomy. Their real concern is with foreign firms that set up and unfairly compete with them locally: “It would be ideal if foreign investment could focus on supporting higher level mass production and more complex manufacturing that need high levels of capital, and not rivalling us by setting up small shops and even making sadza” (male, fast food vendor, Bulawayo).  
Above all respondents expressed concern that while investment is undoubtedly needed for the country, unless measures are put in place to protect local Zimbabweans businesses, then they risk missing out on the fruits of any potential economic growth. “If foreign investment creates jobs and grows the economy, then yes it should be welcome with open hands, but not if it increases our suffering” (male, young technology entrepreneur, Bulawayo). 
3.4 Political cronyism and the limits of the “One Zimbabwe” narrative
One major lingering problem of the past and a major source of division in Zimbabwe is political cronyism – the belief that only the politically aligned and well connected can prosper. The new president has promised to heal such divisions, with his championing of a Zimbabwe “of all citizens regardless of colour, creed, religion, tribe, totem or political affiliation”. 
Yet a number of people we spoke to said that political cronyism continues uninterrupted under the new government. Respondents complained that access to resources, government programmes, and economic opportunities are often prioritised for supporters of the ruling party. The sense of frustration that Zimbabweans we spoke to feel about this was palpable.
Respondents were generally of the view that patronage and cronyism are inherent in Zimbabwean economic and political structures and very difficult to eradicate. Urban traders in Mutare, for instance, complained that government funding schemes for SMEs were not distributed fairly. While a number of the popular vending sites and markets were still reportedly controlled by ruling party activists. In rural areas farmers said party connections were the key for accessing input subsidy programmes, support for cash crops and food aid.
“I think the challenge is there is no clear distinction between government and ruling party programmes, so the political actors don’t know where to start and where to end in terms of exerting their political influence in community development programmes. Even the officials implementing government programmes often make themselves subservient to ruling party cadres, and that affects who benefits from government programmes and who doesn’t” (Male, rural trader, Masvingo).
If anything, the situation is more pronounced for small scale and artisanal mining. Artisanal miners in Kwekwe, lamented the ubiquitous presence and influence of ruling party ‘strongmen’ in their operations. As one respondent observed: 
“We work for almost nothing because of these ruling party thugs who collect rents and bribes from us in the form of protection fees … Our lives have become more complicated because of the growing influence of rogue and unscrupulous soldiers that at times take away every ounce of gold that we have found” (female, artisanal miner, Kwekwe).
Overall, respondents were concerned that so long as there was no effort to deal decisively with cronyism and the patronage system, the benefits of future growth would not be shared fairly.
3.5 Concerns about corruption  

Respondents identified corruption as a major threat to economic recovery in Zimbabwe. “[Corruption] is a cancer consuming the Zimbabwean fabric and has become part of the culture of doing business”said a young female entrepreneur in Harare. The president’s pronouncement of ‘zero tolerance to corruption’ was therefore welcomed by focus group discussants. The decision to remove road blocks and the police corruption that came with it was a very clear expression of this policy, which has proved to be very popular with citizens. However, the ultimate test of the government’s commitment to tackling corruption would be how it addressed high level corruption involving senior politicians and bureaucrats. Respondents also said it is important that the fight against corruption is not used as a means to target political rivals by those in power. As an informal trader in Bulawayo commented: 

“We will only start taking the government seriously when the fight against corruption ceases to be partisan and when investigations lead to arrests and the recovery of loot stolen from our country.”

3.6 Zimbabweans want to help build the new Zimbabwe

A theme that came out strongly in the study is a willingness for ordinary Zimbabweans to play their part in helping build the ‘new Zimbabwe’. The people we spoke to recognise the need for a collective and concerted effort to address the very real challenges facing the country. They do not believe reviving the economy is the responsibility of the government alone. Artisanal and small-scale miners, for instance, were eager to contribute:“we are more than ready to do our bit to boost gold production.” But significantly, the Zimbabweans we spoke to do believe government needs to enablechange by: removing barriers to growth and ensuring that economic opportunities are distributed fairly, not just for the privileged elite. Young people were desperate to be given a chance and as discussed above they lamented the way bureaucracy stifles entrepreneurship. Overall, respondents expressed a desire for government to consult and engage ordinary Zimbabweans more effectively in the process of change. An example concerns efforts to regularise the informal sector, where discussants felt that government could do more, when developing policy, to reflect the everyday circumstances of citizens.  

4.0 Conclusion 

This short study attempts to provide a snap shot of how ordinary Zimbabweans think about their own economic prospects and that of the country more generally, shortly after a period of political change. It also presents an initial and therefore cursory assessment of the new government’s stewardship of the economy. 
In summary we find that the euphoria that greeted the political transition last November has been tempered by the fact that few Zimbabweans have seen any tangible improvements in their livelihoods. Amongst our discussants we identified two broad groups: the first, who make up the majority, are the cautious realists who recognise that change will take time and are, for now at least, prepared to give the new government the benefit of the doubt. The second, are the pessimists, a significant minority, who increasingly question whether the new government will be any different to the previous regime.
If a growth in pessimism is to be reversed, then our study suggests the government should consider the following: 
·      First, enact some ‘quick wins’ that deliver meaningful improvements in people’s everyday lives. The removal of road blocks demonstrates how a relatively minor change can make a big difference to livelihoods. A focus on ‘bread and butter’ measures would also help reassure citizens the country is on the right path, however long the journey might be.
·      Second work to ensure that policy initiatives better reflect the priorities of ordinary citizens. Our respondents felt government policy – from the treatment of the informal sector to approaches to the business environment – was not sufficiently informed by the reality of ordinary life in Zimbabwe.  
·      Finally, allay fears that as the economy revives, the fruits of economic growth will be for the many and not the few.
28 March 2018