Zimbabwe is slipping deeper into an economic and humanitarian crisis, and its leaders are rejecting help from neighbors.
The government humored envoys sent from South Africa, but refused to let them meet the opposition. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front did the same when officials from South Africa’s African National Congress traveled north, attempting to appeal to their common history as parties that won their nations’ liberation. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has since said Zimbabwe’s bigger neighbor shouldn’t meddle in its internal affairs.
Zanu-PF has reason to resist external interference, even if it’s justified by concerns of impoverished Zimbabweans flooding into South Africa in search of a better life. After a questionable election in 2008, neighboring countries stepped in and forced it to share control with the opposition. That lasted from 2009 until 2013 and cost the party of former President Robert Mugabe authority over key ministries, including the Treasury.
Yet, the party that came to power four decades ago may find the bigger threat to its grip on governance comes from within. Inflation is more than 700%, health and education services are collapsing and more than half the population is likely to need food aid. The soldiers that installed Mnangagwa — by ousting Mugabe in 2017 — are all that’s keeping him in his position.
“It is essentially a shell that is being supported by the military,” said Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean constitutional lawyer, at a recent seminar. “If there is any salvation it will come from a popular movement, it will come from outside of organized politics.”
With no solution to Zimbabwe’s economic collapse in sight, Zanu-PF may find it’s better to accept all the help it can get.