Zimbabwean Finance Minister tries to calm hyperinflation fears

LONDON — Who can forget the hyperinflation of Zimbabwe when it increased by 50% every month and President Robert Mugabe thought he could paper over the cracks by printing more and more money? Fear of  inflation in the millions of 2008 is again stalking South Africa’s neighbour, Zimbabwe. It led to a doubling of fuel prices and violent protests in the streets of Harare who were promised a better future under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. In Davos at the World Economic Forum, the country’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has promised that he will tame inflation which reached 42.1% in December through fiscal discipline. Mnangagwa cut short his mission to find bailout loans overseas and skipped Davos to address the violence in his country. And as an overture to the opposition, he has agreed to national dialogue with the opposition parties, including the MDC to end the protests and to address the problems in the economy. – Linda van Tilburg

By Haslinda Amin and Brian Latham

(Bloomberg) – Zimbabwe’s finance minister vowed to press on with economic reforms that have triggered violent protests, as President Emmerson Mnangagwa urged talks with opposition parties to help stabilise the country.

Consumers in the southern African nation are reeling from prices accelerating at the fastest pace since a hyperinflation episode a decade ago. Protesters poured onto the streets of the capital, Harare, and other cities last week after the government more than doubled fuel prices to the highest in the world.

The reforms being implemented by the government are crucial to the government’s aims of reining in inflation, shrinking the budget deficit and settling arrears to creditors so that it can resume borrowing again, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Tuesday.

“We want to show that we are making progress on the macro-economic front,” he said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “It’s painful, there are protests, but we have to stay the course.”

Clashes between protesters and the security forces during a three-day nationwide strike last week left at least 12 people dead and hundreds of others injured. The violence forced Mnangagwa to cancel his planned attendance at the WEF and return home late Monday.

On Tuesday, the president criticised security forces he said had been responsible for violence and misconduct and said they would be investigated. He also invited his opponents for talks about the economic crisis as he appealed for unity.

“I invite leaders of all political parties as well as religious and civil leaders to set aside our differences and come together,” he said. “Let’s put the economy first.”

Mnangagwa’s return came hours after the High Court in the capital ruled that Zimbabwe’s security minister, Owen Ncube, had exceeded his authority when he twice shut down Zimbabwe’s internet – a move challenged by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Media Institute of Southern Africa. Full access to the internet was restored late Monday, MISA said in a statement.