Withstanding storms on all fronts.

Author:Ankomah, Baffour
Position:Around Africa: Zimbabwe

Just as the country's man-made political and economic storms were abating, nature unleashed its own fury in the form of Cyclone Idai. Zimbabwe's long-suffering citizens have to now deal with yet another crisis. Analysis by Baffour Ankomah in Harare.

Just when everything seemed to be calm in Zimbabwe after six turbulent months of political, economic and social unrest, there comes a mighty cyclone called Idai from the Indian Ocean, making landfall in the Mozambican port city of Beira on Sunday 18 March, flattening the city and killing an estimated 1,000 people, before veering southeast and hitting hard at Zimbabwe's Manicaland district of Chimanimani, killing 98 people (and another 200 missing at the time of writing).

The United Nations said it could be the worst weather-related disaster in history to hit the Southern Hemisphere. The devastation in both Mozambique and Zimbabwe was unbelievable. Neighbouring Malawi fared better but not without casualties and broken homes.

Idai was not kind as the storms in Zimbabwe's life--the political, economic, social and labour storms of the past six months--were abating and the country was slipping into a deserved calm in the aftermath. Irony of all ironies, until Idai arrived, the political front was calm, the economic front was calm, the social front was calm, the labour front was calm.

The government was even running a budget surplus after it stopped issuing treasury bills to finance the fiscal deficit. Finance ministry figures show that the budget deficit came down from $651.2m last August to $242.lm in November. And it continues to come down.

"In fact in the month of October we had a primary surplus of $29m," said Finance Minister Prof. Mthuli Ncube. "This is the first time this has happened in the longest while, so we are walking the talk when it comes to fiscal discipline and fiscal consolidation and balancing the budget."

Until Idai visited without invitation, the only bad news was very poor rains affecting this year's farming season. Zimbabwe being a country whose economy is largely dependent on agriculture, the implications for the already beleaguered economy are immense.

Compared to other African countries, Zimbabwe has an advanced agricultural sector, but already the spectre of hunger and agricultural collapse loom large over the country, forcing the government to appeal for outside help to cover the shortfall even before the harvest was brought home.

Otherwise the frenetic days since last...

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