Zim investors hedge against political upheavals

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)

Harare – Investors in Zimbabwe have intensified hedging activity against inherent risks emanating from political upheavals in the country after President Robert Mugabe this week dismissed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a move widely seen as a means to prop up First Lady Grace Mugabe's chances to take over.

The move, although largely expected, has dominated social media discourse. On the streets of Harare, debates continue about Mnangagwa's possible plan of action, worsened by a statement attributed to him on Wednesday in which he said he would return to lead Zimbabwe and challenge Mugabe and his wife.

In shops such as Pick n Pay’s Jason Moyo Avenue store in central Harare, life is continuing as normal though, with shoppers queuing up to buy using mobile money and bank cards.

Talk in the supermarkets quickly translates to how prices are fast rising. Delta Corporation noted this in its half year financials released on Wednesday, saying “inflation pressure on basics” is rising although income after a tax for the period rose to $32.3m from $31m last year.

Cash is still a mere trickle from the banks and foreign currency is become scarcer by the day while parallel market currency rates are spiking. 

Outside the supermarkets, trouble for the common people has continued and a motorist argues furiously with a city parking official after his vehicle was clamped for arrears he says he is not aware of.

“This is daylight robbery; I was out of town for the past few weeks and where did this unexplained bill come from,” the motorist fumes. The parking official calls up his supervisor and he apologises for the mistake and the issue is resolved.

But the sacking of Mnangagwa, bringing a sense of excitement and hopelessness, is dominating public discourse although it quickly cascades into implications for the economy and the country’s prospects to recover from prolonged liquidity crunch.

“The stock market has not responded to these developments, if anything we have seen hedging activity increasing because investors have always been hedging over the past months. People are seeking non-monetary assets and others are divesting and this has boosted trade on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange,” a trader on the ZSE tells Fin24.

The ZSE even rose by 0.51% on Wednesday to close the day with a market capitalisation of $16.1bn after the industrial index rose 0.49% on the back of gains in Econet Wireless and Delta. Total value traded was 55.1% - $6.6m - with Econet, Old Mutual and regional fast foods counter Simbisa Brands weighing in.

“We expect the market to trade higher on Thursday on demand in heavyweights,” said analysts at IH Securities in a report. 

If the market is unfased by all the political upheavals in Zimbabwe, the Mugabes seem unmoved by speculation that Mnangagwa – reportedly now out of the country – will mount a challenge to their power.

The Zimbabwean leader and his wife will on Thursday preside over the renaming of the Harare International Airport to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, perhaps a stark reminder to his opponents arriving and leaving the country through the airport of who is in charge.

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