Jan 20 - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe may have appeared in public ending speculation that he may be in declining health or even dead. But as Andrew Potter reports not everyone is pleased, many blame the elderly leader for Zimbabwe's economic woes.
Zimbabwe's very own rust belt. The abandoned and decaying remains of what was once the country's economic backbone, manufacturing. It's hard to imagine now, but thanks to these factories, manufacturing used to account for a quarter of Zimbabwe's economy. Today it's just two percent. Economist Eric Bloch explains. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ERIC BLOCH, ECONOMIST SAYING: "In 2008 Zimbabwe underwent the greatest hyper-inflation ever experienced anywhere in the world at any time, and as a result, by the end of 2008 businesses needed trillions percent more capital, just to carry the same amount of stock, the same work in progress, and their operating costs had gone up by trillions, trillions percent." That inflation, and the economic crisis, has been blamed on the ZANU-PF party of Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe, in particular the seizure of commercial farms owned by whites. Mining companies are also under pressure to sell majority stakes to black Zimbabweans, in what are known as economic empowerment deals. Francis Nhema is a Zimbabwean government minister. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ZIMBABWE YOUTH, ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AND INDIGENISATION MINISTER, FRANCIS NHEMA, SAYING: "There's no letting up because we are now moving in a broad based economic empowerment policy which involves everyone from the gardner up to the chief executive. So everyone has to be involved in the economic empowerment and the creation of wealth. So government is not letting up. In actual fact, government is even saying let all companies take care and know that all people are involved in the economy of the country." Zimbabwe's economy was once among the largest in Africa, but it's shrunk dramatically. An election in 2009 saw Mugabe forced to share power with arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai. That helped the economy recovery a little, but business confidence has fallen once more, since Mugabe was reelected alone in July. But at businesses like this fridge factory, there's optimism. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ENTREPRENEUR, CALISTO JOKONYA, SAYING: "I am sure big things are coming, but that's a beginning, we were also on a sliding scale, but we have just turned a corner." Another glimmer of hope lies in tobacco farming. Production is expected to hit 200,000 tonnes a year, more than four times the level in 2008 at the height of the crisis. The mining of diamonds is also seen as a massive untapped resource, but only if Zimbabwe's governmentis able to address concerns over the industry.