A regime change in Zimbabwe may have the potential to evoke an economic turnaround in the long term, lending to an opportunity for increased growth in the region as well as in South Africa.
Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, seized the state broadcaster on Wednesday, after 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting frenzied speculation of a coup.
Meanwhile, according to unconfirmed reports, Mugabe and his family are currently under house arrest and the veteran leader is negotiating his exit. Other unconfirmed reports claim that cabinet ministers and prominent national figures have been detained.
South African economist Mike Schussler said a regime change had the potential to bring economic growth for Zimbabwe.
"If we had bigger or growing economies in the [South African Development Community], this would help the entire region immensely. Zimbabwe previously had the second-biggest economy in our region... At the end of the 1990s, research showed the country's economy was slightly bigger than the economy of Durban; now it is a quarter of that size," Schussler said.
"If this coup in time brings back economic growth for Zimbabwe, it would greatly help the region. When a country's neighbours get richer, that country often will feel the impact of that."
But Schussler warned that these effects may not be immediate.
"An economic turnaround, if there even is one, will take a long time. If we get to a position where Zimbabwe can create more opportunities for growth, it will benefit South Africa directly. The impact of this [Mugabe's] dictatorship has been detrimental," Schussler said.
"There has been a half-percent growth in the region every year. Zimbabwe has a record of being a country that is not at war, but has had a sustained fall in living conditions... The country is missing five- to six-million of its inhabitants, who have crossed borders to other countries."
He said the situation might get worse for Zimbabwe in the short term, but asked how much worse it could actually get.
"I do not think it will be the case that this coup would make things worse for Zimbabwe. There are possible negatives, but I do not think this will happen," Schussler said.
He feels it is unlikely that Zimbabwe's living standards and economy could get worse than they already are.Suggest a correction