Investigating Southern Africa’s Debt Conundrum: an interview with Brezhnev Malaba

OSISA recently commissioned an investigative study with the aim of answering one question: what is the nature of the debt crisis in southern Africa? Four separate investigations were conducted in Angola (Carlos Rosado de Carvalho), Mozambique (Estacio Valoi), Zambia (Charles Mafa) and Zimbabwe (Brezhnev Malaba). We spoke to the lead investigator, Brezhnev Malaba.

  1. Why investigative work on debt in southern Africa?
    • The objective of the investigation was to establish the nature and genesis of the debt crisis in southern Africa, with particular reference to four SADC countries, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  2. Why did you focus on these four countries?
    • These countries’ economies are quite fragile and we wanted to establish what the problems are in terms of structural and governance issues pertaining to the debt problem. We asked how they ended up with that level of debt and what can be done to address the problem.There are both commonalities and disparities between these countries. We have made some observations in our investigation one of them being that, these countries all depend on natural resources. Some might even say they are overly depended on these natural resources. Angola is depended on oil, Zambia is depended on copper, Zimbabwe is depended on a basket of different resources and Mozambique is depended on gas and coal. Should there be fluctuations in commodity prices, these countries’ economies suffer and as result, their levels of indebtedness rise.
  3. Please paint a picture of the current situation in these countries?
    • Citizens are suffering. For example, Angola – Africa’s second biggest oil exporter – has one of the world’s highest child and infant mortality rates. Children shouldn’t be dying because the country itself is rich. But, political and business elites have squandered oil revenues. In the other countries, poverty is a big problem yet in terms of resources and minerals, this region is the richest in the world. Evidently, there are contradictions.
  4. What are citizens saying or doing in reaction to the emerging issues on debt?
    • Citizens are very worried about this and when we talked to them in this research, they spoke openly although in Angola, for example, some were fearful. Poverty has to be linked to the debt crises. Inadequate state capacity in social provision, education, health, infrastructure and so on is a symptom of these crises.
  5. Who should read the report?
    • Everybody! Citizens who are suffering from poverty, governments – so that they come up with better policies; civil society to conscientise the people on their rights. Debt is, after all, a human rights issue.

*The study on southern Africa’s debt conundrum will launch soon. Please check for updates.