When Emmerson Mnangagwa unseated former president Robert Mugabe in 2017, the country’s economy was relatively stable. The bond note — the surrogate currency the central bank claimed had the same value as the US dollar — was largely trading at par with its American counterpart on the black market, and prices were settled. In February that year, inflation, for the first time in two years, broke into positive territory.

Fast-forward almost three years, and everything that could go wrong has done so...

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