Zimbabweans queue outside a bank in Harare, Zimbabwe. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO
Zimbabweans queue outside a bank in Harare, Zimbabwe. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO

In a mortal blow to any hope of an economic "recovery", Zimbabwe has become the country where you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. This week, news emerged that Zimbabweans, desperate to leave the country, are unable to get passports.

Last month, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the printing company "will not print any more passports because of legacy debts" owed by the government. Another report suggests the country is too broke to pay for the special paper and ink that is imported to print passports. Those who need "urgent passports" were told to come back in 2020.

This is the sort of left-field problem you get in a country where just about everything is running short, from fuel and food to electricity.

And Mnangagwa is making all the rudimentary errors from his predecessor’s 37-year term that you’d think he’d be keen not to repeat. Last week, he jettisoned the US dollar and declared the real-time gross settlement dollar the sole legal tender.

Yet it was only in 2009 that the country ditched the Zimbabwean dollar to curb runaway inflation. Now, inflation is back to 100%.

To be known as the country that people want to leave, but can’t, is the most serious indictment yet of Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe. And it’s a bitter blow for those who thought Robert Mugabe’s departure would usher in better times.