AFTER this week’s bruising general election, the winner — whom official results say are Zanu PF and President Emmerson Mnangagwa — should now focus on setting the country’s weak economy on a firm recovery and growth path through fighting corruption and pursuing investor-friendly policies.
According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), Zanu PF has won the majority of the 210 parliamentary seats which were up for grabs during the polls, giving the new government the mandate to chart the country’s destiny over the next five years.
Prior to the watershed elections, Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured), who held various senior positions in government since 1980, was propelled to the presidency last year in November through a millitary coup that toppled former president Robert Mugabe. Mugabe had ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 when the country gained independence from white settler rule after a protracted bush war.
Mnangagwa was the enforcer of Mugabe’s ruinous policies that crippled Zimbabwe’s economy during his 37-year rule. For a very long time Mugabe’s closest ally and protégé, Mnangagwa also played an influential role in the massacres that rocked the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the 1980s which claimed the lives of an estimated 20 000 civilians.
During the disturbances, widely known as the Gukurahundi era, loosly translating to “the early rain that washes away the chaff,” Mnangagwa served as state security minister when Mugabe’s government purged thousands of civilians in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.
The 75-year-old liberation struggle stalwart is also viewed with mistrust among opposition circles, for his alleged key role in propping up the Mugabe regime through intricate and well-oiled election rigging machinery.
Since assuming power last year on the back of a millitary intervention which was widely supported by the generality of Zimbabweans, Mnangagwa has consistently declared his intention to steer the country towards a different course, while pursuing business friendly policies.
Shortly after Mugabe’s ouster, Mnangagwa pledged to fix the economy, repair strained relations with the international community, attract foreign investment and create jobs for millions of the country’s jobless. He also promised to respect property rights as well as adherering to constitutionalism. Mnangagwa’s rhetoric also seemed to trigger a shift in the approach of the international community which had isolated Zimbabwe during Mugabe’s 37-year rule. The Commonwealth, which had suspended Zimbabwe from the club of former British colonies in 2002 for human rights violations and the breakdown of the rule of law, considered readmitting Harare on condition the just-ended polls were held in a credible manner. Britain also appears to be softening its stance towards Harare, promising to normalise relations with its former colony if Zimbabwe’s just-ended polls pass the credibility test.
However, critics are quick to point out that Mnangagwa, for a long time viewed as Mugabe’s loyal henchman, was incapable of breaking away from the calamitous policies of a man he has repeatedly described as his “father” or “mentor”, and be part of the solution to the country’s myriad social and economic problems. Mnangagwa’s presidency is viewed as a perpetuation of “Mugabeism”, very much like putting new wine in old bottles.
He has struggled to rein in galloping public expenditure through unrestrained spending — a hallmark of Mugabe’s rule.
If he has indeed the popular mandate in the just-ended election, Mnangagwa’s pressing task would be to set the economy on a firm path to recovery following years of widespread company closures, job losses, a severe cash crisis and a widening budget deficit — which stood at US$1,2 billion during the first quarter of 2018.
The southern African country has also been barred from accessing fresh lines of credit after failing to settle an estimated US$12 billion owed to international finance institutions. The huge external debt amounts to about 50% of Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product.
A widening trade deficit estimated at US$750 million also paints a gloomy picture for the incoming president who has also pledged to revitalise the country’s economic productive sectors through reviving the local manufacturing industry.
During Mugabe’s ruinous tenure, the economy was stung by declining investment and his successor also faces the stern test of attracting capital through fostering business-friendly policies. Zimbabwe witnessed unprecedented capital flight during Mugabe’s years in power as he spooked foreign investors through his unpopular indigenisation legislation. One of Mnangagwa’s landmark policy reforms since assuming office last year was to scrap the indigenisation laws, although the legislation remains in force around the platinum and diamond mining sectors.
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza contends that Mnangagwa’s presidency, heavily reliant on the millitary which helped propel him into power, was incapable of steering Zimbabwe towards economic growth and stability.
“On the contrary he (Mnangagwa) cannot be part of the solution. “He is a symbol of the army, he is under (the influence) of the army and for that reason he cannot be part of the solution,” argued Mandaza, noting that even under the presidency of Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe had effectively fallen under millitary rule.
However, political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said that although Mnangagwa’s presidency could register a few gains on the economic front, Zimbabwe would continue to reel under growing military rule.
“There is not much to expect from Mnangagwa. He believes in the Mugabeism system of entitlement based on rewarding those who fought the liberation struggle. Very little must be expected,” Saungweme said. “You cannot expect real transformation from a 75-year-old millitary ruler who only knows dictatorship from his mentor and former boss. He might score some economic progress from private capital but democracy, human rights and accountability will not come forth.”