Second Republic should break with the ugly past

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IN the aftermath of the controversial July 30 elections whose outcome was disputed as shown by the bloody aftermath and a contest in the Constitutional Court, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration must move to genuinely break with the past.

Candid Comment Owen Gagare
ogagare@zimind.co.zw

After the ConCourt ruled in his favour, paving the way for his inauguration and the appointment of cabinet ministers, Mnangagwa must bite the bullet of reform.

The “Second Republic” must provide a clean and clear departure from the ruinous past presided over by former President Robert Mugabe albeit with Mnangagwa and other cronies’ able assistance.

After Independence in 1980, Mugabe had a relatively good start. His administration attended to the nation’s health, education and other social needs, while also doing well in infrastructure development.

Despite the commandist policies, the economy was stable and working. Zimbabweans lived a decent life and job opportunities were available.

The main blot on Mugabe’s record — in the early years — was political intolerance as seen by his fierce crackdown on Zapu which subsequently led to the massacre of about 20 000 civilians, mostly in Matabeleland and Midlands.

The Central Intelligence Organisation was also feared in the 1980s and was responsible for numerous abductions and disappearances with impunity in an authoritarian environment.

But Mugabe’s unsustainable social spending resulted in economic problems culminating in Zimbabwe seeking balance of support from the International Monetary Fund.

The support came with demands for austerity measures, which led to massive retrenchments. The economic hardships escalated, prompting militant war veterans to arm-twist Mugabe into compensating them for their liberation struggle role. The unbudgeted expense laid the groundwork for “Black Friday” (November 14, 1997), when the Zimbabwe dollar lost 71,5% of its value against the US dollar.

Things only got worse when Zimbabwe got involved in an unbudgeted regional war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The economic problems led to the emergence of pro-democracy movements, such as the National Constitutional Assembly which demanded a new constitutionand the opposition MDC in September 1999.

With his back to the wall and discontent growing, Mugabe nailed his colours to the mast and cracked down on the opposition. He also embarked on a violent land reform programme which decimated the agricultural sector.

In the meantime, the government accelerated fiscal indiscipline, causing hyperinflation which decimated the Zimbabwean dollar. Mnangagwa was one of Mugabe’s key enforcers as Zimbabwe crumbled.

He now has a challenge to build a country where constitutional rule is paramount, where there is effective, corruption-free and good leadership which promotes inclusive and sustainable market-based economic growth.

Mnangagwa should ensure the eradication of cronyism and kleptocracy, set performance benchmarks for his officials while promoting accountability and transparency in government operations and the exploitation of natural resources.
Anything short of this would be regarded as failure.

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