Editor’s Memo Owen Gagare
IT is admittedly too early to judge what sort of legacy President Emmerson Mnangagwa will leave when his reign ends.The early signs are, however, worrying and pointing to a disastrous legacy.
Having assumed power in 2017 through a military coup which toppled his mentor, former president Robert Mugabe — under whom he served as a willing enforcer for a long time — Mnangagwa, appeared keen to clean his soiled reputation. He seemed eager to usher in reforms which would put the Zimbabwean economy on a growth trajectory, thus, sealing his place in the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans.
But hardly halfway through his first term, Mnangagwa’s presidency is increasingly coming under the microscope among his peers in Zanu PF and government as well as the military, which facilitated his rise to power.
For ordinary Zimbabweans and many in the diplomatic circles, the jury was long out.The writing was on the wall by as early as August 1 2018, when his administration deployed soldiers who fatally shot six unarmed civilians on the streets of Harare. The killings occurred in broad daylight and in the full glare of international election observers and the media.
The majority of the victims were shot in the back, fleeing from the menacing troops. How callous!The army was deployed to quell protests which broke out following allegations that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was rigging the presidential election results in favour of Mnangagwa.
It was a bad start for Mnangagwa, who has been on a slippery slope since then.A disputed and bloody election, preceded by a military coup, meant that his legitimacy remained in question.
A series of ill-thought policies, the limitation of civil liberties and an escalation of human rights violations, including the January 2019 crackdown which left 17 people dead, scores injured and several women raped, further tainted his image.
His administration’s failure to deal with the currency crisis, particularly the ill-advised decision to introduce the Zimbabwean dollar through Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019 without addressing the macro-economic fundamentals necessary to sustain a currency, resulted in the local unit losing value against major currencies. The decision culminated in salaries, savings and pensions being eroded, worsening the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans.
As things stand, Mnangagwa’s capacity is increasingly being questioned by his peers.His anti-corruption drive, which was hailed by friend and foe alike, has suffered a stillbirth.
In fact, he is under scrutiny because of his association with cartels blamed for bleeding the country.His relationship with Sakunda Holdings boss Kuda Tagwirei, who is spreading his tentacles in the economy at lightning speed, has raised eyebrows.
There is belief that Tagwirei is the single largest beneficiary of the 2017 military coup.Some have gone to the extent of suggesting that Mnangagwa is captured. It is a perception that keeps growing.
The fact that speculation is gaining momentum suggests all is not well at Munhumutapa.Such speculation would not stick or persist if Mnangagwa’s leadership was inspiring and indeed if his fight against corruption had gone beyond rhetoric.
Mnangagwa took over from Mugabe, who despite playing a prominent role in the country’s liberation struggle and history, left power with a tainted legacy.
Mugabe’s positive contributions pale in significance compared to the consequences of his misrule characterised by incompetence, corruption, nepotism, ethnicisation of the state, depredations and poverty.
Mnangagwa’s reign does not show promise that it will be any different.He may go down in history as a willing enforcer who toppled his ruinous master in a military coup, only to be captured by powerful and corrupt cartels who perpetuated the bleeding of the economy.
Mnangagwa risks being remembered as a leader who destroyed international goodwill and delayed Zimbabwe’s economic recovery and political stabilisation bid.
He is on the steering wheel and if he does not change course, history will judge him harshly.