By Brian Chitemba
THIS week marks two years since the late former President Robert Mugabe died. Zimbabwe’s long-time authoritarian ruler died aged 95 at an upmarket hospital in Singapore.
He died a bitter man. His political and military acolytes deposed the man who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist. The 1980s’ Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and the Midlands; the chaotic 2000 land reform and the 2008 election violence, are some of the examples of Mugabe’s excesses.
Mugabe will be remembered for political intolerance. The late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and many other opposition politicians would have attested to this.
His legacy is battered. He left Zimbabwe a pariah state — isolated from the international community as he pulled the country out of the Commonwealth and severed ties with former coloniser Britain and its ally, the United States. The argument around the strained relations is the land reform as the West is said to be unhappy with the correction of historical imbalances on land distribution as a few white farmers owned vast tracts of land while blacks were sidelined in infertile regions.
At the time of his removal in November 2017, Mugabe had decimated the economy. At the peak of hyperinflation in 2008, unemployment rate topped 90%, basic goods disappeared from the shops and respect of property rights was thrown out the window. Corruption was at an all-time high, according to international corruption indexes. Millions of Zimbabweans are economic refugees across the globe. These are some of Mugabe’s crimes which he will forever be remembered for.
But it would be an injustice to forget his contribution towards the liberation struggle and improving the education system which produced an enviable human capital across the continent.
In light of the two years anniversary after his death, it is imperative to look at how his successor is performing.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been in office for close to four years, has had his ups and downs. His administration is making efforts to turnaround the economy with a projected 7,8% growth this year. Rehabilitation of roads, power stations and health facilities is underway.
Mnangagwa’s administration is modelled around the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s rule of transforming and stabilising a battered economy after the excesses of the Cultural Revolution.
However, there seems to be a long way to go for the Second Republic as the standard of living is still low for the majority of Zimbabwe’s 15 million people. Structural reforms to level the playing field through changes on the electoral front to nourish democracy still need to be done. The diaspora, which contributes US$1 billion, annually is clamouring to vote.
Mnangagwa, surely has a chance to create a better legacy than his mentor Mugabe, who died a bitter man. Thus the question remains, if Mnangagwa, like Deng, will leave Zimbabwe a developed country?