HomeAnalysisMnangagwa Davos trip a futile exercise

Mnangagwa Davos trip a futile exercise

TINASHE KAIRIZA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s trip to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum (WEF) presents a platform to re-engage with the international community but that opportunity looks lost due to the government’s half-hearted will to roll out substantial reforms.

Mnangagwa flew to Switzerland this week for the premier global economic forum leaving behind a distressed populace and a tanking economy characterised by spiralling inflation, commodity price increases, widespread hunger and unemployment.

On the political front, Mnangagwa’s administration is under increasing pressure to roll out a raft of electoral reforms that will ensure a free and fair 2023 election.

Mnangagwa’s victory at the 2018 polls was contested by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa over vote rigging claims.

Chamisa, who lost the 2018 election by a wafer thin margin, now leads the recently formed Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

In recent times, by-elections  held on March 26,  in some parts of the country did not help Mnangagwa’s cause as they  were marred by reports of violence and intimidation while the conduct of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) also came under sharp scrutiny.

Mnangagwa, perceived to be a reformist, made his maiden appearance at the WEF in Davos in 2019 promising to mend fractured relations with the West, embrace business-friendly policies and roll out sweeping political reforms.

At that time, the international community which had watched in horror long time ruler Robert Mugabe destroying a once prosperous economy through ruinous policies was willing to give Mnangagwa a chance despite grabbing power through a military coup.

With his first term in power coming to an end now, Mnangagwa makes his second appearance at Davos at a time perceptions from the international community over his administration have shifted.

The West is increasingly getting incensed over the unwillingness by Mnangagwa’s administration to ring in reforms promised when he grabbed power in 2017.

Critics observe that although Davos presents the perfect stage for Mnangagwa to pursue his re-engagement agenda with the West and attract meaningful investment to capital-starved Zimbabwe, the leader will squander the golden opportunity leaving the country in a morass.

Last week, the European Union Observer Mission (EUOM) raised the red flag against Mnangagwa’s administration, citing Zimbabwe’s failure to implement electoral reforms.

“To date the progress on the implementation of the EUOM recommendations has been limited, with the majority of the priority ones not yet adequately addressed,” EU Chief of election follow-up mission Elma Brok said, addressing a press conference.

The US, which has maintained its decades long sanctions regime on Zimbabwe, also raised concern over reluctance by Mnangagwa’s administration to introduce meaningful reforms across the economic and political spectrum.

Recent criticism by the government over US military manoeuvres in the region will complicate Harare’s efforts to thaw frosty relations with Washington at Davos, analysts pointed out.

London University Professor of World Politics Stephen Chan cautioned that at Davos, Mnangagwa’s team would find it a hard bargain for the softening of US stance on Zimbabwe.

“The President exaggerated his contacts with world leaders at the climate change conference in Scotland. At Davos there will be world leaders but also financial leaders.

“Given how critical Zimbabwean ministers have been of US military diplomacy in Africa, and given the tacit Zimbabwean support for Russia, President Mnangagwa is best advised not to approach the US delegation,” Chan highlighted.

He further noted that Harare’s “best bet” would be engaging with international financiers leveraging on his “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.

However, doing so would be a difficult bargain, following a streak of policy inconsistencies by fiscal and monetary authorities which suspended the lending functions of banks, only to somersault in a bid to arrest imminent collapse of the local currency.

“His best bet is to make overtures to the bankers and financiers…but they will absolutely demand reassurances about the stability of the Zimbabwean currency and repatriation of their profits in US dollars.

“These will be hard reassurances for the President to give, as everyone would have done their homework on the Zimbabwean economy before coming to Davos,” Chan added.

Economist Tawanda Purazeni said Zimbabwe’s collapsing economy would be Mnangagwa’s biggest undoing at Davos and denting efforts to unlock fresh lines of credit from international financiers and resetting frosty relations with the West.

“The WEF is a good platform to market a country. However, events panning out in Zimbabwe are in the public domain and it becomes increasingly difficult to convince the outside world that Zimbabwe is a good investment destination.

“A plummeting currency, skyrocketing inflation, a distressed work force and poor public transport network,” Purazeni underlined, “would be akin to Mnangagwa whistling in the wind in his doomed mission to win over the international community at Davos.”

Purazeni also cautioned that Mnangagwa could have overplayed his “Zimbabwe is open for business” card to sway the international community to his side, given the glaring economic malaise gripping the country.

A year after grabbing power, Mnangagwa told the Financial Times in 2018, that his administration would break from Mugabe’s past by introducing far reaching economic reforms.

However, with clear signs that nothing has changed from Mugabe’s near four decade rule, Mnangagwa’s futile attempt to re-engage with the West and attract foreign direct investment at Davos is dead in the water.

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