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Retrospective Africa 2018 : Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zimbabwe

31.12.2018
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner of highly contested presidential election in Zimbabwe this year and the African Union Electoral Observer Mission to Zimbabwe (AUEOM), the SADC Electoral Observer Mission to Zimbabwe (SEOM) and the COMESA Election Observer Mission, three very important African bodies endorsed the election that was marred by deadly post-vote violence. There are a number of challenges Mnangagwa have continued to face and the legitimacy of his presidency continues to be interrogated in most parts of the country.

ZIMBABWE’S ECONOMIC CRISIS

The election in Zimbabwe got off to a rocky start but what preceded was much worse than the Zimbabweans had anticipated. When Mnangagwa campaign for the elections, he promised to return the country to the stature it once was maintained prior to the reign of once revered former President Robert Mugabe.

Mnagwagwa’s regime has already showed massive loopholes as the country is currently facing national economic meltdown with a big scare of a lack of cooking oil, shop’s inability to stock their shelve, long queues for petrol, a hefty government overdraft and hyperinflation that results in a spike of basic goods. These are some of the reasons for the economic crisis currently facing Zimbabwe. The new administration also re-imposed import and exchange controls, thus creating additional incentives to avoid regular channels of commerce.

In an effort to appease the farming community and win the rural vote from farming towns, the Presidential Input scheme, a programme that offers agricultural assistance to farmer which usually starts in October began much earlier in June this year about six weeks before the elections. About 1.8 million farmers countrywide benefit from the programme and uses the assistance to improve livestock and cop production. But not much has been reported on the outcomes of the programme or how it has proved to solve the country’s production challenge.

POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE

Six people died as a direct result of the contestation of election results. The government initiated a seven-member commission of enquiry led by former South Africa deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe following the deaths when the army opened live ammunition on protestors in August. The protest was sparked by the electoral commission’s delay of the general election results held on July 30.

The defeated presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa denied being behind the violence that claimed six lives. Chamisa was accused of urging protesters to take to the streets days after the polls insisting that the opposition part had won the elections insisting to the protesters to defend their vote. The opposition supporters claimed that the holdup signaled an attempt by the governing party to rig the outcome of the elections, while the opposition had claimed that it had won even before counting had commenced.

Apart from that, the government had implemented heavy-handed approach in an attempt to claim victory in the elections. About 5000 soldiers were deployed, without any explanation, to rural areas months before the elections took place. The deployment of soldiers and the killing of unarmed protesters is likely to scupper efforts to end the terrible state Zimbabwe acquired in the latter half of Mugabe’s nearly four decades in power and to cloud Mnawagwa’s victory until the end of his term.

Mngwagwa’s ascension to power was categorized by others as a coup d’état. A day prior to his announcement as the presidential candidate for the ruling ZANU-PF, the Zimbabwean Defence Force had seized state media and announce that Mugabe was safe although rumors were swelling that he was captured. But soon after, Mugabe was removed after being forced to resign as president, curving the way for Mnagagwa’s succession to power.

His term as president of Zimbabwe will be a key test as he will be a source of hope for many Zimbabweans for the country to stabilize the economy, fix broken systems and introduce new policies that will stimulate the economy, create jobs and afford its citizen’s a better life.

SO, WHERE TO FROM HERE FOR ZIMBABWE

The next five years are crucial for Mnagagwa, but the danger is that Zimbabweans may only witness a cosmetic change in his style of governance. There is also a high risk that the ruling Zanu-Pf might continue ruling the country similar to how it did prior to the highly contested election. The governing part is unlikely to suddenly abandon its electoral mandate, political formula of sporadically intimidating both its opponents and supporters to maximize grip on the political power.

But Mnagagwa should persuade his party otherwise if things are to change for the good. A protective media and lack of access to information to rural areas over the next five years should be one of his priorities in an effort to make the necessary changes. The fear among some quarters is that he might do the opposite to consolidate political power.

The Zimbabwean president should also fight against sanctions that were imposed under Mugabe’s regime so as to allow trade both of importing and exporting of goods. The government should desist from using the police and the army to quell any form of dissent against the ruling party.

The opposition, after having failed to persuade for the enactment of a law allowing for the diaspora vote, a reformed military complex, a free and independent media,  will only be forced to carry their hopes for a new change in the country in the 2023 general elections.

Article from AFRIC Editorial.

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