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A new era for Zimbabwe?

Sandile Mtetwa on what's next for Zimbabwe following the end of Robert Mugabe's rule.

After 37 years in power, Robert Mugabe finally stepped down as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe in November. Having led the country to economic suffering, political shambles and international shame, the country’s authoritarian leader was finally forced to resign and give up his position as head of the nation.

Enter Emmerson Mnangagwa, a man who has held high office in the Mugabe-led ZANU-PF government, a man who was advisor to Mugabe and one who has been linked to the Gukurahundi Massacres - a series of massacres of Ndebele civilians carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army from early 1983 to late 1987. This is the man who has been sworn in as the current President of Zimbabwe.

The obvious questions are: ‘Is this new government simply in power to protect certain people’s interests?’ Was the removal of Mugabe a self-interested move rather than one driven by the will of the people? It was clear that behind the ‘resignation’ there were internal political party disputes and a hunger for securing Mugabe’s successor. Whatever the reason, it’s certain that the people of Zimbabwe wanted and deserved change and that Mugabe had to go.  

Fast forward to this January and the current President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is preaching just one gospel: Zimbabwe is open for business! His recent trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, captured in this Youtube interview, clearly conveyed this message to the international community.  So what does the interview tell us?

We see Emmerson Mnangagwa expertly dodging certain questions related to his previous involvement in human rights violations, corruption and other indecent and unscrupulous activities in the country - notably the Gukurahundi massacres and the invasion and seizure of white-owned farms. The people of Zimbabwe, as well as foreigners, need time to come to terms with  and forgive  these acts. A simple apology and explanation may do just that.

The 2018 presidential elections - which it is speculated may be held in July - will be a major factor in how the nation moves forward. Mnangagwa has promised these will be transparent, free and fair and that he will accept the outcome if he loses.  The one major problem is the visible weakness of the opposition parties. There is silence and much uncertainty regarding their ability to contest the election this year and on their ability to gain people’s trust and their vote. This may mean Mnangagwa faces no opposition.

In the wake of Brexit and Trump, where countries are turning inwards so as to focus on building wealth for their own nations and their own people, is there an argument that Zimbabwe should go down the same route? Don’t get me wrong. I am not against international trade and inviting foreigners to do business in Zimbabwe, but I wonder whether we should be more concerned with resuscitating our own industries with our own people first? This is a huge challenge, but in my view it is something which is achievable.

Another issue with regard to Mnangagwa’s trip to Davos was  the absence of Zimbabwe leaders of industry in his entourage. Shouldn’t the President have been accompanied by at least someone representing the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe’s Commercial Farmers Union or the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce? Would this not have been a smart move? After all Davos is an economic forum.

Growth is a vital focus for Zimbabwe in the months ahead and, in my view, the following steps are important. The country must:

  • Formulate strategies which result in economic growth, especially the revival of the manufacturing industry and complete financial accountability in the mining sector.
  • Change its mindset from one of ‘needing external help or government help’ to taking responsibility for implementing change through the adoption of simple yet effective measures.
  • Inject new and young blood into the policymaking process.
  • Hold transparent elections and ensure that the ruling party submits to the will of the majority.

So where will the country go from here? Only time will tell, but as a proud national of Zimbabwe, I can only hope for the best.

*Sandile Mtetwa [2017] is doing an MPhil in Chemistry and is Chair of the regular 'Africa over Coffee' sessions at the African Society of Cambridge University. Picture credit of Emmerson Mnangagwa: Wikipedia.