By Emma Emeozor
Don’t be carried away by the euphoria that trailed the ignoble exit of former President Robert Mugabe. Zimbabweans were already tired of the 93-year-old president’s 37 years rule. Therefore, it may be too early to say what becomes of post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.
The dust of the euphoria would have to settle down first before sober reflections on the events that led to the forced resignation of Mugabe. Putting together the pieces of Zimbabwe left by Mugabe may be an arduous task for the new president, especially considering the fact that he had emerged leader under an unusual circumstance – a product of a “bloodless correction of power” as Zimbabweans preferred to call the military coup that occurred.
In his inaugural speech on Friday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa may have spoken with a sugar-coated tongue, promising to turn around the country’s battered economy, creating an enabling environment for true democratic practice and good governance, creating foreign investor-friendly environment and security for all.
According to reports, 90 per cent of the people are unemployed and the country’s main industrial index has slumped by 40 per cent since the military intervention, while the stock market shed $6bn (£4.5bn) in a week. He believes his emergence as president marks a “new destiny” for the country.
Mnangagwa was clear on how this dream would be achieved. He said: “Mugabe’s land reforms would not be reversed, but white farmers whose land was seized would be compensated, acts of corruption must stop,” warning of “swift justice,” elections scheduled for 2018 would go ahead as planned and he would be “the president of all citizens, regardless of colour, creed, religion, tribe, totem or political affiliation.”
The story of the 75-year-old successor of Mugabe is more of an ‘old wine’ replacing another ‘old wine.’ Mnangagwa is not a new face in government. He has been a member of Mugabe’s ‘kitchen cabinet’ and has held various ministerial posts. But becoming Zimbabwe’s president is a dream come true. He has nursed the ambition over the years.
His ambition to become the country’s leader first came to the open in 2004, when a group of the ruling party Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) officials reportedly issued “the Tsholotshe Declaration under which an agreement was allegedly struck to install Emerson Mnangagwa in the presidium following the death of Vice President Simon Muzenda.” The report said that “Under the scheme, Mnangagwa would assume the vice-presidency and eventually the leadership of ZANU-PF and the country.”
But “although Mnangagwa had secured the support of six of the country’s 10 provinces, he was outdone by Mugabe’s move to amend the party’s constitution to ensure that one of the party’s vice-presidents was a woman. The decision saw Joyce Mujuru being appointed vice-president.” Mrs Mujuru was sacked in 2014 after Mugabe accused her of plotting to remove him from power, an allegation she vehemently denied. Interestingly, Mugabe appointed Mnangagwa to succeed Mrs Mujuru, a development that would later see him lock horns with the First Lady, Mrs Grace Mugabe, over who succeeds Mugabe.
Also, Mnangagwa was implicated in a 2007 failed military coup, though he denied any involvement. But reports said the soldiers had planned to forcibly remove Mugabe and ask him to form a government. At the time, some analysts reportedly said his political rivals wanted to discredit him.
In a country where abject poverty is sending the people to their early grave, the expectation is usually very high when a new regime emerges. What magic would the new president perform to raise the hopes of the people within the limited time he has before the next election in 2018? Apparently, the ‘Crocodile,’ as he is nicknamed, is eyeing the goodwill of the West, particularly the United States, Britain and China, to cushion the biting effects of the ailing economy.
The likely dependence of the Mnangagwa administration on foreign aid to move the country forward poses danger to the sovereignty of the country. It has been argued that the economy collapsed because Zimbabwe was isolated by the West due to the arrogance of Mugabe, in addition to his anti-West policies. Even with such criticisms, Mugabe remained defiant, insisting on the freedom of Africans to decide their own fate. Mugabe’s land policy and his total disapproval of gay relationships are among the issues for which the West wanted him ‘crucified.’
Mnangagwa may have signaled a gesture of ceasefire when has said “white farmers whose land was seized would be compensated.” He made the declaration without announcing the amount the exercise would cost the government. The statement made too soon shows he is dancing to the gallery. He has also declared that “Mugabe’s land reforms would not be reversed.” This is contrary to the expectation of the West who wants a revision of the land reforms. For the West, Mugabe was a villain.
Now there is fear that the West may take advantage of the change of baton and exploit the country’s economy under the shadow of aid. And for how long would this new romance between the West and Zimbabwe last, after all Mugabe was once their darling.
Mugabe’s refusal to quit power even when it was obvious that he has over stayed was his undoing. Therefore, the new president should tread with caution, after all Mugabe couldn’t have taken all the decisions without the approval of his cabinet, of which Mnangagwa was a member.
What would make a difference between him and Mugabe in time of strife like Zimbabwe is currently facing is his enthronement of an all embracing unity government. Though he came to power through the support of the military, the war veterans and a faction of ZANU-PF, a unity government with representatives of all the political parties and civil society groups is what the country needs now.
Indeed, at 75, Mnangagwa will write his name in gold if he forms a unity government and voluntarily bow out after conducting the 2018 election. This is to say he would not contest election. Already, the leader of the main opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai, has warned of a “power retention agenda.”
Similarly, Mrs Mujuru who formed a political party after Mugabe sacked her and expelled her from ZANU-PF, has called for a free, fair and credible election. Mujuru is not alone. The civil societies and other political parties are eagerly looking forward to the 2018 election. For them, Zimbabwe has an interim government whose responsibility is to conduct the election. With ZANU-PF factionalized, they are optimistic of defeating the party.
Beyond the frontiers of government, Mnangagwa faces enormous challenges within the ruling party. He has said he would not embark on revenge, stressing. “Let us humbly appeal to all of us that we let bygones be bygones.” He has called Mugabe the ‘Father of the Nation.”
Whatever appellation he chooses to give Mugabe now that he has achieved his dream, he must not forget that political wounds are not easily cured, though in politics, there are no permanent enemies. Mugabe left the Blue House against his will.
Members of Mrs Mugabe’s G40 group are still in the party even as the military is arresting and torturing them in detention. Mrs Mugabe is not a woman who gives up easily. Hounding her supporters would only escalate the rift in the party. The total collapse of ZANU-PF could spell doom for the country.
Therefore, the President’s “let bygones be bygones” appeal must be matched with concrete peace moves to ensure that unity returns to the party. Now is the time to tell the war veterans and leaders of the party that Zimbabwe belongs to all.
The country won independence in 1980 following the war. It is therefore a disturbing phenomenon that the war veterans had turned themselves into a ‘political bloc’ that decides who gets what in government. They stood firmly behind Mugabe over the years and dumped him only after Mrs Mugabe became too powerful for them to control.
Similarly, the military gave Mugabe unflinching support only to sending him packing after Mnangagwa, an ally of the army chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, raised the alarm that Mrs Mugabe was all out to snatch from him the opportunity to succeed Mugabe as planned in their ‘caucus’ meeting.
It is an irony that ZANU-PF leaders had to denounce Mugabe publicly and expelled him because the party could not tame his wife. Yet she was a product of the party. How else could it be explained that she rose to become the leader of the party’s women wing and how was it possible for her to have formed the powerful G40 group within the party unchallenged.
Would Mnangagwaa not have joined the G40 if Mrs Mugabe had giving him her blessings. Was it not Mnangagwa’s fellow ministers who sponsored her against him? Put differently, the crisis that led to Mugabe’s ouster was a power game between two opposing groups within the ruling party.
Therefore, the military intervened in the internal affairs of the ruling party in the interest of a candidate and not really in the interest of the nation. It was a clear case of ‘Vested interest’ which has become a cankerworm tearing African countries apart as the leaders act to satisfy their selfish interests. Beyond Africa, the West applauded the military intervention because Mugabe was removed from their way. Some Zimbabweans call the military intervention ‘bloodless correction of power.’ But this is not true. It would have been ‘bloodless correction of power’ if ZANU-PF had followed due democratic process to vote Mugabe out.
Though Africa heaved a sigh of relief after Mugabe’s exit, it is not an approval of military coups. The change Africa desires must be achieved through democratic processes and not through military interventions under whatever guise. Zimbabwe should serve as a lesson to Africa’s sit-tight presidents. There comes a time when the people must have their way.