Zimbabwe will hold elections in four to five months, a newspaper yesterday quoted President Emmerson Mnangagwa as saying, the first time since independence the southern African state will conduct a vote that does not involve Robert Mugabe.
The vote, a litmus test of Mnangagwa’s democratic credentials, will be crucial to unlocking badly needed financial assistance and repairing relations with Western powers and international financial institutions.
Mnangagwa told the Financial Times newspaper in an interview he was willing to meet a key opposition demand to invite the United Nations, European Union and Commonwealth to monitor the polls, the first time since 2000 that these organizations would have been allowed in.
Mnangagwa, a protege of Mugabe, came to power in November after a de-facto military coup when the 93-year-old was forced to resign after the military confined him to his Harare mansion.
It was the culmination of a power struggle between Mnangagwa and former first lady Grace Mugabe, who was being groomed by her husband as his potential successor.
Now Mnangagwa, 75, is under pressure himself to deliver on the economy and show that he is breaking with the policies of Mugabe, whose 37-year rule since independence in 1980 turned a promising country into an economic basket case and international pariah.
He promised the elections for the presidency, parliament and local government would be peaceful, and told business leaders their investments would be secure and their profits safe.