LAST Monday’s election was supposed to mark a new trajectory for the politically-fractured and divided Zimbabwean populace, but fresh rifts set in motion by a few trigger-happy State security agents, resulting in the death of six people on Wednesday — have literally washed away all the gains made over the last nine months under Zanu PF’s so-called ‘new dispensation’.
It would appear that we are back to where we were prior to the November 2017 political transition, if not worse off.
The ugly scenes witnessed in Harare and other cities just before announcement of the presidential results last week, specifically the unrestrained use of firearms on civilians, closure of the democratic space and witch-hunt on opposition leaders by State security agents, all serve to dampen the little hope that the world had placed on the emergence of a freer and democratic Zimbabwe.
The little positive lights that had shown in the country prior to the elections had given hope that, indeed, Zimbabwe had come of age and stood to be counted among other democracies, but that hope went up in smoke in a flash, as lawlessness creeped back.
Mnangagwa had until last week projected himself as a beacon of hope and his short tenure had somehow restored a certain calm and opened up the country for business, with the elections supposed to be the launchpad for Zimbabwe’s long-term revival as an economically advancing democracy.
But now, with the opposition back in their trenches and the military doing policing duties, any hope of a renewed Zimbabwe has rapidly evaporated and with it, Mnangagwa’s credentials as a reformer.
Despite the provocation from disgruntled opposition activists, it was unstatesman-like for Mnangagwa to unleash armed soldiers on defenceless civilians exercising their right to be heard. It would be tragic for an insecure Mnangagwa to dig in and fall back to the military as his source of power. The best he can do under the circumstances is to urgently reach out to his rivals, defuse the latent mistrust a large section of the public still has for the judiciary to create an atmosphere in which the courts can act independent of intimidation by either a riotous public or an overbearing executive.
It’s given that after bitterly losing the presidential race, opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa would soon seek recourse at the courts of law, so it’s incumbent on the president-elect to ensure these operate independently.
Unless he has something to hide, he should even allow for a recount of the presidential ballots to prove his critics wrong and prove to the whole world that his victory was through a popular vote.
Mnangagwa ought not to lose focus and see his victory as just a triumph for his ruling party, but as a challenge and opportunity to repair the damaged country and restore hope for all, regardless of political affiliation.
This is time he cloaks himself in statehood and bring the nation together once more or condemn it to a banana republic that had become its hallmark under former President Robert Mugabe.