From his first coming as President — in November last year — Emmerson Mnangagwa has sought to portray himself as a Statesman, a man who would put the needs of the nation first and rise above the poisonous and partisan politics that were the hallmark of his predecessor.
Needless to say, former President Robert Mugabe thrived on partisan politics, which poisoned the political waters and left the country deeply divided.
Mnangagwa, despite being part of the worst excesses of the Mugabe regime, promised a new Zimbabwe, with a return to the rule of law underpinned by free and fair elections, and to heal the political divide.
“I am not oblivious of the many Zimbabweans from across the political, ethnic and racial divide who have helped make this day and who thus have legitimate expectations from the office I now occupy,” he said at his inauguration following the resignation of Mugabe after the military took control of the country and confined him to his palatial Borrowdale house.
“The decision of my party is merely for purposes of political identification, as I intend, nay am required to serve our country as the President of all citizens regardless of colour, creed, religion, tribe, totem or political affiliation.”
But the full scale of Zimbabwe’s problems are only becoming abundantly clear after the Constitutional Court affirmed his victory in the July 30 elections.
That Zimbabwe’s economic situation remains parlous, thanks in no small part to policies detrimental to foreign investment among other reasons, was underscored this week as the country woke up to news of shortages of cement, threats of bread shortage and fuel running out in parts of the country.
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The fall of Mugabe and new elections presented Zimbabwe with a viable and sustainable path to recovery through political reform and economic re-engagement with the outside world.
But the fractious election showed a deeply polarised country that will need more than rhetoric to heal.
It will take bravery and pragmatism on the President’s part to realise the “path full of freedoms, democracy, transparency, love and harmony. A path of dialogue and debate. A path of “unity, peace and development” he promised at his second inauguration in under a year, this time with a full term to chart a way forward for the country.
The challenges are aplenty. The foreign currency crisis, which this newspaper has extensively reported on and the attendant consequences only serve to underscore the importance of accelerating the government’s re-engagement game plan.
Mnangagwa needed credible, if not free and fair, elections to put the plan into action successfully. And he almost pulled it off after a carefully choreographed run-up to the polls and the election day itself, only for an ill-advised military operation that killed seven civilians in the aftermath to spoil the party.
While Mnangagwa has earned plaudits for appointing a commission to look into the regrettable affair, it may not be enough to heal the rift with a disaffected populace.
He must also come up with a game plan to deal with the re-imposition of limited economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and re-affirmation of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act by the United States, which remains the single biggest stumbling block to sustainable levels of the much-needed foreign direct investment.
How Mnangagwa overcomes the serious political obstacles to re-engagement will show if Zimbabwe elected a Statesman or a poor relation of Mugabe.