Time for West to back Zimbabwe

IF Western governments are sincere about political reforms in Zimbabwe, then they have to support President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s new government.

Guest column by Bruce Mutsvairo

There are no two ways to it.

Long-time followers of Zimbabwean politics will tell you that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), for right or wrong reasons, will struggle to claim power at least until 20 years from now when most of the country’s heroes of anti-colonial bush wars would either have retired or died.

Even then, there is no evidence the ruling Zanu PF party will throw in the towel.

It is difficult to see someone with no liberation war credentials running the show in Zimbabwe. The West may disagree, but that’s the reality.

Zimbabwe is no exception. Liberation war parties, starting with the Botswana Democratic Party, in power since 1965, have dominated much of the southern African region’s political landscape.

Indeed, former President Robert Mugabe’s ejection from power late last year set off a renewed international interest, albeit with cautious optimism in Zimbabwean affairs.

But an election internationally endorsed and rejected in equal measure has left the country crippled.

African observers validated Mnangagwa’s win, while Europeans and Americans expressed concern at the post-election violence, which left at least seven people dead.

Still, anyone who expected a perfect election in Zimbabwe needs his or her head examined.

The country is emerging from several years of brutal dictatorship.

Mnangagwa’s decision to invite international election observers demonstrated his willingness to end Zimbabwe’s global isolation.

That was a very important step because his former boss, Mugabe, wasn’t bothered by isolation.

He kept his doors open only for observers from “friendlier countries”.

Zimbabwe’s democratic institutions need support from the West.

Isolation, starting with United States President Donald Trump’s recent decision to renew the sanctions, will see the country sink deeper into the abyss.

Opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s refusal to accept defeat has nothing do with Mnangagwa’s legitimacy.

Instead, he knows that as long as he digs in, Mnangagwa will not receive the much-needed support from the West, which, if granted, would see the firebrand politician disgraced to the dustbin of Zimbabwean history.

If Mnangagwa succeeds, Chamisa will not be needed.

He obviously doesn’t want that. His strategy for political survival is to continue playing political games by refusing to accept Mnangagwa’s win.

After all, that’s the only way he can remain relevant.

But Zimbabwe is burning.

A cholera outbreak has so far killed 32 people in and outside the capital.

The economy is in doldrums, while the unemployment rate continues to rise.

Mnangagwa deserves nothing, but praise for allowing political dissent to flourish.

Those opposed to his rule have been allowed to express themselves openly.

He has appointed individuals with an international appeal into his Cabinet, while most of the Mugabe-era ministers have been sent packing.

Mthuli Ncube, a former Oxford University professor, is Zimbabwe’s new Finance and Economic Development minister, while former Olympic champion Kirsty Coventry has been handed the Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation ministry in a move that will likely appeal to the country’s minority groups.

If Western governments can support Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, a leader known for notoriously cracking down on independent journalists and opposition politicians, then surely they should also embrace Mnangagwa.

Bruce Mutsvairo (PhD, Leiden) is a professor in the School of Communication at the University of Technology Sydney.


  1. Prof, come back to Zimbabwe and live as the locals do then you might understand why most voters would like a new set of fresh minds to run the country. Why do you expect the West to be sincere about reforms when the current govt is not?
    Most people are disillusioned about this blackmail and holding of the country hostage by “liberators” who deny the populace freedom and rulers who prefer to be feared rather than to lead in a responsible and accountable manner.
    Tying Africa’s future to the past will not help her to improve at all. Freeing the mindset will set us all free.

  2. While you are entitled to your opinion va Mutsvairo it is not helpful for Africa at large and to Zimbabwe in particular to entrench such a mine-set. Zimbabwe does not belong to war liberators but to all Zimbabweans regardless of their colour. Let us not continue living in the past.

  3. kkkkk some professor my foot

  4. Imagine the UK Conservative Party insisting they rule definitely because of their leadership under Churchill, during WW2; or the US Democratic Party doing likewise after FDR and Truman. How sad to read someone seeking to relegate Zimbabweans to a de facto (rejected and failing) one party rule, indefinitely even. More so from the comfort of his distant shores. How sad. No, how odious.

  5. You must have missed something very important prof, the western world’s “demands” are good for Zimbabwe, her institutions and upholding good governance. Only dictators and their supporters would argue against that. Institutions like state media in Zimbabwe are not serving any progressive national cause by being one-sided just to get a cheque month-end for example. State media should reflect as many shades of opinion as there are political parties etc instead it has reduced itself into puerile, rural entertainment for those watching, listening or reading for the first time ever for free.

  6. The bottom line, the plain truth, which may be very difficult to swallow for many is simply this; Africa does not do democracy. Democracy is a creature so foreign to the African psych that it will take millennia, counting form the 1960s when the so called freeing of and attempting to democratise the continent began. To this day not a single country in Africa can be said to be truly democratic and this will likely persist for generations to come. Another way, an alternative way of choosing rulers and leaders has to be adopted not this one man one vote winner takes all western so called democracy. We just don’t do it, can’t do it and wont do it.

  7. Comment…Hongu rubatsiro togona kurwuwana. Asi kwete rwemari,
    kusvika ISU VENE VEZIMBABWE tadzirisa tega mafimbiro nemangetrwo emari mumabhanga chaiwo kwete mabhanga emumigwagwa tigere pazvituru zvebox muna Chinhoyi, Cameroon, First, Eastgate road port etc. Kana China hayitipi. Pakawana anotipa
    zvoreva kuti pasi rose rawora.


  9. What a stupid article

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