This is not an apology for Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (ED) as President of Zimbabwe, but a careful examination of the facts. Mnangagwa, popularly known as Ngwena, has been President of Zimbabwe for two years only, but calls for his resignation are getting louder and vociferous each passing day. Domestically and internationally ED is perceived as a protégé of the late former President Robert Mugabe.
A co-ordinated and well-orchestrated campaign was unleashed against him since he took over from RGM to malign his character, undermine and destabilise his government on social media, domestic and international newspapers and on-line-publications.
The intent is to convince the gullible public and the intentional community that ED’s administration is not a ”new dispensation,” but a continuity of the Mugabe era. The scandalising and destabilising campaign led by the MDC Alliance, civil society and the so-called Spotlight Zimbabwe publication (most likely a G40 publication or Zezuru project) is vicious, relentless and brutal in its ferocity and intensity.
Some of the architects and proponents of this campaign have personal vendettas against ED and bitter for having lost the opportunity to grab the coveted Zimbabwe presidency. Unfortunately, ED’s administration has a weak or ineffective information department to counter these vicious attacks which are a threat to national security. Furthermore, the Zanu PF commissariat department lacks cadres in the mould of the indefatigable Mayor Urimbo to energise the party.
ED is accused of failing to resuscitate the Zimbabwe economy destroyed by 37 years of RGM’s disastrous economic policies and mismanagement. ED’s critics and enemies assert that he has failed to change the electoral and political landscape to allow fair competition among political actors.
In this regard, ED must do the honourable thing and resign.
The MDC-A claims that he is an ”illegitimate” President who stole Nelson Chamisa’s victory. What remains a mystery is why Chamisa contested the 2018 elections in the absence of electoral reforms.
Even more puzzling is why he took his failed presidential bid to the Constitutional Court knowing as he claims it was captured by Zanu PF? It is reasonable to speculate that some marriage of convenience had taken place between the MDC and G40 elements within Zanu PF before the elections. The G40 convinced Chamisa that with their support he was going to win the presidential election. After his loss, they further encouraged him to challenge the ED victory in court. All these machinations did not work.
Against this background, the following questions beg for a thorough interrogation:
Has ED really failed to usher us into a land full of milk and honey?
Is ED a Mugabe protégé?
Why does ED have so many enemies inside and outside Zimbabwe?
To all intents and purposes, it is too early to suggest that ED has failed. An economy that has been in comatose for years can never be resuscitated overnight. The painful truth is that the national economy has virtually collapsed.
ED was never given a chance or breathing space to govern or prove himself. From the outset, he was set for failure by his enemies inside and outside Zanu PF, particularly those who are benefiting from the perennial Zimbabwe economic crisis.
The MDC soon after the November 2017 ”coup” went on a diplomatic offensive telling the Western world not to lift the sanctions. Chamisa, his deputy Tendai Biti, and some leaders of the civil society in Zimbabwe convinced the USA Foreign Relations Committee not to remove the so-called targeted sanctions claiming that ED was not sincere in his desire to create a new political and economic order. Inside Zimbabwe, prices of goods and services shot up to levels never seen before even during the Mugabe era.
Undoubtedly, the violence after the 2018 elections and the subsequent intervention of the army indicate a hidden hand to sabotage and destabilise the ED presidency. Business, commerce, civil society, remnants of the G40 and the MDC-A are working in cahoots to foment unrest and to ensure that ED fails. ED’s enemies are using the freedom of speech made possible by the new dispensation, but posit that ED is no different from Mugabe. What an illogical argument?
The MDC was in the GNU for five years and failed to implement a single electoral reform and now want ED’s administration to do that in one year. We have no examples in history of any country which recovered from economic and financial downturns within a year. The call for quick solutions and immediate tangible benefits from Zimbabweans is understandable, yet there is no gain without pain.
The laying of correct economic fundamentals is a must if Zimbabwe is to recover from the current economic quagmire and regain its former glory. What is missing from Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s economic recovery plans are safety nets for the have-nots.
That said, the government cannot watch helplessly as business and commerce continue to behave irresponsibly, eroding the wages and salaries of workers. Yes, they are in business to make profit but not to the extent of creating instability in the country through reckless price increases.
By and large, ED is incomparable to Mugabe. Mugabe was intolerant of divergent ideas or opposition to his rule and criticism of him as a person. He was a firm believer in command economics, not free-market economics.
He isolated Zimbabwe from the family of nations and persistently and consistently vilified the West. ED, as many honest commentaries have observed, is sincere about market economics and re-engagement with the West. He does not at every opportune moment recklessly attack the West or his enemies. Unlike Mugabe, ED is determined to build a culture of tolerance and maturity in Zimbabwean politics. Although a lot of work needs to be done, ED has liberalised the political landscape. What is clear is that the MDC is failing to reciprocate by behaving as a loyal opposition as it prefers to act like a rogue opposition party.
Within Zanu PF, opposition to ED’s presidency is largely motivated by tribal considerations. The ethnic factor has dogged Zanu PF since its formation in 1963. The different ethnic groups within Zanu PF fight for supremacy, leading to internal conflicts and convulsions. Arguably, the Mugabe presidency created a Zezuru hegemony and dominance (not a Shona one, as the Ndebele mistakenly think). The Ndebele mistakenly think that the Shona are a homogenous group, but the reality is that they are not. With the fall of Mugabe, the Zezurus have lost control of the political power which guaranteed and maintained their dominance in all sectors of the Zimbabwean society. It is reasonable to argue that they are not happy that ED a Karanga is now President. They view the ED presidency as a threat to their political, economic and social interests. The ED presidency has brought to the surface the long-standing Karanga-Zezuru feuds which have been going on for years under the radar during the Mugabe era. ED must decisively deal with the ethnic factor in Zanu PF through a leadership renewal and regeneration both in government and party.
Outside Zanu PF, other groups dislike the ED presidency for different sectional reasons. Some, not all Ndebeles hate ED with a passion.
The Ndebele are bitter about ED’s role during Gukurahundi, but perhaps fail to comprehend that the architect of that dark and sad moment in our history was none other than Mugabe himself. According to the Ndebele, all Shona people connived to eliminate them. Unlike Mugabe, ED has allowed free speech concerning the Gukurahundi period and the exhuming and re-burial of victims of this “moment of madness” in the history of Zimbabwe. The whites are still angry after being dispossessed of their farms and do not trust ED. The MDC Alliance is desperate to be the governing party.
Diasporans are bitter that they are still disenfranchised.
The Western world is uncomfortable with a Zanu PF presidency because it does not give them a free hand to access the resources they need from Zimbabwe. The remnants of G40 now coalescing around Savior Kasukuwere are the most vocal enemies of ED because they lost the succession battle.
Mugabe’s former spin doctor, Jonathan Moyo will never forgive ED because he thwarted his desire to destroy Zanu PF from within and ultimately become the President. These groups cannot give a sober assessment of ED’s administration. ED has done a lot to date. He is silently working. However, there is a need for a robust information department to inform the nation of his accomplishments.
It is fair and just to judge ED after the end of his five-year term, not earlier.
Lovemore Sibanda (PhD) is assistant professor of history/social studies college of education, teacher education and administration department at the University of North Texas, United States.