Candid Comment: The next five years cannot be more of the same

In the run-up to the August 23 polls, Mnangagwa announced that this would be his last term, as per constitution.

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s re-election for another five-year term was inevitable, thanks to the power of incumbency, according to critics and observers alike.

In the run-up to the August 23 polls, Mnangagwa announced that this would be his last term, as per constitution.

“I am going for my second term. It is my last term. I believe that the building of our land depends on us, the modernisation of our country depends on us,” Mnangagwa told a local television in a pre-election interview.

“People from outside can only come to support our programmes.”

While Zimbabwe’s constitution limits the President to only two five-year terms, some members of his Zanu PF party had already made it clear that they planned to lobby for the removal of term limits to allow Mnangagwa more time at the helm.

But with his party denied the advantage of a two-thirds parliamentary majority by the elections, there is no room for constitutional gerrymandering to give him a third term, as has become common in some African countries.

That should give him enough freedom to focus on his stated wish to develop and modernise the country.

His first five years were focused on infrastructure development, especially agriculture and roads.

But Zimbabwe needs a change of direction from Mnangagwa to make the next five years palatable, starting with stabilising the domestic currency, which has lost over 99% of its value since it was re-introduced in June 2019.

He has already pledged to keep the Zimbabwe dollar as the currency of business, but needs to make further reforms to avoid further turmoil.

The Zimbabwean dollar’s travails have led to high inflation and worsening poverty in the country.

Unemployment also remains rife, with only 25% of adult Zimbabweans reportedly holding formal jobs.

Mnangagwa has his work cut out, but he needs to tackle rising debt and figure out how to attract foreign direct investment and create jobs.

He needs to persuade investors to adopt the attitude like that taken by its biggest investor in the past five years, Zimplats.

“It always remains our position that to be an active player in the country while operations remain stable is far more favourable than being an observer from the outside,” Nico Muller, the chief executive officer of Implats, the holding company of Zimbabwe’s largest miner told South African media last week.

The election to give Mnangagwa a second term was widely panned for failing to meet regional and international norms and violating Zimbabwe’s own Electoral Act and constitution, but with his inauguration on Monday this week, he has five years to create a legacy that sets Zimbabwe on a truly developmental and prosperous path.

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