HARARE – The honeymoon is over for President Emmerson Mnangagwa as he is under pressure to put in place significant social, economic and political reforms ahead of next year’s elections to set himself apart from his predecessor, Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa came into power following the resignation of Mugabe, who had been the country’s leader for 37 years.
Mugabe’s rule was tainted by serious economic challenges, a deteriorating political situation, and a widening human rights deficit that fomented criticism against his rule.
Mnangagwa’s coming in was therefore touted as the dawn of a new era, with Zimbabweans from all walks of life expecting a clean break with the past.
His inauguration speech had lifted the people’s hope after announcing austerity measures to get the country’s economy to work again while also promising to tackle rampant corruption.
But just under two weeks after his inauguration, Mnangagwa is already under serious pressure from a wide section of Zimbabweans after announcing a Cabinet line-up on Thursday, packed with deadwood.
His Cabinet was also insensitive to issues of gender equality and youth empowerment with critics saying Mnangagwa demonstrated hypocritical respect towards these critical issues.
The choruses of disapproval rang even louder on Saturday after Mnangagwa dropped some of the ministers before they could be sworn in upon realising that he had appointed eight non-constituency Members of Parliament into his Cabinet beyond the five provided for in the Constitution.
Human rights activists have also been raising the red flag over the manner in which the so-called “criminals” around Mugabe have been targeted by the military during its intervention last month.
For Mnangagwa, it is not only the economy that he has to deal with. He has to review several obnoxious legal and socio-political frameworks that were put in during Mugabe’s era.
The National People’s Convention (NPC) made up of churches, non-governmental organisations, labour unions, residents organisations, women’s movement and youth organisations, wrote a letter to Mnangagwa recently, detailing their expectations from his administration.
“Ours is a moment we ‘dare not squander’. In this regard, we believe that a well thought-out transitional period and mechanism would offer the nation sufficient time to establish a conducive environment for free, fair and credible elections. Our first election in this new dispensation should therefore be open to all citizens, including those in the Diaspora. As a first step it is, therefore, critical that existing electoral laws and bodies be aligned to the 2013 Zimbabwean Constitution.
“Additionally, in order to enhance the integrity of our electoral processes and outcomes, your administration should consider accreditation of all local, regional and international observer missions, and a continuous biometric voter registration (BVR) process. Further, the BVR process should—in keeping with the constitutional right to access to information—be made open for verification by civil society,” the NPC said.
The Welshman Ncube-led MDC also said there is urgent need for a return to normalcy, constitutionalism and a swift stabilisation of the country’s economy, a demand supported by the other MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
MDC spokesperson, Obert Gutu, yesterday said opposition political parties have been deliberately denied access to State– controlled print and electronic media “and we honestly hope and trust that the Mnangagwa presidency will usher in a more democratic and tolerant trajectory that firmly abides by all the dictates of the supreme law of the land. We now look forward to the creation of a policy framework that will, inter alia, create provincial and metropolitan councils, in tandem with the provisions of our national Constitution”.
Economic analysts say the 37-year ruin by Mugabe cannot be dealt with overnight, and that Mnangagwa has an uphill task ahead of him.
Economic analyst Davison Gomo said Mnangagwa must be in a position to analyse and understand the issues that caused the current economic mess if ever he is to succeed.
“If you look at it, you will find that some of the biggest questions were to do with trust and confidence, the question of governance, how inclusive was the governance, the kind of laws, what were the laws and regulations appropriate for local and international investors, how transparent was the system.
“There was widespread corruption and patronage and if this was true, the current government has to make sure that all these issues are dealt with one by one,” Gomo said.
Gomo added that investors are not necessarily going to look at the policies that Mnangagwa will put in place at the moment but will get clues from his speeches and check how far he is willing to break from the past.
“In my view, it is important to create the right infrastructure. He has to show that he means his words. Corruption has to be dealt with in terms of the Constitution and the cleaning up must not be sectional or factional. No one must be spared,” he said, adding that people need to get proper services from local government authorities and that there has to be total respect of the rule of law.
Another economic analyst Christopher Mugaga said the changes that took place were only in terms of the leadership.
“For now, there is nothing more to expect in terms of significant changes, but he has a chance and is under pressure to show that he is different from the previous administration.
“He (Mnangagwa) has to take corruption head-on, which has to be dealt with at a national level. As it stands, we understand that he has already arrested (former Finance minister Ignatius) Chombo, but it has to be dealt with at a national level not factional,” Mugaga said.
Mugaga said there are a lot of changes that need to be done to the media, in terms of painting the actual situation on the ground as opposed to patronage reporting.
“He must prove that he has broken from the past for example on issues to do with indigenisation and of course he hinted on the issue of the land reform. He should take steps to achieve that but it’s not easy, it also has repercussions,” he said.
He also believes that Mnangagwa must speak clearly about the succession plan as this will boost the confidence of local and international investors.
Mugaga also told the Daily News that Mnangagwa must be able to bring fresh blood in parastatals and government ministries and not seek to reward his allies, but listen to the people.
Another respected economic analyst John Robertson said Mnangagwa needs to create conditions necessary for investors to come into the country.
“He must create conditions that support investment, which is what lacked for many, many, years. If we have investors, we get good growth through taxes. The country was destroyed by policies,” he said.
Robertson told the Daily News that the main task ahead for the new administration is to promote investment, which will help create jobs and revive industries.
This calls for a policy shift.
“The main one is the policy that would secure the investment of foreigners who would want to invest in the country. There has to be respect for property rights and land has to be brought back on the market. Land right now has been disabled by taking it off the market,” Robertson said, adding that people must be able to borrow money from banks to utilise the land.
Analysts were unanimous yesterday that it was now time to put shoulder to the wheel as Mnangagwa seeks to bring meaningful change to the lives of Zimbabweans while at the same time proving to the world that he is different from Mugabe.
Mnangagwa is expected to usher in a new dispensation, with many eager to see how he is going to deal with the issue of the Diaspora vote ahead of next year’s elections.
They also hope to see him implementing electoral reforms, aligning the country’s laws with the Constitution, implementing devolution and allowing dual citizenship, among other issues.
All these are some of the issues that Mugabe has been refusing to implement during his tenure, and it is certainly a litmus test for Mnangagwa as he seeks to appear a reformist to the international community.
In the eyes of the general populace and the international community, the way he is going to deal with these issues will be a determining factor on how democratic he is going forward.