Mnangagwa keeps nation guessing

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has kept the nation on suspense after announcing that he would be looking at the successes of 2022 to celebrate how far Zimbabwe had come.

Mnangagwa, who is on his annual leave until the end of this month, posted on his twitter handle on 4 January: “I will be taking a look back at the successes of 2022 this week in order to celebrate how far Zimbabwe has come and learn from our great journey.”

He only posted one project, the same day, the Gwayi-Shangani dam which is expected to improve the lives of the people in Matebeleland North and end the water woes of Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo.

“I want to recognise the successes of the last year, beginning with the groundbreaking progress we have made at the Gwayi-Shangani Dam. We are making the lives of Zimbabweans better each and every day,” he said and has not posted anything else since.

Political observers believe that Mnangagwa will be using projects as his rallying point ahead of the harmonised elections set for July or August this year.

“Mnangagwa is not as great an orator as his predecessor (former and late President) Robert Mugabe, so he is going to use projects to speak for him,” one observer said.

“One thing to his credit, though, is that he has not embarked on populist, short-term projects, clearly indicating from the word go that he was not a one-term president. He has embarked on long-term projects such as the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, the Beitbridge -Harare-Chirundu Road. This was a clear indication that he was in it for the long-haul.”

One of his staunchest supporters, economist Eddie Cross, who authored his biography, though at the time he was a key member of the opposition, even at one time blamed Mnangagwa for having a bad public relations team.

Cross told South Africa radio in May 2021 that Mnangwga had done a great job of transforming Zimbabwe but the world did not know about this because he was a lousy politician and a poor communicator.

“One of Mnangagwa’s biggest failures is communication. He is not a good communicator. He is not a good speaker. He is a lousy politician,” Cross said..

“I am deeply critical of people like the IMF who have feet on the ground here. They know exactly what’s going on. They get information from our system every week, every day almost. And they know damn well what’s happening and they can see the consequences and they have given them (Mnangagwa’s administration) absolutely no credit for it whatsoever,” he said.

“On top of that when I was in the opposition party, the MDC, we had roughly one of our members abducted every day for 17 years, 4 800 odd people. Many of them were never to be seen again. Over the last three years we have had five abductions, four of which we think were staged by civil society to try and get the attention from the media and they got the attention from the media and I think that the message is slowly coming through.

“I tell you, for example, there are 1 200 young white farmers back farming in Zimbabwe. These are the grandchildren of the farmers that were shut down by Mugabe during his fast-track land reform programme.

“On top of that we have a third generation of young industrialists who have come into their companies and they are making a huge impact here. Halsteds, Graham Halsted, Graham Richards in the Richards group, I could roll off a dozen companies, they are flying and they are doing extremely well.”

According to the Sunday Mail, big-ticket infrastructure projects that will be wrapped up this year include:

  • Lake Gwayi-Shangani, which will permanently end Bulawayo’s water woes and create a greenbelt in surrounding communities;
  • the Harare-Beitbridge highway;
  • Hwange units 7 and 8, which will add 600MW to the grid;
  • the Beitbridge Border Post modernisation project; and
  • the expansion of Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

The paper said there were also several multi-billion-dollar initiatives by the private sector such as:

  • the US$1 billion steel plant in Manhize and
  • new lithium projects — Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe, Sabi Star Mine and Zulu Lithium.

It quoted Mines Minister Winston Chitando  saying: “Projects which were underway and will be commissioned (this year) include the Arcadia Lithium Mine project, which will be commissioned in the first two months of 2023; Sabi Star Lithium Mine, which will be commissioned around June 2023; and the Bikita lithium expansion, which will be commissioned around August. We also have the Manhize steel project. These four projects on their own… will be a minimum of US$5,5 billion.”

But for now, Mnangagwa is keeping the nation guessing.

He had only about 176 000 twitter followers when he was elected for his first term in August 2018. He now has just over one million followers (1 011 607 at the time of writing).

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