‘Mnangagwa’s rule in danger’ – Think-tank

Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's president, center, arrives for a meeting of the Zimbabwe Business Club in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Thursday Jan. 18, 2018. Mnangagwa shows no bitterness toward Robert Mugabe, who he served as a right-hand man through the liberation war against Rhodesia and since independence in 1980, and still calls an “icon.” Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

A BRITISH think-tank has warned that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s continued hold on power faces significant challenges unless his government acts to end the country’s worsening political and economic crises.

In addition, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) also says that the government will use security forces to repel the restive populace in the event of riots – further stoking political tensions in the country.

All this comes as Zimbabwe is bracing for planned anti-government mass protests on July 31, which have further stoked political temperatures in the country – resulting in raids by suspected State operatives on the homes of some government critics.

“The president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, faces growing threats to his authority stemming from ongoing economic and political crises, which are being exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Several clashes have occurred between workers and security services as many people struggle to earn a living.

“Further unrest is likely as restrictions remain in place for most workers and the economic crisis continues.

“Mnangagwa came to office promising sweeping political and economic changes, raising public and international expectations,” the EIU said in its latest report on Zimbabwe.

It also said reform efforts by the government, since the dramatic fall from power of the late former president Robert Mugabe on November 2017 – via a widely-supported military coup – had been slow and piece-meal.

“Public sector strikes over poor working conditions and low real wages have been increasingly common in recent months.

“As the economy contracts further in 2020 and 2021, with extremely weak fundamentals exacerbated by the domestic and international economic effects of the pandemic, further strikes and protests are likely.

“The government is likely to continue to crack down heavily on protesters to maintain its grip on power,” the EIU further warned.

“The military plays a central role in domestic politics. If senior military figures perceive the president to be incapable of preventing economic collapse, they could move against him,” it added.

All this comes as political temperatures in the country continue to rise, with the opposition and pro-democracy groups mobilising citizens to join the mass protests slated for July 31.

Last week, the organisers of the demonstrations said there was no going back on the mass actions.

This had raised fears that the stage could set for potentially bloody clashes between the protesters and often trigger-happy security forces – particularly after both the government and the ruling Zanu-PF vowed to crush the demonstrations, claiming that the protests were meant to topple Mnangagwa from power.

“The momentum that has been gathered, as well as the buy-in from Zimbabweans, is so overwhelming that nobody – not even the police or the convener – can stop it.

“The decision to demonstrate was reached while we were already under lockdown. So, there is no going back.

“We are not going to let go if we don’t get the result we want,” the main organiser of the protests, Jacob Ngarivhume, said on Thursday.

“So, let it be known that it is not going to be business as usual. This is not one of those demonstrations that have been held where people march and go back home.

“This one is going to mark a turning point for this country. It is a defining moment. We, therefore, do not expect the police to interfere with the demonstration because we have notified them,” Ngarivhume, leader of the opposition Transform Zimbabwe party, added.

The planned protests also come as political tensions are rising in the country over Zimbabwe’s deepening economic crisis, which has triggered anxiety and restlessness among long-suffering ordinary people.

The British think-tank said further that there was no respite for the country’s suffering masses, as the economy would continue to tank – with Zimbabwe’s relations with most of its international partners remaining strained in the foreseeable future.

“Managing the economic fallout from the pandemic will dominate government policy in 2020, alongside ongoing efforts to revive the economy and attract investment.

“Despite the pro-business rhetoric, there have been few meaningful reforms to Zimbabwe’s business environment.

“Aid inflows will remain sizeable given the mounting humanitarian emergency stemming from the economic crisis and exacerbated by the pandemic; the UN estimates that more than half the country faces food insecurity this year.

“Aid flows will bypass the government, going directly to non-governmental organisations and other local groups, and therefore will not appear in the fiscal accounts,” the EIU said further in its grim report.

Turning to ongoing efforts to end Mnangagwa’s brawling with Nelson Chamisa, it blamed the 77-year-old Zanu-PF leader for spurning the chance to do so.

“The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has been pressing for dialogue between the two main parties to address the economic crisis.

“However, several MDC activists and members of Parliament have been arrested as the ruling party attempts to stifle opposition voices,” it said.

This comes as the church and several other groups have in recent weeks ramped up their efforts to convince Mnangagwa and Chamisa to end their long-running feud, which stems from the hotly-disputed 2018 polls, which were narrowly won by the Zanu-PF leader.

Both Chamisa and Mnangagwa have previously said that they were interested in dialogue, although nothing concrete has happened – primarily because of differences over the form and platform on which the talks should take place.

Mnangagwa insists that any talks with Chamisa should be held under the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) – where he regularly holds meetings with fringe opposition leaders.

Chamisa has repeatedly ruled out joining Polad – demanding instead direct dialogue with Mnangagwa.

At one time, both men appeared ready to finally end their brawling when former South African leader Thabo Mbeki separately held talks with them last year over the country’s worsening economic rot.

Mbeki – who helped to broker the stability-inducing 2008 government of national unity between former opposition giant Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe – was in the country in December last year, to try and nudge Mnangagwa and Chamisa to hold direct talks.

Source – Daily News