South African think tank, the Institute for Security Studies, says Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa is “making the right noise” over the revitalisation of the country’s economy but “it’s impossible to hold free and fair elections without reforms”.
In an interview with News24, ISS senior researcher, Derek Matyszak, said Mnangagwa was going to gain international backing and trust when it came to revitalising the country’s economy.
“He’s certainly making the right kind of noise regarding the economy and he would obviously earn international backing and trust on that front. He is signalling a serious intent on economic reforms,” said Matyszak.
Mnangagwa said at the the World Economic Forum in Davos (WEF) last week that economic and trade corporation issues would be top priorities of his new government.
The president said that his message to the world was that Zimbabwe was open for business, and would look at all legislation to see what had been preventing investors from coming in.
Mnangagwa said investors were free to come and invest in any sector, including minerals, with the exception of the diamond and platinum sectors.
He also told the gathering that his government believed that thinking along racial lines was “outdated” when it came to farming and land ownership.
Mnangagwa said white Zimbabwean farmers left on the land had integrated “happily” into the country’s new farming system, albeit on smaller land holdings.
However, Matyszak said he did not see the Zimbabwean government backtracking on its land policy.
“I don’t think there is going to be any backtracking on the country’s land policy. Remember, the land reform programme is a central policy of the ruling Zanu-PF party, therefore, he [Mnangagwa] is not going to drastically stretch it. He says that he is willing to pay the farmers and that shows that he is not going to change the ruling party’s policy on land ownership. This then means he needs an economy that is transformed and working in order to raise the money,” said Matyszak.
‘Won’t be a fair vote’
Mnangagwa, who took office in November after a shock military takeover led to ex-president Robert Mugabe’s ousting, has also promised to hold a fair vote before July.
Reports indicated that under Mugabe, who ruled since 1980, Zimbabwean elections were marred by vote-rigging, intimidation and violent suppression of the opposition.
“Next month I will be able to make a proclamation of elections, so I believe that elections will not be in July, they will be earlier than July,” Mnangagwa said at the WEF.
“We want to have free, fair, credible elections, free of violence,” he said, adding he would welcome international observers.
But according to Matyszak a free vote was impossible without institutional reforms which included an independent media, and the electoral body, which was accused of bias towards the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Matyszak said that the vote was being rushed to avoid implementing the necessary reforms.
“There won’t be a fair vote with the current institutions. They are all captured and are not independent. There is barely any independent voice in the country.
“For instance, the semi-independent media also have their own agenda. And I don’t think the ZEC [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] is going to be reformed…,” said Matyszak.
Matyszak also called on the army to publicly proclaim that it would stay out of politics as it was instrumental in keeping Mugabe in power during the 2008 elections.
He said: “When Zanu-PF lost the vote in 2008, the military stepped in and metered violence against the opposition and this resulted in Mugabe retaining power. What is required now is for the military to step back and publicly declare that it would not take any side on the vote.”