Mnangagwa feels the heat over Chamisa’s growing SADC network

President Emmerson Mnangagwa with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema
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ZIMBABWEAN President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is increasingly becoming worried about the growing anti-establishment wave sweeping across the region after a recent shock victory by former opposition leader, now Lesotho Prime Minister Sam Matekane (pictured), security sources recently in Maseru say.

Matekane was sworn in on 28 October. Highly placed sources told The NewsHawks that Mnangagwa fears Zimbabwe might be the next front for shock change in the region.

Matekane, like Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema, is an ally of Zimbabwe’s main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa. Chamisa attended the inauguration in Maseru and met with Matekane at the event which was also attended by regional leaders, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Hichilema of Zambia.

Mnangagwa did not attend as he was presiding over the recent Zanu PF congress, and was represented by Foreign minister Frederick Shava. Although he is a political novice leading a new party that was formed six months ago, Maketane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) and its two coalition partners won 56 out of 120 parliamentary seats, a slim majority in parliament, making the business mogul, who has interests in mining, aviation and real estate, Lesotho’s 10th prime minister, and setting a new political record in the region.

He also makes the list of several opposition leaders in the region to defeat incumbents following Hichilema, who dislodged Zanu PF ally, Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF). In 2020, Lazarus Chakwera defeated Peter Mutharika in the Malawian general election, while Felix Tshisekedi also won the Democratic Republic of Congo plebiscite in 2019.

In this year’s Kenyan election, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is close to Chamisa, fell short, losing to former deputy president Willian Ruto.

Hichilema and Chakwera’s victories in Zambia last year and in Malawi in 2020 respectively changed the electoral narrative in the region where incumbents hardly lost power through polls; with allegations of rigging or electoral theft.

Zambian election Mnangagwa similarly exhibited such fears when Hichilema inflicted a surprise victory over Lungu. Intelligence sources told The NewsHawks that Mnangagwa’s administration is closely monitoring Chamisa and Hichilema’s relations and manoeuvres, especially after the local opposition leader’s meetings with the Zambian President twice inside five months; first in Lusaka during his inauguration on 24 August 2021 and in South Africa on 26 January during a book launch.

They met again on 28 October, in Lesotho. The book launch was held at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, 1 Duncombe Road, Forest Town. Hichilema was guest speaker at the launch of a book titled Expensive Poverty: Why Aid Fails and How it Can Work, written by his friend Greg Mills, director of the Brenthurst Foundation, a Johannesburg-based organisation established by the Oppenheimer family in 2005 to promote new ideas and innovation to strengthen economic performance in Africa.

With Brenthurst, Mills has directed numerous reform projects in Africa, including Rwanda (2007-8), Mozambique (2005-11), Swaziland (2010-11), Malawi (2012-14, and again 2020/1), Kenya (2012 and 2020), Lesotho (2008; 2019- 20), Liberia (2006/7), Zambia (2010; 2016), Zimbabwe (2009-13), Ghana (2017), Ethiopia (2019-20), Nigeria (2017-18), and almost continuously at various levels of government in South Africa.

The foundation reportedly bankrolled Hichilema’s United Party for National Development during the last general election and before.

Since HH (Hichilema) came to power, the Zimbabwean intelligence has been working hard to establish the nature of his relations with Chamisa and whether it involves financial support,” an intelligence source said. “Their worry is on various fronts: diplomatic, political and geopolitical.”

Concern over the economy

As reported by The NewsHawks last week, Zanu PF remains worried by the state of the economy ahead of general elections next year, with ruling party officials believing economic hardships will present a big hurdle for the party’s quest to win polls at all levels. Amid indications that Mnangagwa — who secured a mandate to lead the party at next year’s elections —— will call an election at the earliest legally stipulated time, sitting legislators remain concerned that their prosects may be affected by the state of the economy.

Zanu PF got a majority in the National Assembly in 2018 after amassing 144 seats while MDC-Alliance, then under the leadership of Nelson Chamisa, got 64 seats.

“It may be tougher this time around, given the state of the economy and the fact that in 2018 there was a lot of goodwill following the ouster of (former president Robert Mugabe) Mugabe. Zanu PF MPs have expressed their concern over the state of the economy numerous times,” said a Zanu PF legislator.

“It is also on record that legislators have not been happy with the performance of Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, whom we believe has largely failed to deal with the economy. The Hansard is full of complaints and concerns from legislators.”

Concern over the economy was also highlighted by the party in the central committee report presented during congress last week.

On the economy and national security, the ruling party said price volatility caused by sharp exchange rate movements had become a security threat “which consequently had blighted its chance of a landslide win in the 2023 harmonised elections”.

The party hailed interventions by the government, including the introduction of gold coins, which have stabilised the exchange rate, but called for more measures to strengthen the economy. “However, there have been concerns regarding the welfare of the population. It would therefore be prudent for the government to address social welfare issues, including service delivery so that as we approach the elections in 2023 the country does not fall into the same predicament that befell it in 2021 whereby the opposition won some of the crucial urban by-elections despite several infrastructural development programmes done by the ruling party,” the central committee report says.

In July, senators said Ncube and the Reserve Bank had run out of ideas as shown by the introduction of complicated policies that confuse and disadvantage the ordinary people while failing to address the economic crisis. The upper House said the introduction of countless measures had failed to address economic problems, arguing that the minister ignored advice to dollarise which came from stakeholders during budget consultations.

In June, Zanu PF supporters strongly warned the party of impending electoral defeat in the 2023 general election because of the economic crisis.

They also accused Mnangagwa’s deployees in government, particularly Ncube, of failing to address economic challenges while behaving as if they are sabotaging him.