PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa should embrace reform demands made by the United States government and not rush to dismiss them at face value because they are coming from an outsider, and a foreign statesman for that matter.
If Mnangagwa were to take a cursory look at local opposition parties and civic society groups’ reform agenda for the past two decades, he would realise that there is nothing new in President Donald Trump’s demands for reforms in Zimbabwe.
Maybe the only new thing is the demand for the return of the military to the barracks following the conclusion of Operation Restore Legacy that forced former President Robert Mugabe out of power.
Rather than rattle the month-old regime, the demands from the US seem to resonate with the aspirations of millions of Zimbabweans represented by the tens of thousands who stormed the streets of Harare and Bulawayo peacefully on November 18 demanding Mugabe’s resignation.
Revulsion for Mugabe’s rule as shown by the unity of purpose amongst Zimbabweans in the former leader’s last days in office and the acceptance of military intervention, which in ordinary circumstances would have been rejected, should be read as a cry for freedom by citizens.
Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Chiwenga and his men and women did a tremendous job and must now revert back to their daily chores far from the public glare, that of defending the country from possible external aggression. The continued presence of soldiers in the streets, who seem to have taken over the duties of civilian authorities such as police, is beginning to worry ordinary citizens.
Operation Restore Legacy must come to a conclusion as a matter of urgency and allow Zimbabweans to resume normal lives as well as restore the confidence of the international community. Soldiers are not a good advertisement for civilian rule.
The temptation for Mnangagwa is to stick his head into the sand, turn belligerent like his predecessor Mugabe and try to tough it out. It is not a route that Zimbabweans want to walk again. Zimbabweans tasted real freedom on November 18 and they do not want to let go. Mnangagwa, having rode his luck and stormed State House, has an obligation to respond positively by laying the foundation for a truly democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and inclusive society that those who laid their only lives for our liberation yearned for.
It is not impossible to run a free, fair and credible poll next year. If we have nothing to hide and if Mnangagwa is a true reformer, it should not be difficult to allow international observers access to the forthcoming elections. Mnangagwa has been making the right noises. He has shown a little action towards creating an enabling business environment through the partial repeal of the corrosive indigenisation and economic empowerment law. The new President wants sanity in the agricultural sector, but there is more that needs to be done. Mnangagwa has to bite the proverbial bullet and go the full gamut.
Zimbabweans and the international community expect nothing less.