by Tendai Ruben Mbofana
It was very somewhat inspiring and encouraging witnessing the amazing interest that both the international business and political establishment placed on the ‘new dispensation’ in Zimbabwe, and the vast optimism with which they have accepted the positive messages delivered by President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa on the country’s future, during the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
In fact, listening to Mnangagwa speaking during an interview at the Davos forum, I could not help being similarly encouraged that there was a possibility that he was genuinely determined to bring prosperity to the once food basket of Southern Africa – but, had been shamefully destroyed into a basket case by the former president Robert Gabriel Mugabe administration.
Mnangagwa spoke glowingly on Zimbabwe now a different place, with a different agenda – fighting corruption, renewing damaged international relations, reforming indigenization laws to attract foreign direct investment, holding free, fair, and nonviolent elections, and how his performance should be judged from day one, as he wanted to hear the people’s honest opinions so as to improve his performance, amongst other issues.
Who would not fall in love again with Zimbabwe after hearing such words from the country’s new president?
As expected, the world responded enthusiastically – although, some with the expected and prudent guarded optimism – if the comments from various global political and business players are to be taken seriously.
Nevertheless, in the midst of all this hullabaloo, we all need to take three deep breaths, and take some timeout to seriously and soberly consider the reality of the facts on the ground in Zimbabwe.
It would be nothing short of being foolhardy if the world did not carry out some investigations into the real goings on in Zimbabwe, as to what is true nature of the political landscape.
Firstly, there is an urgent need for them to thoroughly study who truly is in charge of the country, and if Mngangagwa’s words have any clout in the country.
A quick flashback to the events of November 2017, and afterwards, will give a clear picture of the situation in Zimbabwe.
It was the military that orchestrated the removal or ‘resignation’ of Mugabe, whilst Mnangagwa was in hiding in South Africa – only to return once his position had been secured.
He was not even present when the ruling ZANU PF party held its extraordinary meeting, which demanded the immediate resignation of Mugabe, and expelled several members, including the wayward then First Lady Grace. As far as most observers are concerned, the whole sudden overwhelming rebellion against Mugabe and the G40 cabal was initiated by the military – as only days before, the party appeared resolutely behind its leader and wife.
So what happened? Nevertheless, the subsequent resignation of Mugabe during parliamentary impeachment proceedings against him, also ushered in the Mnangagwa era.
After his take over of both the party and the country, Mnangagwa proceeded to appoint the military into very powerful positions within both institutions – the only significant changes to what remained a largely Mugabe-era government.
The former military men – as Mnangagwa’s government lacks any significant women presence – wasted no time in showing the country who truly were the bosses – leading to some political analysts concluding that Mnangagwa could merely be a frontman for the military.
In fact, some analysts have even gone as far as suggesting that the military just ‘allowed’ Mnangagwa to be president in order to avoid negative repercussions from the international community, as it frowns heavily upon coups.
The general notion within most circles is that the military’s direct entry into the political life of the country is a clear sign that they intend to go for the ultimate prize – the presidency.
Who can blame those who assume such a notion, as ZANU PF politics has – over the past two decades – revealed that anyone holding the vice presidency aspires to take over the head of state trophy – unlike Simon Muzenda who seemed content with his lot.
Therefore, with an army man – retired General Constantino Chiwenga, who spearheaded the ‘resignation’ of Mugabe – as the new vice president, every tongue predicts that he is positioning himself for the top job.
This presumption has not been without merit, as supported by the vicious infighting that has dogged ZANU PF over the past two decades – whereby Joice Mujuru and Mnangagwa fought running battles over the VP post, as a sure way to succeed Mugabe. Similarly, when Mnangagwa took over the VP post, after the sacking of Mujuru, the former First Lady was now being touted to be after that post – leading to the military intervention.
As much as one positioning themself to take over the presidency some time in the future, might not appear that sinister at first glance – the role of the military in the removal of Mugabe and the installation of Mnangagwa, leaves most speculating that it is the military that is effectively in control of the country.
Why would not our minds suspect such?
Mnangagwa was definitely not the power behind the military intervention, it was Chiwenga – so why would anyone not assume that it was he (Chiwenga) who had the power to choose who would be the next president – he could have even chosen himself, if he had so desired, but as mentioned earlier, there would have been unenviable consequences from the international community.
Thus, common sense would tell me that a person who has the power to remove a sitting president, and the have the power to determine who would succeed him, is the one with all the power.
As much as this is just conjecture, it would be safe to assume that Chiwenga is the one who is truly in charge of Zimbabwe.
Given this very educated assumption, it, therefore, would be foolish for any international business and political entities not to study the military’s view of democracy and economic fundamentals in Zimbabwe, before merely basing their decisions on Mnangagwa’s statements.
According to some unverifiable reports, Chiwenga recently held a meeting with the country’s business community on the ongoing incessant price increases, in which it is alleged that he used threatening language for prices to be reduced.
Is such an attitude towards the business community, assuming this is true, conducive for the foreign direct investment that Mnangagwa so desperately needs and is eloquently clamouring for?
Therefore, the international community has to first satisfy itself with who truly is in charge of the country, before excitedly rushing into any investment deals, and giving the ‘new dispensation’ the thumbs up – lest they regret later.
Additionally, the human rights, and the free, fair and violence-free elections assured by Mnangagwa may all end up being just but a pipe dream, as all have to ascertain how the military responds to such aspects of a truly democratic dispensation as, the right to peaceful demonstrations, freedom of the media, the right of all political parties to campaign freely and peacefully, amongst other issue.
The international community has to be convinced beyond any measure of doubt that – with the military fully having its tentacles in the political fray – this ‘new dispensation’ is truly different from the brutality of the Mugabe-era.
All the sweet words of Mnangagwa could amount to hot air, if the military’s perception of issues is not carefully studied.
Let us all soberly study the situation in Zimbabwe very carefully, as failure to fully grasp the fundamentals may lead to disaster for both the international community and the people of Zimbabwe.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is the Programmes Director of the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice). Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also ‘Like’ the ‘ZimJustice’ page on Facebook.