Mugabe’s tough juggling act

via Mugabe’s tough juggling act | The Financial Gazette by Ray Ndlovu

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, sworn in for a seventh-consecutive term in office on Thursday last week, faces the unenviable task of pulling Zimbabwe out of the doldrums.

It is certain that how he performs in the next five years will make a lasting impression on his legacy that so far has been filled with several twists and turns of high and low points.

President Mugabe, who turns 90 next February, will now need to use all the political wit and acumen he has accumulated over the past 33 years at the helm of  government to deal with a plethora of challenges that plague the country.

These include an economy in recession, pleasing an agitated public service, courting foreign investors and creating jobs for unemployed youths.

Estimates from the United Nations put the rate of unemployment in Zimbabwe at over 80 percent of the national population — with youths bearing the greatest brunt.

The myriad of challenges  threaten to overshadow President Mugabe’s entry onto the political stage as the newly-elected Prime Minister of an independent Zimbabwe in 1980, an event which was celebrated with high hope, pomp and fanfare.

Handlers in ZANU-PF deliberately tried to “re-create” President Mugabe’s inauguration last week along the theme of 1980.

The celebratory mood of independence in 1980 was, however, short-lived in the mid 1980s as the Gukurahundi killings in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces tarnished President Mugabe’s early years in office — when nearly 20 000 people were killed.

Economic challenges which followed in the 1990s brought about by the implementation of the World Bank’s recommended Economic Structural Adjustment Programme was widely seen by political observers as the catalyst that sparked political and civil unrest in the country, which eventually culminated into the political tug-of-war that dominated Zimbabwe at the turn of the new millennium in 2000.

The height of political contestation between President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) led to a deeply flawed election in 2008 and was the impetus to the formation of the government of national unity in February 2009.

President Mugabe routed his rival from the MDC-T in the July 31 election and won 61 percent of votes, against Tsvangirai’s 33 percent of the 3,4 million votes cast.

His win was roundly praised by most African countries but was unsurprisingly frowned upon by the West which held out “grave concerns” over the conduct of the election.

The West’s reservation over the poll is now certain to see the tightening of screws and maintenance of sanctions imposed on President Mugabe and ZANU-PF’s inner circle for the next five-years, a stance which does not augur well for prospects of attracting foreign interest.

The United States last  week indicated that it would   not lift sanctions imposed  against President Mugabe and snubbed calls by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to have the decade-long sanctions removed.

In traditional rhetoric, President Mugabe began his new five-year term in office by launching an attack on the West that questioned his victory and promised in retaliation, that his ZANU-PF would now step up its election promise to roll-out the 51 percent indigenisation programme, which targets foreign-owned companies.

“As for the odd Western countries who happen to hold a different, negative view of our electoral process… we dismiss them as the vile ones whose moral turpitude we must mourn,” said President Mugabe in his inaugural address.

Rashweat Mukundu, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said one of President Mugabe’s challenges was to manage a hostile international community and he has to work hard at normalising the frosty relations.

“While President Mugabe is digging in on his relationship with the West, he needs to be reminded that Zimbabwe is an invisible dot in world affairs and cannot do anything to the powerful Western countries and is better advised to seek a resolution than to prolong the fight,” said Mukundu.

“The ZANU PF government has promised a lot which is near impossible to fulfil and the party is distracted by the succession issue. By claiming this huge electoral victory, ZANU-PF has also put itself in a trap as the party will be judged harshly by voters.”

Other political obse-rvers said the inaugural speech delivered by President Mugabe reflected realism and showed a consciousness of the key domestic expectations upon the new government.

Trevor Maisiri, a senior analyst with the Interna-tional Crisis Group, said the biggest challenge for President Mugabe’s government was more about economic deliverables than anything else.

“Forget issues of legitimacy and issues of the MDC-T party challenges. The economy is the battleground this time around. The biggest challenge for President Mugabe is that even his own supporters are expecting miracles out of this economy in order for them to substantiate his legacy based on the capacity to fulfil his promises made during the election campaign period,” said Maisiri.

A top official at  AfrAsia Kingdom Bank said so much of the country’s future depended on who gets the key economic postings in the new Cabinet.

“The market seems to be looking for firm leadership,” said the banking official.


  • comment-avatar
    MikeH 9 years ago

    mugabe “faces the unenviable task of pulling Zimbabwe out of the doldrums”. Someone is having a laugh !!! He has destroyed, either by design or by ineptitude, a once thriving country over the last 33 years. What makes anyone, in their wildest dreams, think he is capable of this task ??? But, he is welcome to prove me wrong.

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    MDC T ,thank you , you once pulled us out of the cowdungs , unfotunately Mugabe and ZANU will never hourner all the best which was done you , they are now even pushing us back to the stinking pig stires . Mugabe will never be successful without working together with the international community especially the west , his attact to the west had been on for the last 33 years and has never benefited from this . A liberation struggle was there for a common reason and those objectives were achieved by the black Zimbabweans but it raises some trepidations that Mugabe is still in the bush fighting the whites instead of reconciling .Very bad that at his age he is still in a combat acting like a guerilla commander , sorry i have learnt nothing better from him to teach my kids , when is he reconcilling with all races in Zimbabwe and make it clear that Zim belongs to all citzens regardless of colour .

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    Nomsa Ngo 9 years ago

    Mugabe ruined the country this is a forever living fact

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    Murairwa 9 years ago

    Lets wait and see. R. G. Mugabe has a mandate to rule and make sound policies. He is aware that there are people like you who would make comments and be critical of anything he does either way. Most importantly, he is aware that Zimbabweans need to be placed well in positions which will be difficult for any stoogies to reverse in the event of anything happening to our leadership. Nationalistic ideals and policies should remain in place, as this enures continuity. It guarantees that we have freedom of choices with regard to how we proceed as a Nation. His foresight will never fail us if we remain prudent and hold on to values that are meaningful to us as a people. We are different to all others and have to be appreciated fo that by whoever wants to sit on the same table with and share with us, our God given resources and riches. Those of us who are knowledgable will remain in support and right behind him. Please give him a chance and let him do his time.

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    zvichanaka rimwe gore 9 years ago

    Murairwa, Mugabe had a chance for the last 33 years which were full of empty promises. Look at most of the socio-economic indicators which are negative. I challenge both you n your paymaster to prove us, critics, wrong