Tendai Kamhungira 4 November 2018
HARARE – When Zimbabwe’s army took power in a bloodless coup exactly one
year ago, it promised to bring happiness back by ending social and
The military said the coup was needed to “target criminals” around then
president, Robert Mugabe and to stamp out corruption which had plagued
Zimbabwe for decades.
A military spokesperson, Major Gen S.B Moyo, now Foreign Affairs minister,
made an announcement on State television saying the army was targeting
“criminals around” Mugabe, who were “committing crimes that are causing
social and economic suffering in order to bring them to justice”.
But as the coup’s first anniversary approaches on November 15, President
Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is facing a public perception crisis, with
the economy stuttering and corruption as endemic as ever.
The government has also been accused by the opposition of stealing the
July 30 general elections, and creating a legitimacy crisis.
The MDC Alliance challenged the election result in the Constitutional
Court, ruling that Mnangagwa had won legitimately, though electoral reform
to cut the advantage of incumbency was a necessary condition for a truly
free and fair outcome in future.
Despite claims of despondency and gloom in Zimbabwe over the court
decision, there was little tangible evidence of either.
For the most part, Zimbabweans reluctantly accepted the Con-Court verdict
and just wanted to get on with things amid hopes that the new president
was going to keep his promises.
Mnangagwa was sworn in on August 26, as president – signalling the start
of addressing the big challenges facing the country after decades of
neglect and repression.
MDC Alliance’s defeated leader, Nelson Chamisa, added the court ruling to
the list of things it rejected and claimed the recent elections were “the
theft of the century.”
Chief Justice Luke Malaba said Chamisa “failed to provide direct and
substantial evidence to allegations of vote rigging, which would be
sufficient for the court to invalidate the election results.”
“Had the applicant placed all the V11 forms (which contain voting data
from polling stations) from all polling stations before the court, they
could have been compared with the residue in sealed ballot boxes, and that
would have addressed the allegations of over-voting, the differences in
presidential and parliamentary tallies, the alleged surge of voters (in
the last hour of voting day) in some provinces, and the question of
probability of some polling stations having similar results.”
In his inaugural speech, Mnangagwa pleaded for unity above political
differences in order to confront the tasks that lay ahead.
“We are all Zimbabweans, what unites us is greater than whatever divides
us,” he said.
“Let us look forward to the journey ahead, a journey we will walk together
as one people. A united people. Together let us explore new frontiers in
every facet and sphere of our economy and society.”
When he first came to power in November, Mnangagwa said his rule was the
beginning of a new and unfolding democracy” and vowed to revitalise
Zimbabwe’s ravaged economy and to rule on behalf of all the country’s
But in recent months his government has been the subject of ridicule with
locals saying conditions have deteriorated since July’s contentious
Petrol, food and medicine shortages are biting amid sharp rising prices of
In recent weeks, some vital commodities have become scarce, with motorists
in Harare, the capital, spending nights in their cars in queues outside
petrol stations, supermarkets rationing purchases or shutting entirely,
and chemists unable to provide some basic medicines.
The immediate cause of the crisis was the introduction of a new two
percent tax on electronic transactions intended to raise revenue from the
vast informal sector that has mushroomed in recent decades.
In the meantime, corruption is worsening.
Zimbabwe was last year ranked 157th out of 175 countries on the
Transparency International index, which measures public perceptions of
corruption in public institutions.
But others think the government has done what it set out to do.
Deputy Information minister Energy Mutodi told the Daily News on Sunday
that there is room for improvement in the programmes that they have
already started implementing that are meant to improve the country’s
“There are a number of issues that have changed one of which is the
opening up of the democratic space. Since the entry of … Mnangagwa as
head of State, police brutality has waned and the freedom of expression
has been fortified. There has also been emphasis on the need to respect
the opposition, tolerate dissent and promote peaceful co-existence,”
He said the July 30 harmonised elections were historical in that for the
first time, the country had a peaceful plebiscite.
He however, said, “Elections can never be free and fair in the eyes of
everybody and as a young democracy; we have a big room to improve and
perfect our systems. On the economic front, the president has invented the
`Zimbabwe is Open for Business’ mantra and it is real. There is real
commitment on the part of government to weed out corruption, unfair
business practices that injure the public and to improve the economic
performance of the country for the benefit of everybody.”
Mutodi further said it was business unusual, and government had changed
the way it transacts business.
“It’s time to be realistic and take serious and painful steps to correct
the errors of the past. Government through the Transitional Stabilisation
Programme now aims to achieve an upper middle-class economy by 2030.
“That is the vision of our president ED Mnangagwa and we will help him
achieve this. As a response to the government commitment to reform, a
number of investors are warming up to invest in Zimbabwe and we hope to
achieve an active job market in the nearest future,” he said.
However, the worsening economy has fuelled a resurgence in anti-government
The opposition MDC Alliance, which lost the June elections, said the
government had spent the last four months trying to extend its illegal
hold over Zimbabwe.
The MDC Alliance has rejected an invitation from the “junta” to work
together as the official opposition.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Jacob Mafume, however, said nothing has changed
since Mugabe left.
He said the country was still dogged with rampant corruption, State
capture, theft and primitive accumulation.
“Since… Mugabe left power, it has been a case of flying from the pan
into the fire,” Mafume told the daily News on Sunday.
“It has become clear that Mnangagwa is the source of many of Mugabe’s
activities. Firstly, Mnangagwa is clueless on the economy, he believes
that he can threaten the economy, he believes that they can cause the
economy to work, it can’t.
“Politically, Mnangagwa is still using the same laws, he is threatening
enemies, arresting people insulting him, dividing his own party, creating
factions where there are none, failing to observe human rights, failing to
observe the Constitution and so forth,” Mafume said, adding that Mnangagwa
has violated certain norms and values of democracy.
Although the government has repeatedly promised to return happiness to the
Zimbabwean people, some disgruntled locals say they have run out of
An agricultural economist who declined to be named for professional
reasons said the agricultural sector, which accounts for a major chunk of
the economy, has been particularly hard-hit by the pricing madness.
The government has since promised millions of dollars in loans to help
stabilise agricultural prices and offered farming input handouts – leading
critics to say it has employed tactics akin to the populist policies of
the government it ousted.
Still, analysts say popular dissatisfaction is unlikely to dislodge the
The opposition seems weary of bloodshed if it takes to the streets.
Namibia-based scholar Admire Mare said even though there have been
significant changes noted, more still needs to be done, as some of
Mugabe’s policies are still in place.
“What has changed is the general sense of the freedom to speak and
associate but much still needs to be done to ensure the right kind of
democratic ethos are mainstreamed,” Mare told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Polarisation remains one of the biggest problems. Even though Bob
(Mugabe) has gone, there are still economic and social problems which
require concerted effort. The standards of living continue to deteriorate
for the ordinary people. Most laws are still yet to be aligned with the
new Constitution. Whilst police road blocks have become fewer, our
infrastructure still require a huge facelift to compete regionally,” Mare
Another political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said so many things have
changed, yet so many have remained the same since Mugabe’s departure.
“Politically, Mugabe and Grace (Mugabe) with their crude version of
patronage and dynastic politics are gone, though Mnangagwa is struggling
to shrug off Mugabeism completely. Mnangagwa showed some modicum of change
in some of his politics, such as retiring deadwood to Zanu PF
headquarters. But he went miles further in militarising our politics by
getting serving generals into Cabinet,” Saungweme told the Daily News on
“Economically, what is happening now was bound to happen as it’s causes
can be traced to Mugabe, serve for the premature announcement of monetary
and fiscal policies that created speculative behaviour and price hikes.
Socially, nothing changed, it’s still the same,” he said.
Under Mugabe, several people were arrested over politically-motivated
charges, as human rights abuses were rampant, a scenario political analyst
Rashweat Mukundu said is still in place.
“It’s up to the new government to dismantle the structures of repression,
human rights abuses, and corruption that sustained the Mugabe regime.
“While ED (Mnangagwa) talks of change there remains the same culture and
attitudes hence we still see the police harassing citizens, reports of
grand scale corruption among others. There is space for significant
reforms only if ED does not focus on power but on national development and
transformation,” he said.
However, government has said it is working towards making serious changes
in the way of doing business in the country.