HARARE – Zimbabwe, like most African countries’ populations, is dominated by young people.
Historically, young leaders are energetic, rich in new ideas, technically competent with dynamic innovative capabilities.
Unfortunately, Zimbabwe and many other African nations are endowed with the rulership of old men and their old cronies, who are perpetual underperformers with dishearteningly little to offer.
The soft coup that ousted Robert Mugabe has brought another old man who carries millstone round his neck.
Ugandans are trying to get rid of Yoweri Museveni because he is old, 73, and has overstayed his welcome. Yet, by comparison, Museveni is three years younger than President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
In South Africa, the removal of Jacob Zuma was way overdue and his departure ushered Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma, like Mnangagwa, was fired by Thabo Mbeki from the country’s vice-presidency and he bounced back as president a couple of years later.
Zuma became one of Africa’s most controversial leaders, confronted with multiple charges of corruption and State capture by the Guptas.
In Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa has dismally failed to deal with corruption and seems to have allowed State capture by the military.
Zimbabwe youth unemployment sits at over 90 percent even though official government figures claim 10 percent joblessness.
Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia came to power at the age of 40 and was considered old at 67 when he handed over power to Frederick Chiluba.
While Mugabe, Mnangagwa and their Zanu PF were busy chasing away commercial farmers, Mwanawasa passed policies that enabled many ex-Zimbabwe farmers to settle in Zambia.
Reducing corruption made Zambia a favoured investment destination and turned the previously sleepy town of Livingstone into a busy tourist hub.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls became a ghost town. Mwanawasa was one of very few African leaders to criticise Mugabe and his Zanu PF.
In Nigeria, meanwhile, septuagenarian President Muhammadu Buhari is in poor health, and his bold promises have evaporated.
Unlike Mnangagwa’s refusal to take responsibility for his past wrongs, Buhari has stated that he takes responsibility for anything over which he presided during his military rule, and that he cannot change the past.
A former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has publicly advised him not to contest the next elections because of his health.
It’s bad enough that Mnangagwa and his band of old leaders are creaking and unimaginative. But to make matters worse, none of their likely replacements have youth on their side.
Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents are in their 60s.
None are nearly as sprightly as Canada’s Justin Trudeau, France’s Emmanuel Macron, or Austria’s Sebastian Kurz.
It will take much more than a well-spoken leader to correct the economic nightmare.
And Mnangagwa’s government is now so militarised that the iron fist which took care of Mugabe could yet come down on him.
After decades of a government in denial, Zimbabwe needs 2018 to be a year of realism. The road to recovery will be long and arduous (forget the election rhetoric by all major contesting parties).
For years the country has had no financial plan, and its Western and Chinese backers will be deeply wary of its new claims to fiscal probity.
If Mnangagwa thinks he can talk the talk without walking the walk, he will soon be disabused.
It boggles the mind that Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate on the continent and yet we have Patrick Chinamasa for Finance minister. Really.
Mugabe and his ilk — including Mnangagwa, orchestrated politics and society by stacking all three government branches with friends and family.
They ruled the country for four decades using benefaction and fear.
For the common person on the streets, there is no difference between the egotistical, self-glorifying Mugabe and Mnangagwa.
If they don’t make way for younger successors, African elders need to sharpen their thinking, and fast.
For the youth in Zimbabwe, you have a chance for “youth quake” on July 30, 2018!