Zim one year later; Any reason not to miss Uncle Bob?

By Amos Maseko

“Mugabe gave us a bonus…his successor must do better than him,” said PTUZ secretary general Raymond Majongwe during last week’s demonstration for a wage review by teachers.

Also at a party rally recently, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa said President Mnangagwa was worse than Mugabe.

“He is a worse dictator than the old man himself,” Chamisa said, while claiming the nemesis was spying on him.

The two comparisons on former President Robert Mugabe and his successor came at an opportune time as the country stops to review a full year since Mugabe’s ouster that was largely unexpected.

But with Mugabe now consigned to annals of history, spotlight comes to Mnangagwa who took over with promises of economic prosperity and similar pledges to restore citizen freedoms.

Economy

Critics say Mnangagwa has failed on this front as the unemployment rate still remains unacceptably high despite his famous “öpen for business” mantra.

Prices of goods and services have shot through the roof while cash shortages persist up to date. The pricing chaos has spotlighted on his  poor dexterity in handling the volatile matter.

The Zimbabwean leader has however shown willingness to remedy the crisis with Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa saying Mnangagwa’s efforts were “real”.

“…I believe it is real,” Masiyiwa said, adding, “I believe President Mnangagwa is sincere with the things he wants to do. It is going to be extremely challenging. Everyone knows that.”

He was commenting about the need to lift Western imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa has led with arrests on former ministers and high profile business persons on corruption although he has been criticised for being selective.

He has introduced tough austerity such as his 2 percent levy on all electronic transfers in attempts to rid the country of its debt burden but has not escaped censure for making lives too difficult for ordinary citizens.

Impunity

Critics thank ED for taming a police force that had become a menace to motorists through endless bribe soliciting roadblocks.

But his biggest blemish remains his government’s hand in the death of six civilians August 1 with civil society and the opposition linking the crime to soldiers deployed on the day to quell wild skirmishes that followed the July 30 election.

Mnangagwa has tried to make amends by appointing a seven member Commission of Inquiry that comprises foreigners and Zimbabweans, among them Lovemore Madhuku, a known government critic,especially on constitutional matters.

Campaigns for the July 2018 elections were even commended by rivals for having been peaceful although he has failed to escape the rigging narrative that dogged Mugabe and isolated the country.

The enjoyment of freedoms seems to have improved although artists are still cautious on what to express in their creations.

Media

Mnangagwa has failed to fare any better than Mugabe despite a chance to reform media before elections..

State media remains firmly in the state’s hands while ZBC’s coverage continues to be biased towards Zanu PF. All newly licenced radio stations are linked to the ruling elite.

Private broadcasters remain unlicenced with no sign of any community radio stations despite promises. Journalists continue being harassed as they go about their duties.

Patronage

Mnangagwa seems to have failed to separate the state and his party right from the helicopter travels during campaigns although he has managed to dump some of Mugabe’s traits which included the bussing of party supporters to the airport to welcome him from abroad.

The state leader has also managed to stop some of the praise singing that was often associated with Mugabe although he did not do himself any favour after he buried a party activist and ally, Magura Charumbira, whose only claim to fame was his brave heckling of then First Lady Grace during Mugabe’s Bulawayo rally in October last year.

Extravagance

Ngwena also  came under fire soon after elections when he hired an expensive jet from Qatar to transport Grace Mugabe back from Singapore for her mother’s funeral using state resources.

He has so far travelled less compared to Mugabe.

Mnangagwa’s motorcade still remains too big although he could claims threats on his life since surviving previous assassionation attempts.

International relations

Although the result has not matched the effort, Mnangagwa has made steps to reengage the country’s erstwhile enemies as shown by his end to a 16 year ban on Commonwealth and EU election observer teams.

The Zimbabwean leader has also refrained from his predecessor’s firebrand condemnation of the West and IMF during many international fora.

Internal relations

President Mnangagwa seems to be struggling in terms of early acceptance among his own people.

The 2018 election showed that his party was more popular than him with the Zanu PF presidential candidate scrapping a mere 50,8 percent of the national vote while his party romped to a two thirds majority.

Mnangagwa has failed to mend his bad boy image in restive Matebeleland which still regards him as the enemy for his role in 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities that killed 20 000.However, documentary about the sad episode has been produced as screened without harassment.

But he has tried to placate the predominantly Ndebele western region through activating the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and lately, his roll out of devolution, a favourite subject among Ndebeles.

Mnangagwa has shown signs of reform when he also buried former boxer Langton Tinago at the Midlands provincial heroes acre as often demanded by Zanu PF critics.

Philani Mabhena, a South African based Zimbabwean who is keenly following events back home, tries to sum up Mnangagwa’s rule so far.

“ED is democratising the country but is careful not to upset his party, a monster that has fed and survived on corruption and impunity,” Mabhena says.

“He is in this unenviable position of having to please both the monster and the people of Zimbabwe at the same time.

“Through recent arrests on former ministers, he has created fear and uncertainty on institutions of corruption.

“Mnangagwa has also managed to listen to the ordinary voice through his move to phase out the old guard which has been a liability to the country. The decision to give them Zanu PF jobs is just a matter of giving them a soft landing but he has shown enough he wants them out.

“He is bringing in people with a new culture and it is easier to teach a new dog new tricks than those who have been around for decades.

“However, he has not done this with distinction as he has drafted in people like Energy Mutodi, whose claim to fame was his open “I’m the Boss” support for him during Zanu PF’s bruising succession fights.”