The impending July 30 polls will be about confirming ED Mnangagwa for Presidency, not choosing him for the same.
A ballot-mediated pronouncement and confirmation that what started in the portentous month of November 2017, must now be placed onto a democratic plinth, so it “flowers” into a full-blown Second Republic.
A nod and an endorsement that a post-Land Reform Programme Zimbabwe must now engage and re-engage in order to belong once more, and of course to recover, grow and develop its economy yet again.
Indeed, an expression of confidence that Zimbabwe’s economic recovery, growth and development rests on its great people and resources, guaranteed by a mature, stable, enlightened and incorruptible leadership that delivers jobs and better living standards to all Zimbabweans.
But for all that to happen, Zimbabwe needs a world which is safe and supportive. For that key reason, President Mnangagwa’s emphasis has been on engaging all nations of means and goodwill, be they traditional allies, lost partners or entirely new ones.
The net has been cast very wide and the catch is proving plenteous already, quite promising in the longer term.
Foremost among nations of goodwill are those countries which stood by Zimbabwe, both before and after Independence. These continue to stand by it, but happily now offering more beyond politico-military support and/or solidarity linked to the struggle and soon after.
Today these countries, mostly found in Asia and Europe, have become nations of vast means, having phenomenally transformed themselves into leading global economies and techno-innovators.
Their transformation thus delivers vast opportunities for Zimbabwe in its quest to recover, grow and develop rapidly.
Thankfully, President Mnangagwa fully realises that these old allies are now new economies, new systems, new nations with new values, and under new leaderships.
Zimbabwe cannot engage on old parameters and affinities.
She needs new frameworks for new, transformative partnerships, while promising a mature leadership that assures stability and security, and which can be trusted.
All this was quite apparent during his last visit to China, from which huge foreign direct investments have begun to flow. But these old allies are now highly corporatised, and do require and expect a pro-business leadership that understands the market and that knows that economies run on trust and confidence.
For that there is no room for fickle policy shifts, or for hide-bound ideologues who see the world in stark tones of black and white.
Today’s world is vastly converged, which is why there is much of the East in the West, much of the West in the East, and both East and West in the South. The era of Cold War-type clientele politics is much diminished, if not over. In today’s highly corporatised politics, nations do hunt for good bargains, often crossing old boundaries, affinities and even enmities. Much more, the way to retain old affinities is to engraft onto them new interests, values and outlooks, something pre-November Zimbabwe found insuperably hard to do.
For reasons of history, Zimbabwe’s traditional development partners largely drew from the West, while going beyond that world to include pro-Western polities from all climes all around the world. But the bloc was the West, which became either openly hostile, or indifferent to Zimbabwe as she embarked on her needful Land Reform Programme from 2000.
Today, the Land Reform Programme is largely done, thus clearing the way for Zimbabwe to re-engage on the basis of reciprocal amity and mutual self-interest and economic gain.
Except residual fears persist in that camp, which is why proper, internationally rated polls have been made a key benchmark for rapproachment with the West. Zimbabwe has to deliver free, fair and credible elections, and all eyes are on ED.
That makes him less of a candidate in the current plebiscite, more of an interlocutor for the watchful Western world which places all responsibilities for that on him.
For the West, it is no longer about the outcome of the polls. They know it. It is about the electoral process which must meet most, if not all, international standards, thereby paving the way for substantive re-engagement.
Like never before, foreign policy today shapes Zimbabwe’s domestic politics, policies and prospects, which is why President Mnangagwa has had to be his foremost diplomat. Whatever the opposition might think, Zimbabwe’s polls are not about looking for a President; they are about assessing him.
The growing irritability in the opposition – itself a confirmation of how right the world is on the question of Zimbabwe’s national leadership – arises from this hard fact which the opposition was least prepared for.
And global sea-change on Zimbabwe did not just happen; it was earned by its foremost diplomat, and the selectively scorned Zimbabwean military establishment which endeared itself to most at home, while proving to the world that far from the archetypal African military roguery, it is a formidable keeper of the peace, indeed a force for constitutional good and an orderly democratic transition never seen before on the continent.
ED is much watched. He knows it. Beyond and above all, he knows that playing party politics does not excuse him from offering national leadership which is awaited.
In respect of the latter, it has been a series of seemingly small acts, but all of highly symbolic import in terms of presaging the political ethos the world must expect, post-July 30.
From Operation Restore Legacy, which mobilised Zimbabweans across their seemingly unbridgeable political divide; past the surprising visit to, and support for, Morgan Tsvangirai, the ailing opposition leader; right through to his overriding his own political party and security establishment to give a go-ahead to the opposition demonstration against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ED continues to confound many by exhibiting a democratic cast quite unknown and uncommon to the Zanu-PF leadership of the past.
He hardly fits the block off which he is chipped. This makes him his own man. Today he assures both those at home and abroad that Zimbabwe under him is a land of secure democracy, and full human rights.
Ironically, it is political noise which validates this assurance; for there is no noisier tribute to his democratic temperament than the fact that today he is pitted against 22 other contestants of all shades and temperaments, and against more than 125 political parties.
You can’t miss contended democracy’s happy, blooming petals.
In terms of the ongoing campaign for the harmonised polls, one cannot help but notice the pervasive positive energy which has overtaken toxic politics which dominated our land only a short seven months back.
Peace and order largely prevail in the land, except in some small opposition quarters where the so-called “vanguards” might have caused an incident or two against their own, none of which is serious enough to get the world to anxiously wondering.
The firmament of peace largely holds. A great peace, a great order, which is a carry-over from the amazing days of Operation Restore Legacy. Under the operation, Zimbabwe showed the stunned world it could carry out its own “French Revolution”, but without storming the Bastille, without inventing a guillotine, without beheading a King, nay, without unleashing a Jacobin aftermath.
Measured against our electoral past, you hardly believe we are in an election season, what with the prevailing tranquil calmness, and all this new-found political environment where political canvassing unfolds so unhindered.
What was unthinkable this time last year, has become thinkable, nay, livable in E.D. 2018!
More surprising is the positive, issue-based campaigning ethos which ED has commissioned in the land, and which the opposition, all along wont and wedded to negativity, is struggling to match. All this drives home a key point: in any polity, the electoral mood and outturn depends to a large extent on the temperament of the incumbent and his party.
In a way this indicts pre-November 17 Zanu-PF, while burdening the new dispensation with great political expectations between now and in the long future. ED has disciplined politics inside his Zanu-PF party in order to temper national politics for peace and tolerance.
In every epoch – we can now say – the politics of the ruling party become the reigning politics in the national election! Should there be any departure from this norm of peaceful polling, the world will know who to convict.
How has this all changed? Well, simply by not allowing electoral expediency to outrun epochal responsibilities. Talking to him and watching him weigh and decide on issues, I get the sense that ED knows history will judge him by how well he ushers in and consolidates the Second Republic, never by how easily he is confirmed as Zimbabwe’s second elected Executive President after July 30.
He will be judged on his success in ending Zimbabwe’s costly isolation.
He will be judged on his success in reinventing a new, uniting ethos for Zimbabwe, after a long spell of highly toxic and polarising politics. He will be judged on his success in building into national liberation politics of open democracy and human rights.
Above all, he will be judged on his success in recovering a battered economy, thus giving the Second Republic a secure footing for its entire citizenry.
It is this last concern which has shaped his electoral politics, thus endearing him to the voter who is set to confirm him on July 30 so the elusive jobs can finally be got from a recovered and growing economy.
While his rivals bicker with each other, picket and file vexatious writs against ZEC, he quietly re-opens disused mines, cuts bright ribbon on new factories, delivers livestock, empowers communities, meets and motivates investors and, above all, contemplates reshaping Zimbabwe after July 30.
Happily the economic beast is beginning to stir, suggesting his plan for Zimbabwe does work, and is beginning to bear fruit.
His maiden five-year term after July 30 will mark the birth of the Second Republic, which must occupy the higher end of the middle-income band, its well-educated and skilled citizens daily going to work, leading healthy, secure lives, all in a well-infrastructured country which gets internationally acclaimed as a respected and incorruptible member of the global family of nations.
Happy confirmation Mister President!