By Nick Mangwana
The New Dispensation brought civility into our politics. It brought respect and, more importantly, it brought dialogue. This dialogue replaced diatribe against the Western powers, diatribe against the opposition and even diatribe against some of our neighbours such as Botswana. President Mnangagwa told a rally in Bulawayo that it took a dialogue of just seven minutes for President Khama, President Lungu and himself to reach a multilateral agreement on Kazungula crossing.
That’s why his Government favours dialogue to solve issues. This is what has been dubbed as re-engagement by the new Zimbabwean Government and has also been made one of the underpinning pillars of the 2018 Zanu-PF manifesto.
Re-engagement has not been a one- dimensional effort. The Zanu-PF manifesto has five underpinning principles, that is unity, fighting corruption, re-engage and develop and create jobs . Under re-engagement the issue of national branding is key. The re-engagement policy adopted by the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) has included engaging the opposition parties, civic society, students, the Diasporan community and basically all stakeholder communities in Zimbabwe.
One of the most historic moments in Zimbabwe’s polity was when the Presidential motorcade arrived at the stricken Morgan Tsvangirai’s house to pay him a visit and give offers of both treatment and financial relief. Following this was a dignified repatriation of his body from South Africa and State-funded funeral. This was clearly an olive branch being offered and the first move in re-engaging the opposition.
It’s really tragic that the opposition has snatched at every such branch offered and claimed entitlement. But regardless, the domestic re-engagement effort remains undeterred because at the heart of it is the rebranding of Zimbabwe and the rebuilding of local, regional and international partnerships. And, yes, the opposition are not enemies, they are part of local partners. The only problem is that they don’t know it or see it that way (yet).
Rebranding is all about changing the established look to influence outsider and insider stakeholder perception. The Zanu-PF manifesto recognises how pivotal this is to its effort to change the economic fortunes of our country. This means that how our country is perceived by the rest of the world as important in rebuilding investor confidence. It is quite unfortunate that the opposition has been doing its best to ensure Zimbabwe remains the way it has always been perceived contrary to a level playing field in which they are campaigning unhindered. In fact, isn’t it ironic that during this election season, the only people with a cancelled event were Zanu-PF? So efforts on the domestic front are complemented by a sterling job being done on the international front.
The international community headed by Great Britain is doing its part to normalise relations with Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is also keen to join the community of nations and has bent over backwards to near breaking point to ensure that its national interests are put above personal egos.
The British government should be applauded for quickly restoring bilateral relations with Zimbabwe and supporting the transition to credible, free and fair elections. Having interfaced with the British at high level, this writer can posit that their attitude has always been that their quarrel was never with the people of Zimbabwe but its then leader, president Robert Mugabe. But we leave that to history. Let’s move forward.
Our country continues to face a lot of challenges. What President Mnangagwa has done is to galvanise the local investor, the foreign investor, the student community and all sections of the Zimbabwean community together with one sole objective of changing the course of our country and turn it around. Everything that anybody can do to bring international business confidence, the Government has done.
The few areas that need to have tangible results out there before the elections are a substantial arrest or conviction. That will be the distinction between rhetoric and reality. So far in everything else there has been action then talk later. This Government as captured in the manifesto of the party of Government is exactly what the doctor ordered for this country.
For the first time the Zimbabwe Government has taken its Diaspora quite seriously and the re-engagement with them has not been superficial like in the past. Whilst in the last government a Diaspora directorate had been set up in the Macro-Economic Ministry and Dr Obert Mpofu had done an exemplary job to develop that, there was no buy-in throughout Government.
The difference between that era and the current one is that every minister that has gone into a foreign country where there is a body of Zimbabweans has engaged them. The President has led this thrust by also meeting the Diasporan community wherever he has gone including the Middle East.
There was once a notion that Zanu-PF had no resonance with the Diaspora but most serious opinion leaders and community leaders in the Diaspora have embraced the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa Government because every policy that makes sense has been adopted.
For the first time Zimbabwe is asking its skilled Diaspora to come back and not only invest but help rebuild the country by investing its human capital. The Zimbabwe Government now sees the Diaspora much more than just a source of vital remittances but as serious developmental partners. Had there be no court judgment issued by Justice Gwaunza against the Diaspora vote, the Government was serious about ensuring that Zimbabweans vote from their places of residence. As things stand now it’s not clear how the Government is going to proceed but clearly fighting this instead of the Diaspora re-engaging with its Government is now proving to be ill-advised. But that’s for another day.
There has been an all-encompassing approach which is quite sustainable because it encourages Zimbabweans to invest in their own country. It calls on the international community to invest in Zimbabwe but does not beg for charity. It says come, let’s talk business that’s why the mantra now symbolised by the emblemised scarf is, “Zimbabwe is Open for Business”. There is an honesty and sincerity in the way things are being done.
President Mnangagwa acknowledges mistakes that have happened in the past but refuses to be held hostage to those errors. He has vowed to learn from and never to repeat them. Now, the rate at which a person learns and gains experience is called a “learning curve”. President Mnangagwa has had that experience. He knows what works and he knows what doesn’t work. Zimbabwe’s foreign policy is taking a 360-degree global view. At the heart of it is not ideology but national interests. It is the best policy fit for current geopolitics.
Our country is halfway into the global system and cannot be given to anyone who believes the country should chuck out Chinese investment when even Great Britain courts Chinese investment. The New Dispensation leaders understand the current world order and geopolitics and in Dr SB Moyo, President Mnangagwa pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
Compromises have been made in a big way and everyone should have perspective. Zimbabwe is coming to every engagement table with a serious tacit repudiation of certain ideological positions. For a revolutionary party that’s not an easy position to take. The level of flexibility shown by the New Dispensation Government needs rewarding through a serious global support. The civil society should play a positive role.
There are elements of civil society which are making fake videos of alleged human rights abuses. Instead of trying to justify their funding or trying to unlock more funding by acting contrary to national interests, our partners in civil society should also creatively adapt and find space within the New Dispensation. There is nothing that says they cannot complement the Government and the nation to bring prosperity and equity. Their funding is not predicated upon adopting an adversarial approach towards the Government. In fact, it has been proved that engaging with the Government and complementing each other’s efforts will go a long way in making them very effective.
The Government has played its part. When the British government said that it was giving £5 million of new UK aid funding “to support the strengthening of democratic electoral processes in the run-up to and following the 2018 elections.” To the surprise of many and contrary to the past Zimbabwean Government positions, President Mnangagwa supported that funding by saying “I also want to thank the UK for its £5 million investment today in Zimbabwe’s civil society organisations. These NGOs play a vital role in strengthening our people’s ability to participate in democracy. They promote dialogue, tolerance and respect — all vital ingredients to a free society.” This from a Zanu-PF leader was a policy volte face and showed how much this reform is serious business.
The Government of Zimbabwe has engaged rivals, critics, the intelligentsia, the Diaspora, international institutions and international observers are landing in Zimbabwe by the day. Re-engagement is nothing short of a sign of courageous leadership and for that this Government deserves a chance to see its policies through.