Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
SUNDAY, August 26, saw Emmerson Mnangagwa being sworn in as Zimbabwe’s second executive President, effectively putting to bed the prolonged election season in the country.
Forty eight hours earlier, the highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court had thrown out a challenge on the President’s election on July 30.
Nelson Chamisa, President Mnangagwa’s main challenger, who led the MDC-Alliance into the election, had disputed the results which gave the latter 50,67 percent of the vote and 44,3 percent for him.
The case smelt political from the onset: challenging the incumbent and stopping his inauguration were deeply political moves and motives that could not be ruled from the start.
Even without deep cynicism as Zimbabwe’s opposition is afflicted with.
Not unexpectedly, the apex court threw the opposition’s application for want of evidence.
From the day the court sat, through Sunday – the inauguration day – there has been a growing national sentiment that “the country must move on”.
The understanding is that the season of politicking – that silly season and probably the silliest in years – is over and people ought to go back to their lives and not be prisoners of the high emotions of the electoral period.
(There are those with deep cuts emotionally and are still nursing them. We are not going to pretend that the idea of “moving on” is universal.)
Yet move on the country will.
Therefore, what constitutes post-election Zimbabwe and what is likely to happen to parties, personalities and institutions involved in this past season and what are the issues that people must lose sleep over?
We give you the A to ZEC (pun intended) of the major movers and shakers in post-election Zimbabwe.
The MDC-Alliance did not fare too badly for a political outfit that was hampered by leadership questions and a largely discohesive and ineffectual consociational outlook.
Chamisa “grabbed” power following the death of Morgan Tsvangirai, the party’s founding father on February 14. Chamisa muscled out senior cadres, Thokozani Khupe – the elected vice president of the party – and Elias Mudzuri alongside whom Chamisa had been made co-vice president.
Chamisa used chicanery to push them out: a combination of violence, pseudo-constitutionality and manipulation of certain party instruments.
Khupe could not stand it and went away from Harvest House, the party’s headquarters, albeit claiming to be the legitimate MDC-T. It was a matter that went to the courts and curiously, Chamisa ceded the tussle. This was because he would then go with the alliance even though it was not formally constituted as a party.
It was a gamble that he likely pinned on the outcome of July 30. But that is unravelling spectacularly. Chamisa, throughout the process, wanted a strong hand as legitimate leader. His loss in the election leaves him in a precarious position, not least because some of his alliance principals and partners have parliamentary seats and formal constituencies to report to.
Chamisa can only be rescued via a powerful political position negotiated with his political betters on the other side.
Whether that comes to pass is conjecture at this point.
And a point has to be made at this point that whereas going into this contest Chamisa was billed as a charming and charismatic character, he has lost a lot of respect because of his antics during the show.
His continued doggedness and refusal to accept results even when the election process was subjected to the test of the courts is not impressive either. From here, he has to work hard to convince the world about his statesmanship. He will also have to work hard on his messaging and leadership. Just as well, there could be a looming leadership challenge within the alliance with the aim of formalising it as an entity. There, he will meet some old foxes that have got the better of him previously and will likely want to consign him to the dustbins entirely.
President Mnangagwa first came to office on the back of Operation Restore Legacy in November 2017. He has since charmed much of the world with his reformist and pragmatic approach, his tolerance and temperament.
Yet for all his best efforts, there was one thing that was lacking. It was called legitimacy. Perhaps not in the strictest, value-and judgment-free sense. He was the President after the ruling party recalled Robert Mugabe and replaced him with his deputy that he had unceremoniously fired. Mugabe himself resigned on November 21, amid a combination of factors, including the prospect of impeachment. But Mugabe later on went to begrudge his successor.
The world at large cautiously embraced the new President, pending elections. July 30 then happened.
Emmerson Mnangagwa won. The courts upheld his victory when it was challenged. On his fine day on Sunday, the world, including Mugabe himself, congratulated him. What this means is that the President can hold his head high because he has all the legitimacy in the world. This will give him power to do lots of things and fashion the country after his image, if need be.
Let’s take this further. If there should be one thing that President Mnangagwa knows, or should know, it is that Zimbabwe and the world are expecting a good Government in Zimbabwe. It is a Government that takes care of its people first and foremost by providing for their needs so that they do not go (away) hungry (and angry).
Zimbabwe has had enough of those years. The economy will be a crucial deliverable for the new Government.
Freedoms and enjoyment of rights – which Zimbabweans have already tasted in the transitional period – will also be paramount. The Constitution of the Government will be key as people expect civil servants that deliver and inspire confidence.
President Mnangagwa has promised servant leadership. That will be nice. Apart from that, people expect to see more technocrats and young blood in Government, those seized with ideas of making bureaucracy less heavy and service delivery efficient.
One thing that held back the ruling party is infighting or factionalism. This has led Zanu-PF to spend more time managing internal dynamics, sometimes of a deadly nature, while keeping the eyes off the ball.
There are fears that the trend may continue, not least because the results of July 30 show a rather strong tinge of players that are not exactly interested in playing for the manager.
Before elections, President Mnangagwa hinted that there were plans to have a putsch post-election. It is to be hoped that President Mnangagwa will have the ingenuity to quickly and effectively pacify any internal issues that may have the effect of derailing his vision and efforts, if not cause a security threat to the country.
Money, money, money
One of the early measurements of the success or lack thereof in the new Government’s administration will be the availability of money in the banks.
Sorry, people are not exactly going to be lectured on the desirability and efficiency of plastic money and mobile transactions, etc. The fact is, some – and many actually – require that old, smelling banknote.
The reality is that for these old, smelling banknotes to depose of certain businesses, including travelling abroad and purchasing property, people have been buying money on the streets. And it hurts.