But what next? What does 2018 promise at this point in our history. What I would have liked to see was a national government, negotiated with all stakeholders in some form of national convention which would govern the country until we were ready to return to democracy – in, say, 5 or 6 years. It was not to be and despite his willingness to consider such a possibility, Mnangagwa was eventually forced to compromise with his security chiefs and the result was a cabinet made up of some exceptional figures and some who are simply people who are as guilty as anyone of massive corruption and human rights abuse.
The other thing that we saw was the military junta, that has, in effect, been largely responsible for running the country and making key decisions, has come out into the open and taken key seats in the new government. The man who ran the “smart coup”, General Chiwenga has been appointed Vice President. But in his place is the best soldier in the country – a real professional who will change the face of the armed forces and ensure that we have a small, but highly proficient army which does not dabble in politics.
So, what lies ahead for us in 2018? Firstly, we know the most crucial event is the election, which must take place in July or August this coming year. The President has made it clear, he is going to deliver a free and fair election, the outcome of which cannot be contested by anyone. He knows what that entails, and that the international community will hold him to his word and demand that he delivers in every way. The signs are already there that this is being considered and that changes are being implemented. He is the master mind behind the 2013 elections when ZANU-PF could literally decide who would win and who would lose. The result a clear victory for ZANU-PF with a two thirds majority in the House and another 5 years for Mugabe.
Mnangagwa is in absolute control of the State and I think he is going to deliver. One of the key elements behind this strategy is that he knows the opposition is in shambles. The other thing he knows full well is that only a democratically elected government will be recognised by the international community and recovery and reconstruction of the Zimbabwe State and Economy is not possible without that.
I was given a transcript of his speech in Shona to the faithful at the ZANU-PF headquarters in Harare when he returned from his brief exile while the coup was planned and executed. In that address he showed clearly that he understood what a free and fair election meant for him and the party. He told them not to interpret the mass displays of emotion as support for ZANU – it was the very opposite and was simply a clear demonstration of how much the Mugabe leadership was hated.
He also made it clear that his own record was a hindrance and that he and the party had a lot to do before they could win a free and fair election. The key, he argued was to get the economy back on its feet and to restore hope among the people of Zimbabwe. The one thing I know about this man is that he is an operator and should not be underestimated. He appointed his cabinet on Sunday, swore them in on Monday and held his first Cabinet on Tuesday, setting his new ministers targets for the first 100 days and threatening that any minister who failed to achieve his or her targets was vulnerable.
Already you can feel the impact of this early momentum. Time alone will tell, but the early indications are that we will see very significant changes in 2018 and that our economy and maybe our country, will begin the long road back to where we should have been, but for the Mugabe era.