What does Mnangagwa need to do?
He needs a few quick wins on the economy. The economy cannot be turned around in just months, but he will be desperate for something to show as evidence of progress.
The corruption fight led by ZACC has so far descended into a farce, hurting the credibility of Mnangagwa’s anti-graft promises. His March deadline for people to repatriate “externalised” money will provide some political theatre. There will be high profile arrests, possibly even of members of the last ruling family. This can either hurt or damage Mnangagwa.
He is desperate for a passably credible election win, but violence and intimidation are such a long and cherished tradition in ZANU-PF that the party actually has to work extra hard to convince supporters that they can win an election without beating people up. A big job for Mnangagwa and his new commissar, the Retired Major General Engelbert Rugeje.
A new rift within the ruling party is not too farfetched. There are fault lines that they refuse to speak of; between the powerful securocrats and the politicians, and between that old guard and impatient younger members shut out of leadership positions last December.
The campaign will not be easy. Mugabe’s loyalists will launch some form of resistance campaign, especially in Mashonaland provinces. Mnangagwa will have to introduce himself to many among ZANU-PF’s rural support base, long used to Mugabe. Even in his home province of the Midlands, many still despise Mnangagwa over the alleged involvement of some of his lieutenants in violent gold dealings there.
Opposition in the opposition?
But the prospects for the opposition aren’t any better. The main opposition, the MDC-T, is now facing the prospect of heading into an election without Morgan Tsvangirai as its leader. He has hinted at an “imminent” retirement.
A heroic and much-loved fighter who stayed too long, Tsvangirai would leave his party right where ZANU-PF was not long ago; a party divided by its leader, but also only united by him. Divided if he stays, divided if he goes.
Following last Friday’s surprise visit by Mnangagwa, from which images of a jovial yet frail Tsvangirai emerged, the opposition’s own fault lines have been laid bare. Despite George Charamba and other officials saying the visit had been initiated by Tsvangirai, the MDC-T leader’s loyalists accused his deputy Nelson Chamisa of somehow engineering the visit to expose Tsvangirai’s state.
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