Emmerson Mnangagwa artfully disguised the manoeuvre that ousted Robert Mugabe from 37 years in power last year as a ‘military-assisted transition’ rather than a military coup.
He thereby escaped suspension from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU), which officially outlaw coups.
He also largely evaded the censure of the wider international community.
Will this smooth, though also ruthless, operator again outfox international donors, creditors and investors this year by presenting a plausible impression of free and fair elections to win their financial support – while relinquishing none of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front’s (ZANU-PF) firm grip on power?
A large infusion of foreign capital will be crucial to Mnangagwa’s plans to revive the economy which Mugabe, eyes firmly fixed on power and ideology, ran into the ground.
Analysts mostly agree that Mnangagwa is determined to revive the economy, but that it won’t be easy.
Derek Matyszak, a Harare-based senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), believes large-scale investment would continue to be deterred by the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act.
This act obliges foreign businesses to surrender majority ownership to Zimbabweans (unless it is amended to reflect Mnangagwa’s policy pronouncements).
He also believes investment would be deterred by ZANU-PF’s mass seizure of white farms, which shattered confidence in the sanctity of private ownership.
Mnangagwa has said he will ease the act so as to apply only to platinum and diamond mining and has promised to pay compensation to white farmers and return land to some.
But Matyszak notes that he will probably tread carefully, especially on the latter, as more than 300 000 smallholder farmers who benefited from the land seizure are a critical component of ZANU-PF’s constituency.
To the international financial institutions and donor governments, perhaps the bigger question will be whether he will also liberalise Zimbabwe’s politics by loosening ZANU-PF’s iron grip on power.
Further, one may add, will economic revival depend on this?
Mnangagwa has presented himself as a political reformer and has promised free and fair elections, which are expected to be held around August, although there are unconfirmed rumours that he wants to postpone them by three years.( He has said they will be held in four to five months-ED).
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