The crocodile swims in murky waters


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Will Zimbabwe’s parliamentary and presidential elections, which must be held by late July, be free and fair?

If so, will Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ZANU-PF party, which has run Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, win?

And if they lose, will they hand over power to the victors, as they have brazenly failed to do in the past?

This set of questions hangs over the country.

One certainty, however, is that Zimbabwe is better off now that it is no longer under the thumb of Robert Mugabe, who ruled it for 37 years.

Even better is that it has not fallen under the sway of his greedy wife, 52-year-old Grace Mugabe, whose tightening grip over her then 93-year-old husband prompted the army to step in, shove the old man into retirement and lift Mr Mnangagwa into the top spot in November.

Yet the new 75-year-old leader, known as the Crocodile, remains an enigma.

He has made some sensible noises, promising to amend a law that declares that businesses should be at least 51% owned by black Zimbabweans or the state.

He wants to compensate the 4 000-plus white farmers whose land has been confiscated since 2000, and re-establish property rights (up to a point) by providing 99-year leases to commercial farmers, white and black.

He has promised fair elections and says he and his party will bow out if they lose.

The mood in Harare, the capital, is jollier than it was under Mr Mugabe.

The police, who routinely plundered drivers at ubiquitous roadblocks, are off the streets.

Many Zimbabweans hope for a rosier future after decades of economic decline punctuated by bouts of horrific violence orchestrated by the ruling party.

Foreign investors are sniffing around for the first time since the land-grabs began.

But old worries are creeping back.

Is Mr Mnangagwa master or servant of the generals who made him president?

Whereas many hoped he would widen his cabinet and kick out the worst rascals, he has kept some of the nastiest of the old guard.

Constantino Chiwenga, the army commander who led the coup, is his vice-president.

Mr Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption drive has so far been aimed entirely at his enemies in ZANU-PF, particularly Mrs Mugabe’s favourites, putting many behind bars.

Continued next page

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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