HARARE – In recent months, Iran has been making efforts to re-engage the international community after years of ostracisation and sanctions over, mainly, its nuclear programme.
Like Zimbabwe, Iran has also been regarded as a rogue state. Former US president George Bush named Iran as part of the “axis of evil.”
Condoleezza Rice, former US secretary of state, once branded Zimbabwe an “outpost of tyranny.”
Zimbabwe does not pose international military threat; it holds an atrocious human rights record.
It should, therefore, be easier for it, than Iran, to negotiate its re-admission into the community of nations.
Since winning the elections in July, Zanu PF appears to be charting a different course both internally and externally.
Notably, it has made some efforts to reengage with the international community.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has held talks with the IMF.
He virtually begged the IMF to consider Zimbabwe as a unique situation.
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi was in the UK recently and said Zimbabwe was keen to restore relations with Britain.
In the past, the Zanu PF government would thumb its noses at its Western critics and the international financial institutions (IFIs).
Locally, small signs of a paradigm shift have also emerged.
Francis Nhema, the minister of Indigenisation, appears to have adopted a softer stance towards wholesale seizure of foreign companies.
He has pledged to revise indigenisation agreements implemented by his predecessor Savior Kasukuwere.
Jonathan Moyo, the minister of Information, has made friendly overtures towards the privately-owned media.
Some sceptics have suggested, however, that this has resembled the embrace of a leopard and a kudu.
Moyo has gone further. He has said the criminal defamation laws, that have been used almost exclusively against journalists from the privately-owned media are outdated.
If the leopard has indeed changed its spots, it would have to walk the talk.
Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has also been challenged by the court to defend the relevance of a law that has seen numerous people charged and hauled before the court for “insulting” the President.
If we are to witness a real paradigm shift, such laws should be binned. Defamation should be dealt with in the civil courts.
But what can we read from these early indicators?
It would seem Zanu PF has its eyes cast on the next elections.
A change in direction naturally suggests that Zanu PF recognises its policies have been unpopular.
It is the reason the MDC is convinced Zanu PF, against a backdrop of such authoritarian and deleterious economic policies, did not win the July elections.
The MDC has asserted that President Robert Mugabe’s party cannot, however, rig the economy.
Zanu PF seems to recognise this. With Mugabe’s expected departure, Zanu PF will no longer be able to draw on his charisma and reverence.
It will have to rely on a satisfied electorate rather than a liberation legacy that Mugabe, as first leader, has symbolised; a legacy that has allowed his party to get away with poor governance for too long.
His successor (if Zanu PF wins) will not enjoy similar reverence.
He will have to rely on sound governance alone.
With their icon gone, he will be judged solely on a functioning economy capable of providing basic needs such as food, water and electricity.
The recent actions of Zanu PF seem to point to this realisation.
Antagonising the IFIs has only fed egos rather than the people who can vote for and sustain it.
In the short-term, it will need the financial assistance of the IFIs to reinvigorate the economy, hence the frantic efforts to re-engage.
Its indigenisation policy has been subject of trenchant criticism even from Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, a loyalist.
The policy has discouraged investors and failed to reduce unemployment.
A shift in the indigenisation policy could attract investment and reduce unemployment.
Given all these indicators, it would seem Zanu PF is already in election mode; it wants to be in good stead after Mugabe’s departure.