SENIOR STAFF WRITER
IT IS critical that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF urgently lead efforts to address the country’s decades-long political crisis if the government is to have any chance of mitigating the economic pain of long-suffering Zimbabweans, analysts say.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, they said without national dialogue, as well as comprehensive political and economic reforms, it would be difficult to galvanise both the nation and the international community to achieve a better life for all Zimbabweans.
The analysts’ views come as Mnangagwa and the government are facing growing pressure from disillusioned citizens, the majority of whom have had a tough time over the past two decades — which has triggered restlessness among many ordinary people.
It also comes as Mnangagwa has just completed two years in office, following his disputed victory in the July 2018 presidential election which was later upheld by the Constitutional Court.
The analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the unfortunate reality was that notwithstanding the court’s ruling, Mnangagwa’s two years in office had been overshadowed by deep political polarisation in the country.
Respected University of Zimbabwe politics expert, Eldred Masunungure, said this necessitated that the 77-year-old Zanu PF leader addressed the country’s political situation to achieve his mission of mending the shattered local economy.
“It’s not a new challenge (the economic crisis), but an old problem that everyone thought Mnangagwa could solve.
“Many people are now comparing him (Mnangagwa) with (the late former president Robert) Mugabe in terms of his capacity to solve the country’s economic and political crises.
“It’s not an economically rooted crisis. It’s a political crisis that is causing all the problems that Zimbabweans are facing,” Masunungure told the Daily News.
“Politically, Mnangagwa has failed … to bring all stakeholders together. There is deep polarisation … he must have the skills to bring Zimbabweans together.
“His vision 2030 will fail because it is currently not a shared vision. Some people think that it was imposed on them,” Masunungure said further.
“The number one problem in the country is the political crisis. We can give him (Mnangagwa) 100 years in power, but nothing (on the economic front) will come out if he fails to find a political solution.
“He must change his political approach and this is not about Mnangagwa the person but the approach.
“Mugabe spent years trying to solve the (economic) crisis but he failed because he did not solve the political crisis,” Masunungure also told the Daily News.
In addition, he said Mnangagwa and his administration needed to carry out further reforms to gain the confidence of the now doubtful international community, which he charmed in his early months in office.
“Re-engagement is now only on paper. Western countries have withdrawn their benefit of the doubt. They are now hardening their position.
“They are now in effect saying Mugabe and Mnangagwa are birds of the same feather,” Masunungure said.
Professor of World Politics at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, Stephen Chan, also said hopes were beginning to fade among ordinary people after Mnangagwa’s early positive signs failed to yield the desired results in the last two years.
“President Mnangagwa began his term with high hopes, but these have not been realised. He was good at rhetoric, but Western powers looked closely for … substance … in terms of genuine political freedoms … and economic reform.
“Having said that, the West is mindful that once again … faction-fighting has returned within Zanu PF.
“But neither a Mnangagwa government, nor any other would attract attention from the outside world at all without a genuine political and economic reform programme,” Chan told the Daily News.
Namibia-based analyst, Admire Mare, said some hardliners in Zanu PF were not doing much to help their leader as they were allegedly against national dialogue.
“The situation has been made worse by the role of hardliners within his own party (Zanu PF), who instead of supporting his (Mnangagwa’s) reform agenda have made it difficult for him to address the Zimbabwean crisis.
The population feels left behind and the increasing cases of abductions and torture have created an unnecessary siege mentality amongst citizens and human rights defenders.
“Given the recent exchanges of harsh words via Twitter and press statements, it seems the re-engagement process will require new tact and more political and economic reforms before the logjam is removed,” he said.
On his part, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group (ICG), Piers Pigou, said Mnangagwa could still achieve his goals if the government implemented all the needed reforms.
“The message from Western countries and the IFIs (international financial institutions) remains consistent … the government must walk its talk on reforms. It has not done so.
“This government seems unable to build confidence … There is no trust. Certainly, it will take time (to correct things) given the extent of the rot and the compounding realities of Covid-19 et cetera,” Pigou told the Daily News.
This comes as tensions remain high in the country following the foiled July anti-government mass protests.
Then, the opposition and pro-democracy groups had planned to unfurl mega demonstrations over alleged rampant public sector corruption.
The protests were thwarted by authorities after they deployed security forces throughout the country ahead of the mass actions.
Rights groups have claimed that dozens of opposition figures and activists have been tortured and assaulted in a retributive exercise by suspected security agents.
On its part, the government has refuted the allegations — claiming instead that the opposition is allegedly working with foreigners to destabilise the country.
Reflecting on his two years in power last week, Mnangagwa said he was committed to improving the welfare of the populace — highlighting several projects that had been implemented.
“Two years ago today, I was inaugurated as your president. I vowed to serve Zimbabwe and its people so that we could move towards a more prosperous future. Zimbabwe is not without its challenges.
“But rest assured that myself and this government are fully committed to improving our great nation for the benefit of all Zimbabweans . . . Brick-by-brick we will build Zimbabwe,” he said.