Zimbabwe's former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa arrives ahead of his inauguration ceremony to swear in as president in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 24, 2017.
PRETORIA – The ascent of President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the highest office in Zimbabwe was in the spotlight at South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies on Thursday, as legal experts and researchers weighed Harare’s prospects under the new leader, nicknamed the Crocodile.
“The Mnangagwa presidency is for me an opportunity as well a risk. The one fundamental risk is Mnangagwa is above the age of 75. If he were in Uganda, there would be demonstrations against him standing for office — but this is Zimbabwe where we are used to our elders running the State. We have a sense of comfort in grey hairs,” respected political analyst and constitutional law expert Brian Kagoro said at a seminar in Pretoria.
“Mnangagwa’s cabinet is likely to be of average age 65. According to the official census, the number of Zimbabweans above the age of 64 is four percent. If the average age of cabinet is 65, it essentially means it represents the four percent. That essentially means it makes it [the cabinet] one percent more than the white minority with whom we are aggrieved for holding all the power before.”
Kagoro said for Zimbabwe to find its foot again, Mnangagwa should implement definitive state reforms.
“He will have to undertake comprehensive state reforms not this tinkering around, making sure that there are dollars in the ATMs, arresting one or two unfortunate thieves leaving the others roaming around, bringing a few business folk, having a few jobs — no. What you need is comprehensive state reforms which enables the process of nation building to take place in appropriate circumstances,” said Kagoro.
“Tinkering on the edges places us in the place that Kenya was in, in 2002, of simply postponing doomsday by a few more years. It is best to deal with the festering wounds in our nation which are based on differences, region, tribes and so on. There is of course a serious generational issue which is maybe not appropriately represented by Zanu PF’s G40 [faction] but certainly represented by opposition movements yearning for a much younger leadership.”
Piers Pigou, a Zimbabwean analyst for the the International Crisis Group (ICG) said if Mnangagwa is to enjoy credibility after the looming elections, Zimbabwe has to include millions of its citizens who are now based beyond its borders, in countries like South Africa and the United Kingdom.
“Mnangagwa is silent on the issue of electoral reform. He mentioned that there will be free and fair elections but, you know, this is the man that supported the line that June 2008 elections were free and fair. So I don’t think his commitment [so far] tells us anything, really,” said Pigou.
“I’m curious the diaspora hasn’t been screaming and shouting for a vote at this juncture. This could be a clear indication of the commitment made by the state for all Zimbabweans to participate in the elections. It’s worth bearing in mind that the way elections are run in Zimbabwe, and has been for many years, is about keeping most eligible potential voters out of the process.”
Pigou said without expanding the ongoing biometric voter registration, with proper auditing of the voters roll, Zimbabwe could be heading for another set of disputed elections.
Derek Matyszak, Senior Research Consultant at ISS Pretoria, said Mnangagwa and his allies in Zanu PF and the Zimbabwean government have long presented themselves, and are seen as an economic pragmatists.
“For about two years before the coup in Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa [and his allies] had already presented themselves as the economic pragmatists — the people prepared to deal with the reality of the economic situation in Zimbabwe. It also seems that [former president Robert] Mugabe was intent on sabotaging their attempts at economic pragmatism,” said Matyszak.
“So you had this tension already within government of the economic pragmatists versus Mugabe’s completely irrational economic policy, or a policy where Mugabe completely ignored economic considerations. [Current acting Finance Minister Patrick] Chimamasa and Mnangagwa were making efforts to deal with the problems caused by the utterly irrational indigenization policy that had brought in by Mugabe.”
The Pretoria summit, moderated by Stephanie Wolters, head of ISS peace and security research programme, was held under the theme “Zimbabwe under Mnangagwa: what to watch out for”.
Mnangagwa is currently serving out the remainder of Mugabe’s term, and elections are due before August 2018.