By Prince Kurupati
Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa signed the Electoral Amendment Act yesterday (29 May 2018). Among other things, the Electoral Amendment Act sets out the roadmap for the 2018 Harmonised elections i.e. how political parties are to conduct themselves in their campaigns, establishes a code of conduct for all political actors not necessarily political parties, spells out the role of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and it establishes an Electoral Court.
With the Electoral Amendment Act signed and gazetted under the General Notice 307A/2018 of the Extraordinary Government Gazette, it now means that the President can proceed to proclaim the election date widely believed by many legal experts to be either the 28th or 30th day of July this year.
The fact that the Electoral Amendment Act has been signed means that it’s nigh before the 108 political parties in Zimbabwe ‘fight’ each other to win the local councils, House of Parliament, House of Senate and the Presidency elections.
Of all the 108 registered political parties, it seems at this stage (and going forward) that the Presidency race will largely be between two candidates i.e. the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU (PF) and Nelson Chamisa of the main opposition political party MDC-T who is running under the MDC Alliance ticket, an alliance of seven political parties.
Emmerson Mnangagwa has managed to win the hearts of many international actors due to his offensive charm in the international arena. However, back home, he hasn’t gained much ground to warrant a landslide victory against other opposition candidates though he remains the favourite to win.
With the odds slightly in favour of Mnangagwa, this piece is going to project the post-2018 election Zimbabwe under Emmerson Mnangagwa. The projections of this piece have been drawn from the ZANU (PF) manifesto, the party’s primary elections and Mnangagwa’s performance in his first 6 months as the president.
There are different classes of people in Zimbabwe (as one would expect in a country of 16+ million people) but this piece targets (and resonates with) the ordinary Zimbabwean.
Who is the ordinary Zimbabwean?
A loose classification will give us three types of Zimbabweans.
The first is the first class citizen. The first class citizen lives in a bubble totally oblivious to the hardships being felt by other people living in the same country sometimes even a few metres or kilometres from him/her. Privileged children of the well-known and wealthy politicians and business people fall into this category.
The second is the second class citizen. This refers to the privileged who also do not feel the hardships of the day to day life but who are aware that the country is not on a right path and that there are many people who are suffering and failing to provide themselves. Some of these from time to time like to associate with the ‘ordinary’ Zimbabweans so as to identify as one i.e. identify as an ordinary Zimbabwean.
The third refers to ordinary Zimbabweans. Ordinary Zimbabweans are the people who have to bear the brunt of all the country’s hardships. These are the people who toil day and night to put food on the table, people who cross borders to make a living, people who have resigned and now live in abject poverty, the youths who have lost hope and turned to alcohol and substance abuse. It is this group of people that constitute the bulk of Zimbabwe’s population (maybe accounting to as high as 90 percent of the population).
If Mnangagwa’s international offensive charm is anything to go by, then the future looks bright for the majority of Zimbabweans. Zimbabwe’s president since his inauguration has attended many international forums including the World Economic Forum and he has paid courtesy calls to most African countries including neighbouring South Africa and Zambia.
The President’s foreign visits have managed to make him a popular man among international actors and investors. This has, in turn, led to the signing of many mega deals and memorandum of agreements (MoU), all of which are set to improve the country’s economic prospects.
Apart from the mega-deals, Mnangagwa has also managed to get over $11 billion in investment commitments. In his own words, President Mnangagwa said investors promised him they will come once the country holds its harmonised elections scheduled later this year. The prerequisite for the flow of the foreign capital is a free, fair and credible election.
Ordinary Zimbabweans at large have a reason to smile at this because the flow of foreign capital means there will be more employment opportunities for the 90+ percent unemployed. With more employment opportunities for the unemployed, ordinary Zimbabweans can expect a better standard of living and a better life for themselves and their children.
Mnangagwa in this short space of time has also shown that he is a better proposition than his predecessor Robert Mugabe when it comes to dealing with rogue elements both in the party and in the government. the dismissal of Webster Shamu recently who had been accused of engaging in vote rigging through ballot stuffing in the party’s primary elections shows Mnangagwa’s tough stance on rogue elements. In a country that has had to grapple with corrupt and arrogant high ranking officials and politicians, this is a step in the right direction.
In addition, Mnangagwa has made considerable strides in uniting the nation and if he is to carry forward this positive message, then the country is likely to heal from injustices of the past such as Gukurahundi and Operation Murambatsvina. While leading on the front in terms of letting bygones be bygones, Mnangagwa also established a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission that aims at healing the wounds of the past. If the Zimbabwean nation can heal, there is no telling what a unified Zimbabwe can achieve both at home.
Additionally, one cannot forget the work that Mnangagwa has done thus far and will do in the future pertaining to luring back Zimbabweans in the diaspora who have acquired the skills and knowledge to put Zimbabwe back on the world map.
Another bumpy and gruelling 5 years await
Ordinary Zimbabweans have suffered for quite some time now. In fact, most millennials in Zimbabwe have never experienced how it feels to live in an economically and politically stable country except for those who have crossed the country’s borders.
If anything is to go by, the future remains bleak if Emmerson Mnangagwa wins the upcoming elections because of the following:
State media describes the ZANU (PF) manifesto as “modest, realistic and pragmatic,” this is a fair reflection in comparison to past manifestos though the claim that ZANU (PF) is going to build 1.5 million houses (i.e. 822 houses built per day!) in the next 5 years does no favours to the description that the manifesto is modest and realistic.
The biggest shortcoming of ZANU (PF)’s manifesto is that it fails to articulate ‘how’ it is going to fulfil its promises and claims (such as the absurd one above) when it is the main if not sole purpose of a manifesto to explain in detail the ‘how’ part. In its manifesto, ZANU (PF) lists all the promises it intends to fulfil including but not limited to uplifting the country’s education, providing quality healthcare for all, housing for all, supporting indigenisation and economic empowerment, creating jobs and eradicating poverty.
However, it’s just a mere listing without the important ‘how’ part therefore there is a huge probability that the country will witness a repeat of the past where the ruling party would give reasons for poor implementation of government policies and justifications for the non-fulfilment of election promises as was the case with ZIMASSET which the government blamed climate change for its poor implementation.
Chaotic primary elections
The ZANU (PF) primary elections left a lot to be desired if anything they left the electorate with more questions than answers. The first port of call was the poor if not disastrous project planning on show. Voting in most constituencies started late due to the late arrival of ballot papers. In some constituencies, it was a stop-start process as there were allegations of vote rigging and errors of omission of some of the candidates’ names on the ballot papers. Al this showed how poorly planned the primaries were and considering that it is this same administration which will be tasked with implementing government’s policies and projects, it’s certainly not inspiring.
The primary elections also showed another dark side of ZANU (PF) as the party once again proved that it sees no difference between itself and the government. The police were deployed across the whole country as polling agents this in spite of the fact that it was a party business and not a government business. Seeing such things during the campaigns, one cannot envisage a different outcome if ZANU (PF) wins as the government officials will be used as party people and vice versa.
If he wins, the president is going to pick his team, i.e. ministers and other key people of his administration from the winning candidates. It’s not really inspiring when the bulk of the people who won the primaries are known as corrupt in their society and vultures who have been waiting for their turn to eat. While the few stalwarts who returned their places will likely continue on the same path of self-enrichment at the expense of others, the new faces are also likely to join the self-enriching bandwagon to the detriment of the ordinary Zimbabwean.
An indifferent six months in the hot seat
Much can be taken from Mnangagwa’s first six months as the president and not much of it is positive to the ordinary Zimbabwean. The black-market which showed its ugly face during the hyperinflationary period of 2008 is once again starting to show its ugly face as fuel is now becoming scarce at service stations but abundant with the backdoor dealers. Not only that but in his first six months Mnangagwa has done nothing to ease the unemployment challenge but rather making the already overtaxed ordinary Zimbabwean pay more tax as he signed the ZISCO Debt Assumption Bill and gave in to the demands of most civil servants to increase their salaries when most of the government revenue is already going towards servicing the government payroll rather than capital projects.
All this will ultimately lead to the worsening of ordinary Zimbabweans’ daily life as these moves will raise the cost of living.
If Mnangagwa is to win and if he carries on the same path as he is with his domestic policies, then ordinary Zimbabweans will have to brace for the worst as a tough road awaits.