Zimbabwe is due to go for national elections this year 2018. The elections come fast in the heels of a power transfer within Zanu PF, with Emmerson Mnangagwa replacing Robert Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe and first secretary of the party Zanu PF. Before this, we were all resigned to the fact that Robert Mugabe would be running for president at a ripe old age of 94. It was not to be. Thoughts of postponing the elections due later this year came to my mind, firstly when President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited ailing opposition leader Dr Morgan Tsvangirai at his Highlands residence. Whilst what was discussed remains largely their conversation, a local daily, The Daily News had a headline that suggested Dr Morgan Tsvangirai raised the issue. For me, whoever raised the issue is not important, but that Zimbabwe, we need to have this conversation. As I thought about it further, it dawned on me that an election postponed with the agreement of all the stakeholders may actually be in the national interest. What good will it do us as a country to rush into an election that may result in a disputed outcome considering the abnormalities that face Zimbabwe. Will it not be prudent for the political parties, civic groups and the generality of Zimbabweans to work out and agree on a national road map in the national interest. The reality of Zimbabwe economically and politically doesn’t speak of a country that is ready for elections.
The National Interest
The current administration inherited a very broken system from former president Robert Mugabe. Despite the overwhelming positivity and good working culture introduced by the Mnangagwa administration, the reality is, steering the country back to some degree of normality will not happen overnight. The people of Zimbabwe are still smarting from events of the last month and the expectation on the new administration is very high. It is in the National interest that the current administration working with Dr Morgan Tsvangirai and other stakeholders set aside their party interests and put forward the national interest. Before the departure of president Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean politics had become so toxic to a point were delivering on basics like health, sanitation and water had been become consumed by the toxic politics. In other words, politics had become the elephant in the room.
Economics, economics, economics
The arrival of Emmerson Mnangagwa as the new president was received with much happiness across the political, social and religious divide. Zimbabweans, together with the institutions of political parties and state played a role in ushering in president Emmerson Mnangagwa. The international community was equally ecstatic with the British prime minister Theresa May and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressing their willingness to work with President Emmerson Mnangagwa. In other words, Zimbabwe has a lot of good will out there. We need to as a country focus on putting back the basics in place, health, sanitation, clean water, cash availability and so on in place. We need to accept the reality that Zimbabwe has been in the intensive care for a long time. Having elections now will just shift focus onto winning votes and the masses will suffer in the run up to these elections. The focus of the national roadmap must be getting Zimbabwe working again. This will take time and a lot of goodwill domestically and internationally. One thing that Mugabe’s exit managed to do was to unite Zimbabweans. At Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration, we saw Zimbabweans from across the political divide embrace the change. Let us complete the change by building upon the goodwill.
Zimbabwe under financial restrictions (Sanctions)
Under the leadership of president Mugabe, Zimbabwe was placed under financial restrictions by a number of countries and financial institutions. Zimbabwe has just amended the Indigenisation act and removed the 51 percent local requirement for investors except for two specified minerals in the extraction industry, namely Platinum and diamonds. But with the financial restrictions in place, it will be near impossible to get investors of substance coming into the country as they will be prohibited by the financial restrictions placed by their respective governments on Zimbabwe. A foreign company coming to invest in Zimbabwe faces the impossible task of not being able to legally take the money out as Zimbabwean banks are not able to open ‘Nostrum’ accounts. These are accounts held by a bank in foreign currency in another bank and often used to simplify settlements of trade and foreign exchange settlements. The postponement of elections and the implementation of a national roadmap that is inclusive of all Zimbabwean stakeholders would go a long way in mitigating the removal or suspension of these financial restrictions and hence allow foreign capital to flow back into Zimbabwe unrestricted. The financial restrictions in place (ZIDERA included) are mostly acts of parliament which will need the engagements of Westminster and Capitol hill to begin the process of their removal. The reasons cited by these countries for the imposition of these are largely from disagreements between the two major political parties in Zimbabwe in the past. The day the leaders of MDC-T and ZANU PF get on an aeroplane together heading for London and Washington, will be the day Zimbabwe turns a corner. Until then we shall continue to play hide and go seek with the people’s lives.
The Emmerson Mnangagwa administration has not minced its words with regard to diaspora involvement in national affairs. In fact, in a speech in South Africa recently, the president acknowledged his two-week diaspora existence and his administration has stated that the Zimbabwean diaspora is key to the reconstruction of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean diaspora has been key to the survival of Zimbabwe through its remittances for many years. The new administration needs to further harness the potential of this constituency. At the same time the administration has to realise that there can’t be taxation without representation. The right to vote of all citizens is key to the legitimacy of the Emmerson Mnangagwa administration – another key reason – for postponing elections. The laws that prohibit the diaspora citizen to vote need to looked at again with a view to allowing them to vote. Since the arrival of president Mnangagwa at the helm of Zimbabwean politics, Zanu PF membership in the diaspora has grown exponentially. In the last few months Rwanda put in place facilities for its citizens to be able to register and vote at its embassies. Properly approached, Zimbabwe can do the same. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is on record of wanting a ‘free and fair’ election. What better way to start. Sit down with all stakeholders, agree on a road map, go to parliament, amend the constitution to allow the postponement of the election and put in place all these other rights that can potential put Zimbabwe on a trajectory that will transform it into the Singapore of Africa in ten short years.
Zimbabwe is sick – Corruption
Efforts by the Emmerson Mnangagwa administration to curb corruption and sleaze in high offices is to be applauded. But, more can be done. The sentiment at the moment if you ask any Zimbabwean on this matter, is that those arrested seem to be those who were aligned to the G-40 faction lead by former first lady Grace Mugabe, former Higher Tertiary education minister Professor Jonathan Moyo and former local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere. It is important that justice be done, but more importantly, it must be seen to be done. The corruption clean exercise and the introduction of a new culture in financial discipline requires all stakeholders on deck. An all stakeholders approach to this social illness will send the right message to those that seek to help Zimbabwe work again. The anti-corruption drive must not be premised on retributive justice, but more on restorative justice. After all is said and done, perception is everything. The message we send out there is important. A new culture of financial discipline has to be introduced into our public and private corporations. The government needs to carry out a lifestyle audit of all its public officials and the outcome publicised. That way, if a public official’s situation changes, it is on record.
ZANU PF and MDC not ready for elections
The postponement of the elections is not only in the national interest, but it is also in the interest of both the two major political parties, ZANU PF and MDC. Both political parties have a lot of housekeeping to do ahead of any elections. I read in a local daily that by proclamation, the president of Zimbabwe may direct a snap election for June this year. As a student of politics, my understanding is that there is no such thing as a ‘snap’ election. An election is an election. There is downside to holding this snap election for both political parties. For ZANU PF, it is important that they remember that the people of Zimbabwe are still smarting from some of the bad policies of former president Robert Mugabe that resulted in cash shortages, erratic electricity supply and a poor heath delivery, the punishment thereof may be visited upon Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF by the electorate at the elections. It is important to allow the good work that Zanu PF is doing be accepted and be understood by the people. Most of the leadership in Zanu PF are still struggling to come out of the Mugabe political culture as seen in their work ethics. And this will take time.
On the MDC front it is clear that an election will not be in their interest either. The fact that they have leadership issues to sort out at the back drop of a terminally Dr Morgan Tsvangirayi is clear for all to see. Some trivialise the leadership vacuum presented by the illness of Dr Morgan Tsvangirayi. MDC has three vice presidents of which only one is an elected vice president, that is Thokozani Khupe. Under the MDC constitution she should be the acting president. Nelson Chamisa is a Dr Morgan Tsvangirayi appointee, parachuted in to vice presidency by Dr Morgan Tsvangirayi despite loosing to Douglas Mwonzora in the last internal election. Elias Mudzuri is equally an unelected vice president. So, the dynamics in that party are many and the resolution of these and the party’s state of readiness for elections in a few months is in doubt.
Zimbabwe, let us have this conversation in the spirit that I present it here. This is not about entrenchment of any individual, or the thrashing of the constitution as some may want to conclude, but a genuine concern that Zimbabweans have bee very polarised for a long time. We have just been united by one event, the removal of former president Robert Mugabe – and we need to build on the social cohesion presented by this. Zimbabwe, we have a lot of issues that are outstanding as a country. It is my fear that should we rush to have elections as directed by our constitution, we may end up back to where we were with a disputed outcome. If we are truly going to do things differently, we need to begin here and now. Let us have the legislators across the political divide agree on a motion to postpone the elections for a defined time. Get all hands-on deck and fix Zimbabwe. After a few years we can have our elections with competition based on policy issues and not on tribalism, nepotism or patronage. My thoughts.