Can Mnangagwa make Zimbabwe great again?


The August elections are an opportunity that Mnangagwa should grasp to restore trust and confidence between the government and the international community, but compensation to unpaid investors, including farmers and miners, is key to re-engagement.

The potential restoration of Zimbabwe as a member of good standing in the international community could be the biggest game-changer in Africa this year – but ZANU-PF has to take the opportunity that is being offered.

The dialogue over debt resolution and arrears clearance championed by African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina and facilitated by former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano appears to be moving towards some kind of resolution.

“We know what needs to be done,” Adesina told the meeting. “We must move more rapidly now into speedy implementation on the ground.”

The key indicator of how serious Harare is in its promise to restore the rule of law will be its ability to pull off a free and fair election.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement this week that elections are to be held on 23 August was met with dismay in some quarters because the date was published before a series of electoral reforms could be enacted.

“This will have serious consequences not just for the credibility of the elections and for our political stability, but also for our economic development and international relations,” the legal think tank Veritas warned.

Adesina and Chissano’s outreach included a visit last month to Washington, which broadly supports their initiative. The view was expressed in Congress and by the US Treasury that “concrete and measurable steps” will trigger the lifting of sanctions.

Mnangagwa has tried to reassure sceptical development partners and creditors by committing to the implementation of a package of reforms, including governance reforms, land tenure reforms, compensation of former farm owners and the resolution of bilateral investment protection agreements.

But can Mnangagwa walk the talk?

The ruling ZANU-PF has dashed hopes before – remember the optimism in 2018 after Mnangagwa overthrew Robert Mugabe in a military coup?

Reform of the vast patronage machine that has ravaged the country’s economy, collapsed the health and education sectors and turned hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans into refugees in neighbouring states, is going to take a lot more than sweet words.

What makes this time feel different is the passion and commitment of Adesina, whose stewardship of the African Development Bank has turned it into one of the most vibrant and effective institutions on the continent, and the diplomatic skills of Chissano, the former Frelimo fighter whose relationship with ZANU-PF goes back to the days of the liberation struggle.

Their engagement will make it harder for ZANU-PF to blame the former colonialists and bullying Americans if it fails to meet its promises.

Continued next page


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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