Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa will this week go to the annual ZANU-PF people’s conference in Esigodini with his head held high, despite an acute economic meltdown in the country worsened by fuel and cash shortages and a dampened public mood over the slow pace of economic reform.
For several weeks on end, Mnangagwa has been receiving endorsement for his rule from inside ZANU-PF, amid an increased number of calls that he stand again for re-election in 2023.
It is a strong sign that the man nicknamed “Crocodile” has been consolidating his political power base amid pledges to usher in economic reforms and to court foreign investment under his “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.
However, so far there have been few takers of Mnangagwa’s pro-business stance among Western countries, a position unlikely to change soon after the US last week refused to lift sanctions imposed on the southern African country for almost two decades.
Matthew Harrington, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa, said since the election there had been “some promising signs” from Mnangagwa’s government, symbolised by a more technocratic cabinet, an economic plan that acknowledged the need for significant monetary and fiscal reform and a budget which, if implemented, would make important strides.
“So far, however, the pace and scale of reforms has been too gradual and not nearly ambitious enough,” said Harrington.
Just four months after the 30 July elections, Mnangagwa’s critics are concerned about the endorsement frenzy in his party – which comes hardly a year into his current term – cautioning it could result in politics overshadowing the economic reform agenda.
The 76-year-old leader has so far received support to stand for a second term in 2023 from the ZANU-PF youth league, women’s league and the party’s Bulawayo province.
Last month, his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, who is widely seen by political observers as harbouring his own ambitions for the presidency, also weighed in. He said Mnangagwa should stay on as president and warned the opposition that there was no vacancy at State House.
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