Opaque governance and the secrecy of Zimbabwe’s main political parties have always made it tough to work out what is happening in the country.
The difficulty was compounded after the military intervention in November 2017 that resulted in the ousting of Robert Mugabe as president.
Ahead of elections scheduled for 30 July, a strident propaganda war between the victors and the vanquished has emerged.
One side is promoting the idea that the new administration is legitimate, stable and reformist; the other that it is a military junta, unstable and inherently oppressive.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, who became interregnum president by virtue of the military intervention, inherited an economy in a desperate state.
It was obvious that his political fortunes depended on preventing an economic meltdown. The means identified to do this is massive foreign direct investment.
At every opportunity, Mnangagwa recites his ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra. He has reversed the ‘indigenisation’ policy of his predecessor that negated any possibility of significant inflows of foreign direct investment.
The state (ZANU-PF-controlled) media is awash with stories of investment coming into the country. They say foreign businesses, supposedly chary of missing the boat by waiting for the 30 July elections, are rushing to invest in the country’s ‘abundant mineral resources’ and to take advantage of other opportunities ahead of their rivals.
Government claims that $16 billion in foreign investment has been secured under Mnangagwa’s brief incumbency and that the country is on course to become a middle-income country by 2030.
In order to attract this investment, the Mnangagwa government must be seen as legitimate and stable. The propaganda of the vanquished is intended to undermine this perception.
In terms of the counter-narrative, ZANU-PF is in disarray, with party structures decimated by the successive purges that culminated in the purge of Mugabe himself.
Mugabe, it is claimed, still enjoys massive support in all three Mashonaland provinces, which constitute ZANU-PF’s traditional stronghold.
This support is held to be particularly resilient among the youth. Young people are supposedly angry at the manner in which Mugabe was deposed and disappointed as the intended beneficiaries and prime target of Mugabe’s indigenisation policies.
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