Uphill task for Chamisa as the odds are in favour of Mnangagwa as Zimbabwe prepares to vote


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Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga has already shown his style. He was, for example, responsible for the unpopular decision to fire 16 000 striking nurses instead of addressing their grievances.

He fired the top brass of the police while the President was outside the country. Both decisions were later reversed by Mnangagwa.

Chiwenga has also reportedly brought former Ethiopian mass murderer Mengistu Haile Mariam, given refuge in Zimbabwe in the early 1990s by Mugabe, on board as an adviser.

Mnangagwa’s charm offensive has only taken Zimbabwe so far. The management and outcomes of the 2018 poll, not the removal of Mugabe, are critical for unlocking investment, capital and opportunities and getting remaining sanctions lifted.

Key questions are whether it will be free and fair, whether observers will have unfettered access to stations and voters, whether the opposition is allowed to campaign freely and, importantly, what happens in the event of a serious electoral challenge to ZANU-PF.

Investors have waited a long time for change in Zimbabwe. Most are prepared to wait a bit longer.

It seems unlikely that Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF will lose this election. The odds are stacked in their favour.

The government has been lethargic in implementing promised electoral reforms and much of the existing machinery, which has enabled ZANU-PF to rig previous elections, is in place. Voting in the diaspora, a large repository of opposition voters, is off the table.

There are persistent stories about deployment of soldiers into the rural areas, which previously has been used as a strategy to create fear and get people to vote the "right" way. There are also concerns about the reaction of ZANU-PF should it lose the election and what the fallout would be, given its political stranglehold on the country.

"Cheating" is widely expected to take place — it is a cornerstone of ZANU-PF politics — but it is hard to know in this altered political landscape whether it is needed for the governing party to get back into power.

The President is still enjoying residual goodwill from displacing Mugabe. Many accept that his efforts at reform are sincere.

He and his economic team have travelled the globe in an attempt to restore Zimbabwe’s tarnished image and attract new investment, and there is no shortage of interest in the long-neglected opportunities in Zimbabwe.

Once reduced to a grey blob on the African maps used in investors’ Powerpoint presentations across the globe because it was regarded as too risky or difficult to explore under Mugabe, Zimbabwe is now back in full colour.

The opposition may still be fragmented and may have lost ground to events of the past months but, broadly speaking, the opposition has a strong case.

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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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