President Emmerson Mnangagwa who celebrated his 76th birthday yesterday, thanking all those who had sent him birthday wishes, said: “There is no greater present than to serve my fellow Zimbabweans. The work of rebuilding our country does not stop, even for a birthday!”
Instead of being lauded for this magnanimous gesture, Mnangagwa got a string of insults like why he was in the office while his main rival Nelson Chamisa was paying condolences to cholera victims including Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front supporters, or where was the $17 billion in Foreign Direct Investment that he said he had sourced in the run-up to the elections, and even that at 76 he should retire.
Those who tried to support him were quickly shot down. But one said: “Don’t underestimate this man. He is capable of turn(ing) around (the) economy. Give him time. He is always a winner. Put yourself in his shoe(s). He is actually working against too (many) forces. Negative publicity, opposition from MDC and other ZANU-fellows. But as an elephant he keep(s) moving.”
The odds are stacked against him but Mnangagwa has nothing to lose. Like the legacy that brought him to power, he wants to prove that though he was one of former President Robert Mugabe’s most trusted lieutenants for almost five decades, he is different from his mentor. He is better than his mentor and he can indeed turn Zimbabwe around and thus establish his own legacy as the person who rescued the nation.
He has already proved that he is serious by appointing a trimmed cabinet which has technocrats like Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and Mines Minister Winston Chitando.
While Chitando is a member of ZANU-PF and was elected on the party ticket, all eyes are focussed on Ncube who is not a member of the ruling party, yet he has key problems to solve like the current cash crisis, the shortage of foreign currency, the huge domestic debt and the international debt which includes arrears to the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
While Ncube has an impressive CV, critics, including fellow economists, are already setting him up for failure arguing that he will be frustrated by politicians. This argument has not basis at all and seems to be solely based on what Mugabe’s administration did to technocrats like Nkosana Moyo and Simba Makoni just to name a few.
Ncube is no fool. He would not have left his lucrative job in Switzerland unless he was assured he would have free reign. He too, after the Barbican Bank debacle, also wants to prove that he can turn his country around. He has too many people watching him- his students at Wits and Oxford and his colleagues at the African Development Bank.
A win for Ncube is a win for Mnangagwa so why would Mnangagwa put any spanners in the works for him?
Also totally forgotten is the fact that Mnangagwa himself knows money. One of his main critics Jonathan Moyo tweeted soon after the appointment of the cabinet: “The President is the de facto finance minister; defense minister & foreign affairs minister. The incumbents are de jure. Mnangagwa is also de facto local govt minister to keep a tab on traditional chiefs, mainly 16 seen as the soul of the nation & have a tsvimbo to show for it!”
Although this was meant to ridicule Ncube, Moyo tweeted way back after Mnangagwa took over that he was Zimbabwe’s richest man. Although also meant to deride Mnangagwa, It backfired with people saying if he was that rich, he was the best man to turn the country around.
So why would Mnangagwa set himself up for failure? Or why would he set up Ncube for failure because Ncube’s failure is Mnangagwa’s failure too.
Maybe the problem really is that Zimbabweans are too negative. As Nigerian author Ben Okri says: “To poison a nation, poison their stories. A demoralized nation tells demoralized stories to itself.”