Zimbabwe will be a different country by March- Eddie Cross

Zimbabwe will be a different country by March- Eddie Cross

In a very real sense the same thing applies today. The government of Mr Mugabe had simply resumed control of the State after the GNU came to an end and for them it was ‘business as usual’. The looting resumed, the printing of money again became a problem as they tried to cover the fiscal deficit that was doubling every year and Mr Mugabe pretended that he was in the driver’s seat of this broken down bus until he was a 100.

When Emmerson Mnangagwa took power in November 2017, he took almost everyone by surprise. What rocked the world was ordinary Zimbabweans response, they came out on the streets in celebration – not of the change of government but the final political demise of the Mugabe family. The army were greeted as heroes and I have never seen so many army soldiers kissed on the streets – not since the end of the Second World War. The people of this very special country sealed the deal with this massive, spontaneous, response.

Then, once the situation had settled down, the army went back into their barracks – a peaceful, disciplined withdrawal. One ambassador said to anyone who would listen that he would never underestimate the army again. Not a window broken, not a stone thrown, not a single vehicle overturned and burnt. It demonstrated the essentially Christian character of the country and the discipline of our armed forces.

The problem was that all the players in the new government were recycled from the old regime. What we failed to see that in fact a tiny fraction of the ZANU-PF party had taken control and had very different views on what had to be done to ‘fix’ the country. Zimbabweans sensed this and there was talk of ‘who is in control’ and can ED survive? But if we looked carefully the perspective had changed significantly.

In a week, the new President changed the entire membership of the Joint Operations Command, an institution that had effectively been a parallel government for the past 38 years. He appointed new leadership of every security function – choosing men who are professionals in their fields and largely from ZIPRA veterans. I thought that was an amazing step given the fact that he had just used the old leadership to secure a transfer of power. In a way he was building a fire wall between the past and the future.

In March 2017, when approached to consider a national government without an election in 2018, Emmerson had responded with the view that Zimbabwe had to hold a reasonably free and fair election if it was to gain international recognition and support. In my view he was to hold true to that view and in the process put his whole political future on the line. He could easily have lost the election and the final margin of just 30 000 votes or 0.6 per cent, was simply too tight to call. Or for comfort. But the gamble paid off.

Again perspective was important – what the opposition failed to see was that the international community was fed up with the constant crisis in Zimbabwe and wanted to engage and get the country’s international relations back to normal. What they also failed to see was that the new President was determined to do just that.

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