Will the Croc Survive?

  • Written by Mlungisi Dube
  • Published in Leadership

In mid-November 2017, the world woke up to the good news of the fall of one of the longest serving tyrants in the world, Robert Mugabe. 

The man had ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for 37 good years, as a result of his ruinous economic policies millions of Zimbabweans had fled their homeland to seek economic opportunities elsewhere; mainly in South Africa, United Kingdom and other common wealth countries.

Zimbabwe’s economic situation is perilous, for a country that was once regarded as a jewel of Africa by its neighbours. While Robert Mugabe divides opinions as some regard him as a paragon of Pan Africanism, he is probably one of the few African leaders who defied the West alongside Egypt’s Gamliel Abdel Nasser, slain Libyan tyrant Maumer Gaddafi and perhaps former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. 

A lot of those who sympathies with pan Africanism and with little appreciation of what the hell Mugabe’s rule was to Zimbabweans idolised Mugabe just like Gaddaffi. This is the man who took away farms from a minority white farmers and gave it to the majority black Zimbabweans, this is the man who had stood up to United States and Western bullying unlike many spineless African leaders who are regarded as puppets. 

Those who subscribe to those views often times, don’t have an appreciation of the suffering of average Zimbabwean.

After close to two decades of trying to unseat Mugabe through the ballot, it suddenly appeared that Mugabe has become invincible. In the third and final election against his fierce rival, the now late Morgan Tsvangirai, former prime minister of the Government of National Unity (2209-2013), Mugabe romped to a 60% victory in 2013. 

This was the most devastating election outcome in the history of the opposition in Zimbabwe. The opposition blamed vote rigging and unfair playing field, the results almost obliterated the opposition. 

Tsvangirai faced revolt in the party, resulting in the expulsion of 21 legislators among them, the outspoken Tendai Biti, former GNU respected finance minister. Tsvangirai seemed to have grown more powerful than the party, he survived the revolt and most of the splinter colleagues would literally fail to gain enough supporters and thereby forcing them to renegotiate their readmission as coalition partners for the now hopeful opposition coalition party named MDC- Alliance led by the youthful and charismatic Nelson Chamisa.

The years following the victory of Mugabe in 2013 suddenly saw the regression of economic prospects. The country that had abandoned its local currency by end of 2008 due to crippling hyper-inflation that saw it printing Zimbabwean notes with nominal value of up to10 trillion dollars which were equivalent to around 1USD and virtually becoming valueless. 

Mugabe’s government continued to scare investors, combined with uncompetitiveness of the strong USD, the country saw its imports growing to 200 percent of exports and being hit by foreign currency exchange and eventually shortages of cash at the banks. Since 2016, it has become almost impossible to withdraw any real USD from the bank. 

Whilst the economy distressed southwards Mugabe seemed to be concentrating on weeding out political opponents. This time within his own Zanu PF party, from 2014 to 2017 Mugabe had managed to expel over 75% of all Zanu PF old guard. 

It is believed that he was on the brink of setting up the Mugabe dynasty in catapulting his wife as his successor. Mugabe has vehemently quelled those rumours, stating that his wife didn’t have such ambitions, after all she was never a Zanu PF party member although she was the leader of the Zanu PF women’s league.

In the turn of events Mugabe became embroiled with his long time right hand man, the now Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa. By the beginning of November Mugabe fired Mnangagwa from both government and the party. 

However, Mnanagagwa who had been in charge of the security ministries and also chairman of the joint Operations Command (JOC), seem to have had a lot of supporters in security establishment. In the turn of events, General Constantine Chiwenga now the vice president announced in a press statement that if the expulsion of Zanu PF senior members was not stopped, the military would not hesitate to take over. 

Mugabe was caught dumbfounded and on 15 November 2017, the military seized key roads and installations in Harare and put Mugabe under house arrest and forced him to resign by 21 November with the threat of impeachment hanging over his head. Mnangagwa would emerge as the president of the “coup not coup” government. 

This was one of the most dramatic turn events in political history.

Mnangagwa's government in terms of speech would depart drastically from Mugabe’s antagonism against the west. His   motto would be Zimbabwe is “open for business”, the Mnangagwa government has been on international spree trying to woe investors. 

However, many investors seem to be waiting for the new government to get legitimacy first.

While Mnangagwa has been frantically branding himself as a reformer, it seems he has failed to take any concrete action against the corrupt. This is not surprising considering that Mnangagwa himself is not a clean man in terms of corruption. 

He is believed to be the godfather of illegal gold panning in the Midlands province, long back before he even became vice president. His top government officials are the same old corrupt Mugabe ministers.

Whilst a lot of Zimbabweans intoxicated with euphoria would chorus that he should be given a chance, with hope that he would revive the economy, with reality sinking in, many are now calling for his ouster. The period following the Mugabe ouster, had Mnangagwa called an election that early, he would had won cleanly.

The rest, they say is history. Mnangagwa is now facing the toughest election since Zimbabwe became a nation. Mnangagwa lacks the charisma and star qualities of his predecessor. 

The Zimbabwe economy is down, with unemployment rates believed to be 85%, there is serious cash shortages and the parallel market exchange rates have doubled since November last year, with the Zimbabwean “bodollar’ having lost its half value. There are 23 presidential candidates, and of course over 18 of them don’t have any faintest chance of even winning even a parliamentary seat let alone a presidency. 

The country is voting under a new voters’ roll, the previous one has been marred by allegations of including dead or ghost voters. The new biometric voters’ roll was compiled since last year; it has not escaped criticism too. 

Some individuals and researchers believe that over half a million to 3 million registered voters are ghost voters in the new voters’ roll. The Zimbabwe Electorate Commission (ZEC) has vehemently disputed those allegations. 

However, events in the last week have shown that ZEC commissioners and the chairperson might not be the ones fully control of the organisation.

Withstanding the presence of other 20 candidates, the presidential race has been reduced to a two men race. It has been reduced to a race between the incumbent, Mnangagwa and youthful Alliance president, Nelson Chamisa. 

In the latest polls done by professional pollsters Afrobarometer, ED has lost 8% support in the last few months, he is expected to get 40% whilst Chamisa gets 37%. Afrobarometer is professional and not led by excitement, the most interesting part is that Chamisa beats ED 70% to 30% on all online surveys that I have seen so far, including those organised by Zanu PF supporters.

A Mnangagwa victory remains unlikely except through rigging or a miracle. One of reasons why a Mnangagwa victory is unlikely is that Zanu PF traditional strongholds like Mashonaland East, Central and West which used to provide 40% of Mugabe's votes cannot be expected to keep on supporting Zanu PF after Mugabe is gone. The Alliance has made inroads into those areas in the last 2 months pulling some respectable crowds there. So ED starts the race without that guaranteed 40%, this doesn't mean all those supporters won't vote Zanu PF again. 

Mnangagwa has failed to open a support base that could be counted as his in the same manner. Few people are comfortable about openly discussing tribal voting patterns in the Zimbabwe but that’s the sad reality. When Mnangagwa was purged from Zanu PF in the run to November 2017, there was a growing sympathy from Masvingo and Midlands across the political divide. 

The Karangas believed it was now their time to provide a president or to rule as Zimbabweans prefer to call it. Midlands and Masvingo would have been a great support base for Mnangagwa had Chamisa hailed outside Masvingo. Therefore it means Mnangagwa cannot rely on the ethnic card in the same manner Mugabe relied on Zezurus and Korekores. 

The person of Mnangagwa is less charismatic and a far less eloquent than his predecessor Robert Mugabe. Whilst his main rival is both charismatic and eloquent. Mnangagwa and Chiwenga have proved to be a combination of miserable public speakers who waste time retelling their often exaggerated roles in liberation that happened 39 to 50 years ago. They are failing to sell solutions to current problems or promising a bright future.

At Zanupf rallies, images of hopeless, bored and hungry people have been captured sleeping during the address by Mnangagwa and Chiwenga. On at least two occasions, videos have been seen of soldiers frantically trying to force people from leaving whilst either Mnangagwa or Chiwenga are addressing rallies. Whilst Chamisa's rallies have been electrified, supporters in his rallies look very excited.

The economy is working against the incumbent, whilst Mnangagwa inherited an economy that is ailing. He and his current administration were part of the people that presided over the destruction of the economy. The continued depreciation of the local currency, unavailability of cash and foreign currency have all worsened since he took over.

While Mnangagwa has been preaching the right message about the economy, he has done little to address the situation in practical terms. The impatient voters are likely to punish him, the worst part is that 85% of the people are unemployed, and assuming that 10% of the unemployed people are making it in the informal sector through smuggling, black market and related activities. It still means that at least 70%of the voters are suffering and this figure would still be lethal against Mnangagwa. Whilst any government taking over will have a lot of hard work to do in terms of addressing economic problems, the incumbent is likely to suffer for the current situation.

The division in the security services will also work against Mnangagwa. Whilst Mugabe had always managed to get all security services men behind him, Mnangagwa has alienated the police and Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), who preferred to call themselves the President's Office. Mnangagwa has replaced those two with the military, those two are likely to be praying for Mnangagwa’s defeat.

This explains the level of leakages of information. It is also noticeable that Zanu PF thinking machinery was mainly G40 and now Zanu PF is left with traditional thugs, who now must do the thinking. The former G40 kingpins are supporting Chamisa mainly to deny ED victory more than their desire to see democracy in Zimbabwe. They will be safer under a neutral person and of course they will be happy to see Mnangagwa as a loser too. Therefore, we have an unpopular Zanu PF that is desperate to appease the international community by playing according to free and fair elections template. They can't openly rely on terror and at the same time can't win without terror.

There is also the internet and social media wreaking havoc on those who are planning to rig. Information now travels at the speed of light. It is very difficult to keep secrets, circulars and memos are circulated on WhatsApp and Facebook.

People are alert and ready to share the information, therefore if anyone is planning to rig whilst the internet is running, it will be a nightmare. Therefore, Zanu PF cannot succeed in rigging and announcing rigged results whilst the internet is running in Zimbabwe. They can't shut down the internet and walk with dignity after the results.