22 November COMMENT: JOHANNESBURG — Following the exit of Robert Mugabe and his 37 years of tyrannical rule, an elated Zimbabwe today is at a crossroads. A key figure stepping into the breach is Zanu-PF’s new leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Reports indicated that Mnangagwa is expected to return to Zimbabwe today and that he could be sworn in as President by the end of this week. Questions are now being asked about what kind of leader Mnangagwa could be. Interestingly, a report about Mnangagwa’s vision for a future Zimbabwe quietly emerged in September this year. Written by Reuters, the report cites intelligence sources who claimed that Mnangagwa would be open to allowing white farmers to come back and rebuild the country’s decimated agricultural sector. Further, Mnangagwa has also been open to allowing MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai into a new administration as part of a rebuilding phase, according to Reuters. We have yet to hear from Mnangagwa himself about his plans, but if this report is true, Zimbabwe could be on the cusp of a major economic rebound. – Gareth van Zyl
By Thulasizwe Sithole
If revelations in a previous Reuters report are anything to go by, then incoming Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa could start reversing the damage done by Robert Mugabe — starting with welcoming back white farmers.
Facing a growing challenge from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mugabe controversially in the early 2000s approved radical land reforms that encouraged war veterans to occupy around 4 000 white-owned commercial farms.
The land grabs subsequently sent Zimbabwe’s economy into a death spiral, resulting in agricultural productivity collapsing, inflation soaring and international investment completely drying up.
Today, Zimbabwe is living with the headache of these land grabs as the country’s economy halved in size from 1998 to 2008. The BBC has also reported that Zimbabweans are a 15% poorer than they were when Mugabe took power in 1980, a shocking statistic for a developing country in the modern world.
But as Mugabe dramatically resigned on Tuesday amid the threat of impeachment and under the guise of a surprise military takeover, a report that Reuters produced in September this year is highly relevant amid recent developments.
The report (which you can read here) detailed how Reuters reviewed “hundreds of documents from inside Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization (CIO)” that indicated how Mnangagwa and other political players “have been positioning themselves for the day Mugabe either steps down or dies”.
The lengthy report highlights how Mnangagwa was even considering bringing in MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as part of a new administration.
The documents and sources say Mnangagwa, a 73-year-old lawyer and long-standing ally of Mugabe, envisages cooperating with Tsvangirai to lead a transitional government for five years with the tacit backing of some of Zimbabwe’s military and Britain. These sources leave open the possibility that the government could be unelected. The aim would be to avoid the chaos that has followed some previous elections. (Reuters)
Interestingly, as part of a bid to rebuild the economy, Reuters reported that Mnangagwa had also held meetings with representatives of white farmers.
This unity government would pursue a new relationship with thousands of white farmers who were chased off in violent seizures of land approved by Mugabe in the early 2000s. The farmers would be compensated and reintegrated, according to senior politicians, farmers and diplomats. The aim would be to revive the agricultural sector, a linchpin of the nation’s economy that collapsed catastrophically after the land seizures.
Mnangagwa feels that reviving the commercial agriculture sector is vital, according to the documents. “Mnangagwa realises he needs the white farmers on the land when he gets into power … he will use the white farmers to resuscitate the agricultural industry, which he reckons is the backbone of the economy,” a Jan. 6, 2016 report reads. (Reuters)
If true, the plans by Mnangagwa could spark a new era for Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa previously never responded to Reuters on the above claims.
Read the full report here: Behind the scenes, Zimbabwe politicians plot post-Mugabe reforms
Meanwhile, following the ouster of Mugabe on Tuesday, reports on Wednesday indicated that Mnangagwa would be flying back to Zimbabwe from South Africa. Media reports further indicated that he could be sworn as Zimbabwe’s president by Friday already.
Mnangagwa, though, comes with baggage. He’s been accused of being Mugabe’s chief enforcer. Reuters further highlighted his controversial role in Mugabe’s regime in the 1980s.
The problem for Mnangagwa is that, if he ran for president, it is unlikely he could win an election in his own right, according to political analysts. He holds impeccable credentials from the struggle for liberation, having fought alongside Mugabe against the loathed white-minority government of what was then Rhodesia. However, his reputation suffered in the early 1980s, when Zimbabwe’s army brutally suppressed dissent, mainly in the western province of Matabeleland North.
In the so-called Gukurahundi crackdown, the army’s North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade killed an estimated 20,000 people, most of them from the minority Ndebele tribe. Mnangagwa was state security minister at the time. He has denied any involvement in the massacres, and did not offer fresh comment; but in the eyes of many voters he is still too tarnished to be electable. (Reuters)