Zanu PF gaining external legitimacy

LONDON - Over the past few months, we have witnessed increased interaction between Zimbabwe and the external world.

Several delegations from Western countries have been visiting the country prospecting for possible investment opportunities.

One could say that the outside world is beginning to warm up to the Zanu PF government.

The opposition MDC has often argued that the problem facing Zimbabwe results from a “crisis of legitimacy” after the controversial election in 2013.

In essence, the government of President Robert Mugabe is illegitimate.

However, the increasing interest by Western prospectors and re-engagement with regional and international finance organisations could mean the Zanu PF government is gaining external legitimacy.

The reason is that the opposition itself has failed to delegitimise Mugabe’s government.

The fact that life goes on as “normal” would have signalled to the external world that Mugabe is not exactly facing a crisis in internal legitimacy as the opposition claims.

External and internal legitimacy are not exactly independent. The opposition attempted to mount a legal challenge against the last election result without success.

Since then, there has never been any objective evidence such as protests, civil disobedience and so on to sustain a claim of lack of internal legitimacy of the Zanu PF government.

The consummation of a national Constitution, the lack of protests after the controversial  election, the marked decrease in Zanu PF violence may have contributed to the change of perceptions of Zimbabwe by the West.

The splintering of the opposition meant the agents for delegitimising the Zanu PF government had become weaker. In fact, the opposition has reduced itself to a bunch of muppets.

In almost every conversation with a foreigner, one question always arises: with all the hardships and electoral authoritarianism that Zimbabweans have faced, why has Mugabe remained in power?

Of course, and as has been rightly pointed out by some observers, the absence of agitation does not in itself mean the concerned regime is legitimate. A government cannot pride itself as legitimate when it unleashes brutal force to suppress civilian protests.

The long and short of it is that the opposition has failed to delegitimise the Zanu PF regime. The outside world has started to readmit Zimbabwe into the community of nations after years as a pariah state.

The EU has indicated it is now dealing directly with the Zanu PF government. The IMF has also re-engaged Zimbabwe. Organisations such as these are seen as agents for external legitimation of governments.

Zanu PF itself has realised that it cannot survive with a few friends from the East, without the broader outside world. It has also made efforts to be readmitted into the international fold.

Christopher Mutsvangwa, the War Veterans’ minister, has been on record cautioning the former fighters not to tarnish the reputation of the country. In the past, the behaviour of war veterans has done little to promote Zimbabwe as a destination of choice.

It is also a fact Zanu PF’s radical nationalist redistributive agenda has been poorly conceived. The violent farm invasions by war veterans put us on the map as a rogue state.

Mutsvangwa, like other officials, has also signalled an intention to amend the indigenisation laws. This is commendable. It has never made sense that a government can “redistribute” foreigners’ financial investments in a manner that leaves the investor with less.

Zanu PF should now harness the external goodwill that has now been re-established. As for the opposition, it should continue to hold Mugabe’s government to account, but with a main focus on the next election.

The current re-engagement has weakened the argument about a “crisis of legitimacy”.

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