We can only hope for the best

HARARE – Had traditional political conventions held, the new President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa would never have progressed further than the Zanu PF primaries in the race for the State House.

In fact, it was unfathomable for anyone to challenge Robert Mugabe for Zanu PF first secretary and State president.

A curiosity of a candidate, more charismatic than statesman, and carrying more baggage than DHL, he enlisted or rather got help from the military incensed by his unfair dismissal from the post of vice president as it were.

In a world of “triangulated” politics aimed at capturing that elusive “centre ground”, a character as melodramatic as Mnangagwa should have proved unable to come within miles, let alone metres, of the State House.

Now, thanks to the intervention of the military which pulled out all stops to halt Grace Mugabe’s march into the presidium, he is making his way up Chancellor Avenue.

Last week, he took the oath of office as the third president of Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa was surely blessed in the fatal flaws of Mugabe and the nonagenarian’s ill-advised attempt to cede power to his hated and pompous wife.

Without that it is perfectly possible to envisage that Mnangagwa would have ended where he stood before military tanks rolled into Harare and seized key and strategic installations.

It was difficult for many Zimbabweans to oppose Operation Restore Legacy given that it was so obviously going to achieve what democratic processes had failed, that is removing a totalitarian president who was apparently unable to devote his full attention to the highest elected office in the land due to advanced age and increasing frailty.

It is a remarkable triumph for Mnangagwa when he had so little demonstrable support among voters.

One thing that Mnangagwa and his party must do is to heal the rift in his ruling party and the nation to which it bears, in some respects, so little resemblance to.

So far there is not much in the new president’s record to suggest that will be high on his agenda.

Mnangagwa may also prove plagued by legal issues in his time in office — the military operation that brought him into office has vowed to pursue alleged “criminals” around Mugabe — a needless distraction.

He also has huge national challenges to rise to — not least, the economy but ubiquitous cash shortages.

Mnangagwa’s fiscal policies are, at best, over-optimistic.

At worst, they could slide Zimbabwe into worse debt that the very stability of the nation’s public finances are threatened.

And while Zimbabwe’s friends and neighbours may feel some relief that Mnangagwa has a conciliatory attitude to the other Western global finance superpowers, there must be many who fear the sacrifices — remember Esap?

For obvious reasons, there are many who felt that Mnangagwa was not a worthy contender for the office of president — and not simply because he wasn’t elected but because of his baggage from the Gukurahundi genocide.

For the moment, however, we can trust that his Cabinet, largely comprising recycled deadwood, the Supreme Court, Parliament and public opinion will rein in his tendency for excess, and hope for the best.

After all, he has said he will listen to the voice of the people which he asserts is the voice of God.

I am rubbing my hands with glee.