Opinion divided over President's travel

HARARE - Opinion was starkly divided yesterday over President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s jet-setting, which has made him a visitor in his own country.

Mnangagwa has been aggressive in his external engagements, both regional and internationally.

While his publicists argue that the visits were meant to re-open doors for the country, shut during former president Robert Mugabe’s autocratic rule, his foreign trips have infuriated some who believe they are a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said Mnangagwa must balance domestic and intentional priorities.

He said while he needs to ensure he keeps key foreign relations in hand, he must avoid emulating Mugabe’s incessant travel.

Pigou said concerns centred on the associated costs of these trips, where a surplus of bureaucrats and hangers-on was in evidence.

“Whilst building legitimacy and support is a necessary focus, this will only be underwritten by domestic legitimacy and tangible actions or improvements in lives of ordinary Zimbabweans. The voters will determine whether he had delivered and in so doing struck the right balance,” Pigou told the Daily News.

Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said it was a fact of life that a president must travel.

“In the case of Mnangagwa, he has to address the concerns of the Sadc presidents that the elections will be clean, because that is the one huge test before the international community will confer legitimacy upon him,” he said.

As for China, he said, Mnangagwa needs to persuade Beijing to kick-start what he knows are existing standby funds that will help Zimbabwe.

“They want more action still on corruption. They are asking why they should throw good money after bad.

“And they feel they were treated very unkindly over mining rights,” he said, referring to Chinese-run Anjin Investments, which was ordered to halt work and leave the Marange diamond fields after investing millions.

“Who bites the hand of the one feeding you? In traditional Chinese manners, that was churlish behaviour. President Xi is a very hard man.

“So Mnangagwa has got to assure many countries he is more than just brave words. They have been wonderful words but, really, so far they have been mostly words and not enough deep action.”

Chan said if Mnangagwa was travelling with a huge entourage, this will send the wrong signal.

“He wants to travel lightly with a few core expert advisers. He does not want to turn up and have people think, ‘what a bloated entourage!’

“That impresses nobody these days. You are important if you and your people know what you are talking about in detail, in projections, and in terms of optional outcomes. Otherwise he will be sent away with the wrong sort of smiles,” Chan said.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition southern Africa coordinator Joey Mabenge said the challenge Zimbabwe was already facing with Mnangagwa was that he is falling in exactly the same trap Mugabe was in, “wasting national resources on globe-trotting and bringing very little if anything, back home.”

“ . . . ED needs to spend more time home in Zimbabwe dealing decisively with governance issues; electoral reforms, political reforms and economic reforms.

“There is overemphasis by ED on international re-engagement and ED is over-talking to the outside world and not to Zimbabweans who need him most, unfortunately.

“International re-engagement should be balanced with dealing with more pressing national questions whose solutions are resting with a genuine national dialogue and open national democratic processes,” he said.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the trips were not justified especially when the country is so broke and he wrested power on a promise of change from Mugabe’s wasteful ways.

“There is no political and economic sense in him travelling to countries where we have ambassadors. He should take cue from Magufuli,” he said referring to Tanzanian President John Magufuli, nicknamed “the Bulldozer”, who has introduced anti-corruption measures and tough economic reforms, including cuts to wasteful government spending, since taking office in November 2015.

Academic and fierce pro-Mnangagwa loyalist and newspaper columnist Reason Wafawarova said: “The frequency of travel is concerning. The purpose is in two parts: Regional engagement and investment. Given the way he came to power, regional engagement is important. Investment is the only answer he can give for all questions on the economy.”

United Kingdom-based academic George Shire said “Mnangagwa’s strategy is paying off in that for the first time in 18 years, Zimbabwe is talked about positively on the international scene and that in itself is providing positive investor confidence in our country.”

“Perception matters a great deal in politics,” he said.

Comments (4)

Your paper has become an Opposition mouth of and blind to truths. ED is bringing business and jobs to Zimbabwe. Analyze the impact on opening Zimbabwe for business. It sad how your Newspaper sunk to no news- is good news level

Mufaro Sibanda - 3 April 2018

Your paper has become an Opposition mouth of and blind to truths. ED is bringing business and jobs to Zimbabwe. Analyze the impact on opening Zimbabwe for business. It sad how your Newspaper sunk to no news- is good news level

Mufaro Sibanda - 3 April 2018

christopher columbus mnangagwa reading straight from his predecessor rwavhi mugabe's political koran

josphat mugadzaweta - 4 April 2018

Mufaro Sibanda do you even know what journalism is these guys should hold everyone to high standards not just aimlessly praising everything. Daily News Keep up the good work

Klucas Clan - 5 April 2018

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