One year after soft coup

HARARE - When Zimbabwe’s army took power in a bloodless coup exactly one year ago, it promised to bring happiness back by ending social and economic suffering.

The military said the coup was needed to “target criminals” around then president, Robert Mugabe and to stamp out corruption which had plagued Zimbabwe for decades.

A military spokesperson, Major Gen S.B Moyo, now Foreign Affairs minister, made an announcement on State television saying the army was targeting “criminals around” Mugabe, who were “committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in order to bring them to justice”.

But as the coup’s first anniversary approaches on November 15, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is facing a public perception crisis, with the economy stuttering and corruption as endemic as ever.

The government has also been accused by the opposition of stealing the July 30 general elections, and creating a legitimacy crisis.

The MDC Alliance challenged the election result in the Constitutional Court, ruling that Mnangagwa had won legitimately, though electoral reform to cut the advantage of incumbency was a necessary condition for a truly free and fair outcome in future.

Despite claims of despondency and gloom in Zimbabwe over the court decision, there was little tangible evidence of either.

For the most part, Zimbabweans reluctantly accepted the Con-Court verdict and just wanted to get on with things amid hopes that the new president was going to keep his promises.

Mnangagwa was sworn in on August 26, as president — signalling the start of addressing the big challenges facing the country after decades of neglect and repression.

MDC Alliance’s defeated leader, Nelson Chamisa, added the court ruling to the list of things it rejected and claimed the recent elections were ”the theft of the century.”

Chief Justice Luke Malaba said Chamisa “failed to provide direct and substantial evidence to allegations of vote rigging, which would be sufficient for the court to invalidate the election results.”

“Had the applicant placed all the V11 forms (which contain voting data from polling stations) from all polling stations before the court, they could have been compared with the residue in sealed ballot boxes, and that would have addressed the allegations of over-voting, the differences in presidential and parliamentary tallies, the alleged surge of voters (in the last hour of voting day) in some provinces, and the question of probability of some polling stations having similar results.”

In his inaugural speech, Mnangagwa pleaded for unity above political differences in order to confront the tasks that lay ahead.

“We are all Zimbabweans, what unites us is greater than whatever divides us,” he said.

“Let us look forward to the journey ahead, a journey we will walk together as one people. A united people. Together let us explore new frontiers in every facet and sphere of our economy and society.”

When he first came to power in November, Mnangagwa said his rule was the beginning of a new and unfolding democracy” and vowed to revitalise Zimbabwe’s ravaged economy and to rule on behalf of all the country’s citizens.

But in recent months his government has been the subject of ridicule with locals saying conditions have deteriorated since July’s contentious election.

Petrol, food and medicine shortages are biting amid sharp rising prices of basics.

In recent weeks, some vital commodities have become scarce, with motorists in Harare, the capital, spending nights in their cars in queues outside petrol stations, supermarkets rationing purchases or shutting entirely, and chemists unable to provide some basic medicines.

The immediate cause of the crisis was the introduction of a new two percent tax on electronic transactions intended to raise revenue from the vast informal sector that has mushroomed in recent decades.

In the meantime, corruption is worsening.

Zimbabwe was last year ranked 157th out of 175 countries on the Transparency International index, which measures public perceptions of corruption in public institutions.

But others think the government has done what it set out to do.

Deputy Information minister Energy Mutodi told the Daily News on Sunday that there is room for improvement in the programmes that they have already started implementing that are meant to improve the country’s democracy record.

“There are a number of issues that have changed one of which is the opening up of the democratic space. Since the entry of … Mnangagwa as head of State, police brutality has waned and the freedom of expression has been fortified. There has also been emphasis on the need to respect the opposition, tolerate dissent and promote peaceful co-existence,” Mutodi said.

He said the July 30 harmonised elections were historical in that for the first time, the country had a peaceful plebiscite.

He however, said, “Elections can never be free and fair in the eyes of everybody and as a young democracy; we have a big room to improve and perfect our systems. On the economic front, the president has invented the ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’ mantra and it is real. There is real commitment on the part of government to weed out corruption, unfair business practices that injure the public and to improve the economic performance of the country for the benefit of everybody.”

Mutodi further said it was business unusual, and government had changed the way it transacts business.

“It’s time to be realistic and take serious and painful steps to correct the errors of the past. Government through the Transitional Stabilisation Programme now aims to achieve an upper middle-class economy by 2030.

“That is the vision of our president ED Mnangagwa and we will help him achieve this. As a response to the government commitment to reform, a number of investors are warming up to invest in Zimbabwe and we hope to achieve an active job market in the nearest future,” he said.

However, the worsening economy has fuelled a resurgence in anti-government sentiment.

The opposition MDC Alliance, which lost the June elections, said the government had spent the last four months trying to extend its illegal hold over Zimbabwe. 

The MDC Alliance has rejected an invitation from the “junta” to work together as the official opposition.

MDC Alliance spokesperson Jacob Mafume, however, said nothing has changed since Mugabe left.

He said the country was still dogged with rampant corruption, State capture, theft and primitive accumulation.

“Since... Mugabe left power, it has been a case of flying from the pan into the fire,” Mafume told the daily News on Sunday.

“It has become clear that Mnangagwa is the source of many of Mugabe’s activities. Firstly, Mnangagwa is clueless on the economy, he believes that he can threaten the economy, he believes that they can cause the economy to work, it can’t.

“Politically, Mnangagwa is still using the same laws, he is threatening enemies, arresting people insulting him, dividing his own party, creating factions where there are none, failing to observe human rights, failing to observe the Constitution and so forth,” Mafume said, adding that Mnangagwa has violated certain norms and values of democracy.

Although the government has repeatedly promised to return happiness to the Zimbabwean people, some disgruntled locals say they have run out of patience.

An agricultural economist who declined to be named for professional reasons said the agricultural sector, which accounts for a major chunk of the economy, has been particularly hard-hit by the pricing madness.

The government has since promised millions of dollars in loans to help stabilise agricultural prices and offered farming input handouts — leading critics to say it has employed tactics akin to the populist policies of the government it ousted.

Still, analysts say popular dissatisfaction is unlikely to dislodge the government.

The opposition seems weary of bloodshed if it takes to the streets.

Namibia-based scholar Admire Mare said even though there have been significant changes noted, more still needs to be done, as some of Mugabe’s policies are still in place.

“What has changed is the general sense of the freedom to speak and associate but much still needs to be done to ensure the right kind of democratic ethos are mainstreamed,” Mare told the Daily News on Sunday.

“Polarisation remains one of the biggest problems. Even though Bob (Mugabe) has gone, there are still economic and social problems which require concerted effort. The standards of living continue to deteriorate for the ordinary people. Most laws are still yet to be aligned with the new Constitution. Whilst police road blocks have become fewer, our infrastructure still require a huge facelift to compete regionally,” Mare said.

Another political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said so many things have changed, yet so many have remained the same since Mugabe’s departure.

“Politically, Mugabe and Grace (Mugabe) with their crude version of patronage and dynastic politics are gone, though Mnangagwa is struggling to shrug off Mugabeism completely. Mnangagwa showed some modicum of change in some of his politics, such as retiring deadwood to Zanu PF headquarters. But he went miles further in militarising our politics by getting serving generals into Cabinet,” Saungweme told the Daily News on Sunday.

“Economically, what is happening now was bound to happen as it’s causes can be traced to Mugabe, serve for the premature announcement of monetary and fiscal policies that created speculative behaviour and price hikes. Socially, nothing changed, it’s still the same,” he said.

Under Mugabe, several people were arrested over politically-motivated charges, as human rights abuses were rampant, a scenario political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said is still in place.

“It’s up to the new government to dismantle the structures of repression, human rights abuses, and corruption that sustained the Mugabe regime.

“While ED (Mnangagwa) talks of change there remains the same culture and attitudes hence we still see the police harassing citizens, reports of grand scale corruption among others. There is space for significant reforms only if ED does not focus on power but on national development and transformation,” he said.

However, government has said it is working towards making serious changes in the way of doing business in the country.

Comments (1)

Mutodi should know that his boss Ngwena is just changing tactics in suppressing the people.State brutality is usually carried out to stamp out dissenting voices but Ngwena decided to steal the voices of the mass by rigging the recent elections instead of using the police, he used the judicial system by manipulating the judges.Thats soft brutality.The fact that people in high offices continue to steal from govt coffers under his watch is a sign of an equally corrupt and clueless leader.Whats important to Mnangagwa is kuramba achingotonga achingotonga achingotonga and damn comatose economy!

Luke Bikaz Bikela Bikaldo Munya - 5 November 2018

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