Mnangagwa tightens grip on power

It’s early days yet, but already the outlines of the post-Robert Mugabe era in Zimbabwe — an unimaginable thought just a month ago — are beginning to take shape. President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the generals who backed his power grab are firmly in control.

Mnangagwa’s first Cabinet included several generals and stalwarts of the Mugabe era, immediately dashing the hopes of those in the international community who expected him to usher in political and economic reforms. Those reforms may yet come — they may have to if the new administration is to access sorely needed international funding — but they are clearly not the new president’s first priority.

Besides, some money taps have already begun to open. The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has pledged up to $1.5‑billion in loans and financial guarantees to Mnangagwa’s government. It’s not enough to drag Zimbabwe out of its economic crisis, but it will certainly stave off a total meltdown. Afreximbank has previously financed the introduction of the controversial “bond notes”, a pseudo-currency introduced in Zimbabwe in 2016 to address liquidity issues.

It is also obvious that the military is going to play a more active role in everyday life. Soldiers have been setting up roadblocks, previously the preserve of the police (and a major money-spinner for underpaid police officers). Several reports suggest that live ammunition has been used against drivers who failed to stop at these roadblocks.

Ominously, the new Cabinet minister for Masvingo province, Josiah Hungwe, said the army would be used to campaign for the ruling party ahead of the 2018 elections. “In the Bible, the kings ruled with the army on their side. When we campaign in 2018 … we will move side by side with the military,” said Hungwe.


Fears about the military’s continued involvement in politics has tempered the excitement generated by Mugabe’s departure. “As reports of abuses by the military since the takeover began to emerge, the excitement and euphoria [with which] many Zimbabweans greeted the end of Mugabe’s rule quickly fizzled out, to be replaced by uneasiness and uncertainty,” said Human Rights Watch’s Dewa Mavhinga, addressing the United States Senate’s foreign relations committee this week.

“Allegations are rife that, between November 14 and 24, the army arrested and detained a number of Mugabe’s associates without providing information about the arrests, or places and conditions of detention,” said Mavhinga. “Since the military takeover, soldiers have not returned to the barracks but instead are now involved in policing the streets. This is the same military that has been credibly implicated in rights violations against the general population during the Mugabe years.”

Mnangagwa will secure his take-over at the Zanu-PF conference on December 15, where there are just three items on the agenda: the confirmation of Mnangagwa as first secretary and president of the party, the endorsement of him as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2018 election, and the rubber-stamping of the resolutions that ousted Mugabe and key supporters from the party.

But although it is now Mnangagwa’s face on the rolls of chitenge fabric that have been printed specially for the conference, not everything has changed: delegates this year are meeting in Harare’s Robert Mugabe Square.

Mnangagwa’s consolidation of power has been aided by typical disarray in the ranks of the opposition, which has failed to come up with a cohesive response to the momentous events of the past month.

Recently, opposition leaders, including MDC-T deputy Nelson Chamisa and former finance minister Tendai Biti, spoke alongside Mavhinga in the US Senate, arguing for the continuation of sanctions against Zimbabwe. The decision by these senior opposition figures to appear before US lawmakers before meaningfully engaging with Mnangagwa’s new administration attracted fierce criticism at home.

“Biti and company have energised the hardliners in President Mnangagwa’s ruling party,” said journalist and documentarian Hopewell Chin’ono.

“Instead of giving ammunition to the reformers in Zanu-PF, they have made it difficult for such people to have a case and to convince their colleagues to push the required electoral reforms through. This now has the effect of the opposition not having a seat at the table that will be directing political change in Zimbabwe.”

As it turns out, the post-Mugabe era looks an awfully lot like the era that preceded it.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Simon Allison
Simon Allison
Africa Editor for @MailandGuardian. Also @ISSAfrica.

Related stories

Burundian refugees in Tanzania face increasing danger

Human Rights Watch has documented cases of Burundian refugees being tortured and forcibly returned by Tanzanian authorities

Malawi elections provide a global lesson in democracy

COMMENT: Opposition candidates and party can increase their chances of success at the polls by putting aside minor differences and presenting a united front

The Trump era is over. But the fight for democracy is just getting started

A respected and robust United States — with all of our flaws, mistakes and missteps — can be good for the defence of democracy, not least in Africa

Conflict in Cameroon: The schools caught in crossfire

A slew of recent attacks in the country means sending your child to school can be a life or death decision

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

The natural resource curse in Cabo Delgado

A humanitarian crisis looms as a violent insurgency continues to sweep over northern Mozambique. As many flee to safety, the question remains: who, or what, fuels the fire?
Advertising

Subscribers only

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

More top stories

Eusebius McKaiser: Mpofu, Gordhan caught in the crosshairs

The lawyer failed to make his Indian racist argument and the politician refused to admit he had no direct evidence

Corruption forces health shake-up in Gauteng

Dr Thembi Mokgethi appointed as new health MEC as premier seeks to stop Covid-19 malfeasance

Public-private partnerships are key for Africa’s cocoa farmers

Value chain efficiency and partnerships can sustain the livelihoods of farmers of this historically underpriced crop

Battery acid, cassava sticks and clothes hangers: We must end...

COMMENT: The US’s global gag rule blocks funding to any foreign NGOS that perform abortions, except in very limited cases. The Biden-Harris administration must rescind it
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…