/ 26 August 2022

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, please deliver a government that will attract Zimbabweans home

President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Dear Mr President Mnangagwa,

I write to you humbly, as a pan-Africanist, one pregnant with hope that one day Africa will be one. I feel comfortable writing to you because I know that you are a pan-Africanist whose burning desire is to see a united and prosperous Africa. 

To state the obvious, Mr President, millions of your countrymen have made their way across the border into South Africa, the region’s economic power. This would be nice if the mobility was voluntary but, as we all know, it isn’t. They have run from persecution, from hunger, from joblessness, from a government — yours, sir, that will not hesitate to apply force to quash opponents.

Your (in)actions have many, far-reaching consequences, Mr President. One such consequence is that a pan-Africanist political party like the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) now stands accused of protecting (il)legal African immigrants who are not wanted in South Africa. 

While you are oppressing and suffocating your own people, sending them fleeing through the non-existent borders of South Africa (and other countries), you are burdening the EFF to defend them (even if “burdening” the EFF is probably false because I feel sure that party’s position will simply but profoundly be that no African is a foreigner anywhere in Africa). 

Another consequence is a lot weightier because your (in)actions, Mr President, have the potential to shape how people — especially the ignorant among South Africans, conduct themselves during the next elections. In other words, your (in)actions can (in)directly determine the electoral fortunes of political parties outside of your own country. That can’t be right, Mr President. You can’t be a proud president, surely, if your bad record at governance becomes the reason for chaos in another country.

Govern, Mr President, such that you do not make it necessary for your citizens to take advantage of South Africa’s porous borders, where they face danger and constant fear. Without documents, your countrymen in South Africa have no right to work and have difficulty accessing basic amenities. Because you don’t govern in their interest, they flee to Phophi Ramathuba’s South Africa, where they face potential detention and expulsion, where they live a life of enduring uncertainty. 

Deliver a government that will attract Zimbabweans back home, Mr President. Deliver a government that will attract the world to your country. Right now South Africa is up in arms, torn between supporting your countrymen or deporting them back to you. The fact of the matter, as you certainly must know, Mr President, is that repression in your country — a legacy that is yours — has a direct effect on South Africa. 

As hostility towards (il)legal immigrants intensifies, your countrymen become the principal target of violence. While you are watching worry-free, apparently happy to mismanage your country, South Africans will end up killing each other for this. 

Right now some South Africans are taking the law into their own hands, hunting down and terrorising your people because, while you are watching worry-free, South Africans believe that your people are illegal foreigners whose preoccupation is to conduct themselves criminally. 

Given how bad things actually are, you will be forgiven to accept that South Africa is a country mismanaged by the most corrupt among its citizens and, because of that, you will be forgiven to charge that it, South Africa, does not have the capacity to provide for its own citizens. 

You might have a point, Mr President. This writer certainly believes that. But another person will also be right to say that if you were not heading a corrupt and incompetent government yourself, a lot of the people who have left your shores to carve a better life in South Africa would not have left in the first place.

You are an elder, Mr President, a powerful elder who is entrusted with the role to lead your country to prosperity. Let Nkrumah and Nyerere and Sankara smile in their graves watching you govern in the interest of the people of your country, not against them.

Help the snoozing Southern African Development Community to become the African powerhouse it is supposed to be. Many have already written you off but I believe you are not entirely incapable of governing by the book, Mr President, so that the world can look at your country, at our continent, as a place where lessons about compassionate and progressive leadership and governance can be found.

Make South Africans desire to cross the border to stay in your country because there, they’d say about you Mr President, “a pan-Africanist giant has changed things for the better — there is peace and jobs and prosperity”. You can do it. You can defuse the idea that you always resign yourself to a brutally authoritarian mode when facing political opposition. Break this curse that elections there must necessarily be accompanied by bloodshed. 

Afford your country a chance, Mr President, to stop ejecting its people to suffer the frustrations — legitimate or not, of people such as Dr Phophi Ramathuba, who make part of a government that, to cite a mild case of madness, is said to have spent half a million rand of its health budget on skinny jeans

Get real, Garwe, and be the caring father you should be to a nation that once again wants to be proud of being Zimbabwean. 

Dr Maruping Phepheng is executive director at EMPorium Thought. His Twitter handle is @MP_Author.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.