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Mnangagwa or Chamisa?

26 Jul 2018 at 11:01hrs | Views
WITHOUT a doubt, Monday's election is about the economy - and who is likely to deliver a better future for Zimbabwe, and the much-needed hope.

It is also an indubitable fact that the winner will either be President Emmerson Mnangagwa or the MDC Alliance's Nelson Chamisa.

And amidst this 'uneasy calm' that has gripped Zimbabwe over the past few weeks, there is a growing sense that the polls have polarised the nation - based on key candidates' ideologies, age and divergent views on moving the country forward - and that we are headed for a political cliff-hanger.

Whoever triumphs, the victor has his work cut out to solve Zimbabwe's countless problems - high unemployment, fiscal indiscipline, cash shortages, crippling foreign currency crisis, inflation, ballooning debt and a widening budget deficit, among many.

But while Chamisa's ratings and support have surged over the past few weeks - as exemplified by the latest Afrobarometer opinion poll, where he has narrowed the gap to 37 percent against Mnangagwa's 40 percent - analysts believe the odds are still stacked against him.

And Piers Pigou, southern Africa director for the International Crisis Group, aptly captured the mood and dilemma over tight and open race saying "it is unclear who will win at this juncture, especially if recent opinion polls are accurate".

"There are many variables at play. Much depends on how many vote. The electoral environment, however, is very clearly skewed in favour of Zanu-PF, and the manipulation of State resources by the ruling party is somewhat blatant. How observers assess these issues and the on-going rumblings of threats and intimidation remains to be seen," he said.

Pigou warned that "whoever wins has a huge mountain to climb in terms of navigating forward on economic recovery. Most Zimbabweans will not feel the tangible impact of economic recovery in the short to medium term as the primary structural impediments to recovery have not been addressed at this juncture".

Tony Hawkins, a respected economics professor, said: "I assume Mnangagwa will win the elections because you don't do a coup and easily give it away."

He said while the repair of Zimbabwe's broken economy was the key guiding factor in the make-or-break election, however, "if you read what both candidates have been saying, you can see that they both have no clue on fixing the economy".

"For instance, you can't give workers a 22,5 percent pay increase when inflation is around 2,79 percent and expect the economy to grow," Hawkins argued.

"The promises that have been made are clearly false, because the rest of sub-Saharan Africa received over $28 billion in foreign direct investment and someone claims one country - Zimbabwe - received over $16 billion in the same periods, I don't think this is true. The promises they make and what they actually do makes one wonder who to trust," he said.

The economics lecturer indicated that if he were to advise people, he would tell them to "choose a different government from the one that has been in power for the past 38 years".

Maxwell Saungweme, a political commentator, concurred with Hawkins, saying "the play-field is uneven, and Mnangagwa will rig to win".

"Chamisa would win, had the election been free and fair. He represents progress, he represents the future. He is more appealing to the bulk of the youthful population and older generations who need a break from Zanu-PF governance of plunder, lack of accountability and human rights violations," he said.

"Chamisa is more charismatic, more eloquent and his SMART manifesto is a better document than others. So, if the playing field was even, he would win. The winner who will be announced by ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) is Mnangagwa," he added.

Saungweme argued that "Mnangagwa represents the old politics and economics of 'plunder', and people are just tired".

Mnangagwa took office last November after a military-shepherded operation that toppled long-ruling former president Robert Mugabe.

Upon taking office, the 75-year-old has preached reforms and undone quite a number of his predecessor's policies, including the indigenisation law.

In the election, the former long-time Mugabe ally has strong advantage because of the power of incumbency, access to State resources and control of the security.

Alex Magaisa, a United Kingdom-based commentator, insisted that the July 30 election boils down to who can take Zimbabwe's economy out of the abyss.

"Zimbabwe's troubles are down to poor economic management, with government spending far more than it generates..," he said, adding that "the government has had no discipline when it comes to monetary policy, which led us to record hyperinflation in 2007-2008 and the loss of our currency".

Magaisa argued that a victory for Chamisa will offer Zimbabweans an opportunity for a fresh leadership experience after 38 years of Zanu-PF rule.

"Government became stale under one-man rule for 37 years and there has been more continuity than change since the coup that brought in the Mnangagwa administration ," he said, further stating that "the system that Mugabe built has remained intact. State bureaucracy is still stuck in the old ways".

Magaisa suggested that Chamisa's government would be "prudent and disciplined in the management of the economy".

"Chamisa has pledged to resuscitate Zimbabwe's ailing economy and the… SMART governance blueprint demonstrates that his team is serious about its intentions for Zimbabwe. Under him, the government will be an enabler and facilitator of business. There will be no need for foreign businesses to go through the… president," he said.

But some argued Mnangagwa's predicted shoo-in was not based on rigging, power of incumbency, access to State resources or his power over security, but his reformist approach.

"Mnangagwa will win with a landslide and there won't be need for a run-off. He is stable in his approach, he is not after the regime change agenda and he delivers," said Callisto Jokonya, the ex-Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president.

"Mnangagwa is the best man for the economy because since he took over the economy is up and running and this is the time to keep the winner in the ring," he said.

The Imperial Refrigeration chief executive said the large number of foreign observers in this year's election indicated the "change Mnangagwa brought".

"The whole world is coming to Zimbabwe because of Mnangagwa; they have confidence in his leadership. We cannot afford to give this country to young boys to run. They have never run a tuck-shop in their lives. We gave them cities to run and they failed, now they want run the country?" Jokonya said.

Vuslat Bayoglu, chairman of the South African-based Menar Capital, also concurred by who saying Mnangagwa's first few days in office demonstrated that he has what it takes to put derailed Zimbabwe's economy back on track.

"Mnangagwa is restoring certainty. Certainty is what investors want. It is what they need to take risks and make long-term investments in the country's economy. Together with the political stability that Mnangagwa is working to establish, the agricultural sector is once again a viable option for commercial farmers and investors," he said.

"It is not only the agricultural sector that is getting a new lease of life. Mnangagwa is a man on a quest to court the favour of local and international business and this can only be good for the Zimbabwean economy," Bayoglu said.

Eddie Cross, a Bulawayo-based economist and opposition MDC senator, said it would be difficult to predict a clear winner in the elections as both candidates have a chance.

"Chamisa is doing very, very well, but it's very difficult to predict who will win. Both candidates are good for the economy as they are talking about change and economic reforms and whoever wins will lead the country to sustainable growth," he said.

"I am confident about the post-election period because the elections are likely to be endorsed by the international community and this is more important that the election itself," he said.

"Whoever wins will need international support to revive the economy. The international community will certainly support the next government although they might put some restrictions on their support," he said.

Kumbirai Katsande, former CZI president and ex-Nestle Zimbabwe managing director, said while he was not at liberty to predict the winner, he was hopeful "that the elections will be peaceful, non-violent and the outcome will be internationally accepted, as that was key for economic revival".

Nick Mangwana, Zanu-PF's UK chairman, accused Chamisa of being divisive and polarising.

"What has been disappointing is the type of politics coming from people we expected to know and act better. They are deliberately dividing the Zimbabwean people in their pursuit of power. What Mnangagwa sought to achieve was to set a new tone on the highly-polarised Zimbabwean political arena. He wanted to lead the nation into accepting that a difference of ideas is not enmity," he said.

"From the moment he (Chamisa) seized power in the MDC-T… he has been pursuing the politics of polarisation. Not once did he act or talk as a statesman. All efforts to unite Zimbabweans across the ages, regions… and gender are being resisted by his divisive politics," Mangwana said, adding Chamisa's "default political weapon has been verbal abuse" and Mnangagwa "has been a major victim of toxic diatribes".

"The diffusion of Chamisa's polarising language into the citizenry has been a very sad consequence of his pursuit of power at all and any cost. He has even uttered seditious and at times subversive statements. He has threatened law and order in this country. Zimbabweans do not have too many differences save for which are generated by Chamisa and Tendai Biti," he added.

According to Afrobarometer, Mnangagwa's popularity has decreased by two percent from the previous poll, which had given him a 42 percent lead.

In the latest opinion poll, only three per cent of the respondents confirmed that they would vote for the other 21 presidential candidates combined. In May, another opinion poll by a little-known Pan-African Forum Limited said Mnangagwa would win 70 percent of the vote and Chamisa would only win 24 percent.

A Mnangagwa win:
The Zanu-PF leader is hoping to win the election by upholding the land reform programme and giving bankable leases, escalating the anti-corruption fight, wooing $15 billion in both foreign and domestic investments, improving national infrastructure, delivering nearly two million low-cost houses by 2023, raising industrial capacity utilisation to 90 percent in five years, boosting energy production to 3 000 megawatts, re-establishing diplomatic relations, respecting property rights, ensuring Zimbabwe is a middle-income economy by 2030 and, more importantly, turning the $16 billion investment pledges into reality.

A Chamisa win:
On the other, the insurgent-from-nowhere that Chamisa has turned out to be also hopes to snatch the presidency based on the people's anger against Zanu-PF's ruinous 38-year stay in power, emotional attachment and tribute to Morgan Tsvangirai, disaffection over Robert Mugabe's ouster, a generational connection with 60 percent of registered voters who are below 40 and fortuitous opportunities for change brought about by November 2017's developments which ushered in a new government.

Chamisa's $100 billion economy carrot - based on tax reforms, infrastructural rehabilitations, combating graft, civil service reforms, bringing finality to the land question and monetary, and his promise of sweeping fiscal reforms including the immediate scrapping of bond notes - could just prove to be icing on top of the cake.

And with analysts agreeing that this will be a tight race, there is a huge possibility that Zimbabwe is headed for a runoff.

However, quite a number of scenarios have also emerged in the post-election period. These are;

•If Mnangagwa wins, Chamisa may protests the win given that he has already been sparring with ZEC based on its shoddy handling of the plebiscite so far.

•Too, some invited observer missions such as the European and American teams, may slam the elections as unfair and cite the same administrative shortcomings.

•The Zanu-PF faction that is loyal to Mugabe - and fronted by dissidents like Jonathan Moyo and Patrick Zhuwawo - may compound Mnangagwa's legitimacy issues by claiming foul play.

•Investors may withhold the so-called $20 billion investment pledges and adopt a wait-and-see attitude until the dust has settled.

•State capitalism in the form of the "command projects" may persist in addition to government involvement in the allocation, and management of scarce foreign currency resources.

•Again, if Mnangagwa wins, his army and security sector loyalists may play a prominent role in many facets of the economy as they may be rewarded with cushy jobs or be awarded lucrative State contracts.

On the other hand, a Chamisa win may;
•Face initial resistance from the establishment - some its members have already made statements that they may not recognise the opposition leader - that would want to maintain status quo, and the tension may end following international community's intervention.

•See speedy stabilisation of the economy, with the curbing of the deepening liquidity crisis on the back of improved foreign currency inflows as upbeat investors may commit their capital.

•Facilitate re-introduction of a domestic currency, which industry has urged government to prioritise immediately after the elections.

•See a return of many Zimbabweans from the diaspora after having left due to economic hardships at the hands of Zanu-PF.

There is also a third scenario of a run-off that will see;

•Zanu-PF likely adopting deposed Mugabe's tactics, resulting in Chamisa pulling out of the race, like the late Morgan Tsvangirai did in the 2008 election run-off, citing violence.

•Tension is anticipated and likely to lead to foreign intervention.

Source - fingaz
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