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Zimbabwe's dangerous drift puts Mnangagwa under spotlight

04 Sep 2020 at 06:15hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE is quiet for now after President Emmerson Mnangagwa clamped heavily on dissent while figures who have led calls for protests have been locked up in jail, with investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono and opposition Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume spending 45 days in remand prison before being granted bail on Wednesday.

Of journalists who have led reportage on grand State corruption involving the President's family, Chin'ono only got bail recently while another, ZimLive editor Mduduzi Mathuthu, is living underground after escaping arrest.

There is no crisis in the country, goes the official refrain. Or, going by Mnangagwa's extraordinary address of August 4, just a few "bad apples" that have attempted to divide the people and "undermine" his rule. "Good shall triumph over evil," he said.

If this was some dystopian refrain, it would still be over the top. Not only has the southern African country drifted dangerously in the last two years, Zimbabwe is in the grip of an unimaginable crisis.

A regime that has arrested and tortured journalists, a leading novelist, opposition legislators and activists while using the courts to sanitise its actions is in dangerous dictator territory and on the path to a failed State.

Mnangagwa has poo-pooed disquiet over his brutality by an alarmed international community which is realising that the killing of civilians in the post-election violence of August 1, 2018 and 17 others during the fuel hike protests last January were not just an aberration, but a sign of things to come. He even managed to get a pat on the back from the Club of the Absurd that is the Southern African Development Community for "maintaining peace" in the region.

While he has subdued, for the meantime, the "bad apples" from among political opponents and activists, his much more dangerous enemy may be the one he wines and dines with.

Citing sources, security newsletter African Confidential, reported recently that at a Zanu-PF politburo meeting last month, Isaac Moyo, the directorgeneral of the Central Intelligence Organisation presented a report implicating Mnangagwa's deputy Constantino Chiwenga in a palace coup. Chiwenga, Moyo is alleged to have said, was part of a plot to replace Mnangagwa with a transitional authority that the former army commander would head.

"According to Moyo, after Mnangagwa was forced out, the plan was that Chiwenga would preside over a national transitional authority committed to constitutional and economic reforms and free elections. In other words, a classic palace coup. An ironic reworking of the putsch that Mnangagwa and Chiwenga jointly organised against President Robert Mugabe in November 2017," it reported.

"Neither Moyo nor Mnangagwa accused Chiwenga of complicity in the plot from which he was meant to benefit. But the implied accusation hung in the room."

The alleged collusion between the disaffected dissidents in the ruling Zanu-PF party and opposition activists would drive Mnangagwa from power with a campaign of mass protests which the Zanu-PF leader made sure did not take off.

The abductions and torture of perceived enemies of Mnangagwa is being carried out by a 2 000-strong unit known as "ferret" within the army's special forces.

Away from his political machinations, Mnangagwa's failures are more glaring: Inflation is running at 837,5%, the clearest sign of the country's worst economic crisis in over a decade which, combined with his contested management of the currency, has meant that Zimbabweans have lost savings and pensions for the second time in a decade.

International re-engagement is dead in the absence of credible political and economic reforms. Such reforms would allow Zimbabwe to access international financing and attract foreign investment.

The failure to reform has meant that the United States maintains its Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act sanctions policy in place.

The policy, in a nutshell, prevents the country from accessing international finance without approval by the US president. The "open for business" mantra has fallen flat. Zimbabwe meanwhile, is in the throes of food shortages not seen since the 1991 drought.

Early this month, the World Food Programme launched a revised humanitarian appeal for an additional US$331 million as new evidence of increasing vulnerabilities emerged.

It is estimated that 5,5 million people in the rural areas are food insecure, and three million of those are in need of urgent aid. Another 2,2 million people in Zimbabwe's crowded urban centres are also at risk. This means that about 7,7 million people, about half of the country's population is vulnerable to hunger.

The suspension of trade on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange for five weeks and the ban on fungible stocks like Old Mutual, SeedCo International and PPC have rocked investors in capital markets. Foreign investors have deserted the market in droves, with their participation at under 30%, a post-dollarisation lowest. The government's actions could potentially ground capital markets in Zimbabwe.

Yet, Zimbabwe boasts one of Africa's highest literacy rates and has abundant natural resources. Once a breadbasket of the continent, it has the potential to be an economic powerhouse. But this can only happen when Mnangagwa embarks on the path to reform and sets the country on the path to political stability.

Predicting events in Zimbabwe is as futile as predicting weather, but the country has been treated to unusual shenanigans lately. In June, Zimbabweans were treated to the sight of Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe and ministers in the security cluster holding an extraordinary Press conference to deny rumours of an "imminent coup d'├ętat".

Kazembe was flanked by Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri, National Security minister Owen Ncube, Defence Forces Commander Philip Valerio Sibanda, Airforce boss Air Marshal Elson Moyo and Police CommissionerGeneral Godwin Matanga and CIO director Moyo, among others. Army chefs were conspicuous by their silence.

Africa Confidential reports that military officers and State officials are covertly talking to oppositionists about the President's exit and a transitional authority while our sister newspaper, the Zimbabwe Independent has reported on the disaffection among army junior officers and among the rank and file of the army as living conditions continue to deteriorate.

Zimbabwe's end game is far from over and the dangerous drift with no clear plan to deal with several crises facing the country has left Mnangagwa vulnerable. Mnangagwa, along with his deputies and top party officials survived a bomb blast during a campaign rally in Bulawayo ahead of the 2018 elections, so maybe he knows that he is not out of gunsight.

Or maybe, Mnangagwa is a keen student of history and knows that every leader who has preached peace has done so standing on the skeletons of the vanquished and with armed men behind him.

Source - newsday
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