By Helen Kadirire and Blessings Mashaya
As the country marks exactly a year since the military rose up against former president Robert Mugabe by way of a popular coup, long-suffering Zimbabweans say they want President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government to do more to improve their lives.
This comes after Mnangagwa earned a five-year mandate to steer the country following his slim victory over opposition leader Nelson Chamisa in the hotly-disputed July 30 elections.
It also comes as the 76-year-old Zanu PF leader has increasingly come under pressure from disillusioned citizens over the poor state of the local economy — after having been feted in his early days in office and for superintending over arguably the most peaceful elections since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980.
However, even the peaceful campaigns and camaraderie spirit which characterised the run-up to the July 30 elections subsequently got sullied when violence erupted between opposition supporters and security agents on August 1.
At least six people died in these deadly clashes when the army, which had been called to assist in managing the situation, were accused of using live ammunition to break the ugly protests.
Ordinary citizens who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said they were hoping that Mnangagwa would do more economically to improve their lives.
“Look, we all celebrated when Mugabe fell, and we were hopeful that things would change for the better. Alas, and although we are comparatively freer politically, than we were before, our economic well-being is sliding backwards and ED needs to do better here,” a Harare bank teller, Gift, said.
Analysts who spoke to the newspaper also said while Mnangagwa had achieved a number of milestones during the period that he was completing Mugabe’s term, things had “gone south” since the July 30 polls — and even more so after Finance minister Mthuli Ncube introduced his new economic stabilisation measures, including the unpopular two percent transaction tax.
“The trouble being faced by the government now is that of deferred expectations which need to be fulfilled. The first buttons that the government has since pressed were disastrous.
“The dual policies of the two percent tax per every dollar transacted and the setting up of separate foreign currency accounts were not the best of things that his (Mnangagwa’s) government introduced.
“The policies came without authorities looking closely at the expenditure of government. Thus, the two percent tax is hitting hard on citizens and their salaries, without a corresponding move on government’s own expenditure.
“The speculative buying of goods which followed these policies was expected and has nothing to do with sabotage, but citizens doing so for their survival,” an economics lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, Moses Chundu, said.
Veteran economist John Robertson also told the Daily News that Mnangagwa was suffering “a crisis of expectation” as his government had promised “too much” to the populace.
“In the meantime, we are all still waiting for indicators of better things to come and government seems to be failing in that regard.
“We are still waiting for investors to come, for jobs to be created and for prices to go down.
“We thought that with the recent monetary policy and fiscal policy we would be shown a blueprint of how the economy would get better, but instead the monetary policy created more instability by confirming dual currencies for US dollars and bond notes, which they claimed were at par — although in reality they were not,” Robertson said.
Yet other analysts said Mnangagwa still had “a bit of time to turn things around” — as evidenced by his new temporary measures regulating foreign currency transactions.
“Mnangagwa has changed a few things in terms of political space. He has, for example, allowed free space during campaigns but has done worse than Mugabe in militarising the Executive by appointing serving military men,” political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said.
Human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga said the country was yet to witness “meaningful” change, as Mnangagwa’s government continued to “mimic Mugabe’s previous governments”.
“A year after the military coup, there has been no meaningful political change that is beneficial to ordinary Zimbabweans. There is no sincerity … the change has not been real,” Mavhinga said.
Another political analyst, Rashweat Mukundu, said the current socioeconomic situation in the country did not reflect well on Mnangagwa and his government.
“What this tells us is that ED is working with the same old systems and structures as Mugabe and these are systems of patronage and corruption.
“ED must be bold to dismantle these systems, as whatever reforms he intends to institute, if any at all, will be undermined by his own colleagues who are used to live large from the State,” he said.
Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the International Crisis Group also said Mnangagwa had “failed” to deal with political polarisation in the country.
“The biggest problem is political polarisation. The division between the ruling party and the opposition is growing. Zanu PF internal factionalism is also affecting the reform agenda,” Pigou said.
The curtain fell on Mugabe on November 21 when the nonagenarian resigned moments after Parliament had started proceedings to impeach him.
This followed Operation Restore Legacy, which saw him and his erratic wife Grace being placed under house arrest.
Several Cabinet ministers linked to the Generation 40 (G40) faction which had coalesced around Grace were also targeted in the operation, which ended a week before Christmas, with the soldiers only retreating to the barracks after five weeks of executing the operation. DailyNews