Power transition in Zimbabwe: From frying pan into fire?
By Omolola Lipede
A time comes when overwhelmed Africans desperately desire to see a change in leadership and don’t pay rapt attention to the details of the next leadership provided it is a new face.
This desperate measure for a change can’t be totally disdained, however, what is the need for a revolution without a resolution to be better than the previous administration?
This is a disturbing attribute of Africans that must be addressed judiciously; a change in leadership shouldn’t come with a pain to pay as the price.
Just like disgruntled Nigerians cried out for a change in power, Zimbabweans also took to the street to celebrate the exit of the world’s oldest leader.
In 2015, Nigerians had what they wanted but over the years got below what they bargained for.
In November 2017, Zimbabwe experienced a peaceful and bloodless power transition; it was the talk of the world.
After the transition, Zimbabweans took to the street to celebrate the revolution; it was a great celebration and a beautiful sight.
Also, they cheered Emmerson Mnangagwa as their desired head of state.
Who is Mugabe?
The world’s oldest head of State rose to political power in 1980 by leading a guerrilla war against the colonial masters of his country.
He trained as a teacher and spent 11 years as a political prisoner under Ian Smith’s Rhodesian government.
Mugabe led the Zanu movement and was one of the key negotiators in the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement which led to the creation of a fully democratic Zimbabwe.
Robert Mugabe born in 1924, joined the pro-independence National Democratic Party (NDP) in 1960, becoming its publicity secretary.
In 1961, the NDP was banned and reformed as the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu).
Two years later, Mugabe left Zapu for the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu, later Zanu PF), his political home before he was ousted.
In 1982, Mugabe sent his North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to the Zapu stronghold of Matabeleland to smash dissent.
Over five years, 20 000 Ndebele civilians were killed as part of a campaign of alleged political genocide.
In 1987, Mugabe changed methods, inviting Zapu to be merged with the ruling Zanu PF and creating a de facto one-party authoritarian state with himself as the ruling president.
In the early years of his rule, Mugabe was a hero, building schools and hospitals and was indeed a great leader.
Unfortunately, he became infamous towards the end of his rule; he overstayed his welcome and had to leave the ruling seat through the back door. Mugabe moved from hero to zero!
The man called Mnangagwa
Emmerson Mnangagwa — born in 1942 — is a revolutionary and political leader of Zimbabwe, he became the head of state in 2017.
He was the vice president under the administration of Mugabe before he is fired but came back into power as the ruling president in a coup d’etat.
In 1965, he led a group called “crocodile gang”, attacked white-owned farms in the Eastern highlands.
In the same year, he bombed a train and was jailed for 10 years. In 1980, he was assigned to be Mugabe’s bodyguard and accompanied him to Lancaster House Agreement, which led to the independence of Zimbabwe.
After independence, he held various Cabinet positions under Mugabe-led administration. He was Zimbabwe’s first minister of state security and supervised the Central Intelligence Organisation.
Mnangagwa was considered the country’s spymaster. Despite his denial, he is accused by foreign governments, opposition party and human rights group of being the brain behind 1980s civil conflict in which thousands of civilians were killed.
Served as the minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs from 1989 to 2000. From 2000 to 2005, he was the Speaker of Parliament.
However, he was relieved of his duties and demoted to minister of Rural Housing for openly declaring to succeed Mugabe.
Mnangagwa later paid his allegiance to his master during 2008 general election, he ran Mugabe’s campaign and played out the political violence against the opposition party; MDC.
After his display of loyalty, Mnangagwa was appointed as the minister of Defence from 2009 to 2013 and became minister of Justice again.
In 2014, he became the vice president. As the vice president, he focused on reviving the country’s agricultural sector and expanding its global trade connections.
He negotiated trade deal with Russia, China and South Africa. In 2015, he led trade delegates to Europe to try and re-open trade ties that had been severed since 2001.
Post Mugabe era
On his return to Zimbabwe, masses gathered to welcome him home, Mnangagwa said to the thousands: “Today, we are witnessing the beginning of a new and unfolding democracy”. He assured the people of a peaceful and a more democratic reign, so, he was seen as the hero.
During his campaign for the 2018 general election, he promised to be a business friendly leader and to return the country back to economic prosperity.
Unfortunately, his promises have not been met; the economic catastrophe facing Zimbabwe began to actualise as there are shortages of food, cash and fuel prices skyrocketed.
It is not yet Uhuru, as Mnangagwa has shown inability to jettison the State centrist predilections of his predecessor.
Mnangagwa’s administration is battling with economic destructions wrought through the hands of Mugabe. The once productive country is ravaged by lavish spending, huge debt, corruption.
Just like the era of Mugabe, the current administration resulted into printing it’s own faux money that has led to hyperinflation and monetary base collapse in the country.
The official year-on-year inflation rate rose from 2.97 percent in November 2017 to 3.56 percent in January 2018 and by November 2018 it reached 31 percent; the highest since the inception of multi-currency regime.
On this backdrop, there was shortages of food, cash and major shops that sells food stuff were shut.
The situation that broke the camel’s back was the announcement made by the president in January 2019.
He announced a 150 percent rise in the fuel prices, according to him, the price rise was aimed at tackling shortages caused by an increased in fuel use and rampant illegal trading.
Is that a strategic way of reducing illegal trading?
No consideration about the welfare of the masses, they should come first irrespective of the measures the government seek to employ.
According to Global Petrol Prices, Zimbabwe now has the most expensive fuel in the world. Zimbabweans could not afford to go to work again because of the sharp increase, commodities became more costly while salary remains the same; this led to a nationwide protest.
The police and military retaliated to the protest with a crackdown that resulted in thousands of arrests and more than ten people were killed.
In response to the crackdown when interviewed by France24, Mnangagwa showed no remorse, saying, the protest and claims of death was staged and plan against his administration. He further said that the “claims” of misconduct by the security forces would be investigated.
Has the man once seen as “our hero” now become a terror to the Zimbabweans? One of the bereaved admitted: “I am angry about our government, it is a ruthless government. It is a careless government, they don’t care about humanity.”
The crackdown widely displayed that the Mnangagwa administration has slipped into the era of brutal treatment of civilians. Indeed, once a military man, always a military.
Concluding, indeed desperate situations might warrant desperate measures, however, it is time Africans stopped seeking for any alternative in the bid to get rid of the present leadership.
A revolution should usher in a more democratic and just system, not another round of autocratic rule.
Zimbabweans have chosen this path already, one can only hope it is not from fry pan to fire and that it is not a journey under Mugabe II, which can be more toxic if you ask me.
Omolola Lipede (The Talking Pen) is a contributor to The African Progressive Economist and the opinions expressed here are her own. She is currently an Economics post graduate student at the University of Ibadan. Daily News.