By Rawlings Magede
The events of the 18th of November 2017 will go down in the history of the country as memorable, yes memorable, in the sense that people from diverse political and socio-economic persuasions united for a common cause and heeded to the call by war veterans to march against former President Robert Mugabe.
What was encouraging on the day in question was that even the old, youths and even women who previously shunned demonstrations organised by pressure groups came in their numbers. To me that alone was symbolic and representative of the deep seated problems bedevilling our nation. For me the fact that for that moment people managed to suspend differences and agreed that indeed Mugabe was the elephant in the room. Never in the history of the country had we witnessed such a record crowd during a demonstration against Mugabe.
Not to be left out was the media (both public and private) followed developments with enthusiasm right from the time Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired both from ZANU PF and government. For once the combat hate-filled narratives seen in local newspapers disappeared as the media preached message of peace and unity. In all this the government was also worryingly silent and was on auto pilot. The government which during the time of Mugabe’s rule has often been abusive and predatory, transformed itself as various Ministries scrambled to have the national broadcaster to cover their events.
On the other hand, citizens utilized social media for satire and expressed their displeasure on the continued refusal by Mugabe to resign. So yes, there has been some sense of unity and common purpose among citizens and going forward it is imperative for citizens to continue demonstrating such ethos as they help to build a just and tolerant society.
Today as the nation slowly comes to terms with the reality of the departure of Mugabe, there are quite a number of serious conversations that citizens must begin to initiate. Will the departure of Mugabe herald a new culture of the observance of human rights, economic revival and the end of the culture of impunity that had shaken the very foundations on which a just and liberal society is founded on?
How did we get here?
I think there is shared consensus even across the political divide that the current mess in the country boils down to Robert Mugabe simply because as head of government he was overally responsible. Added to this and most important is how corruption had become institutionalized by Mugabe who openly rewarded his cronies even against overwhelming evidence of corruption and graft. I mean we have our archives of corruption hidden in deep parts of our memories. Yes, this is our hope at least for now, something that has become part of us and as the political tides continue to trudge towards exciting times ahead, all we can do is watch. We have so many cases of parastatals that were left in the intensive care unit by political figures who even in the wake of a new dawn continue to bask and revel in ill-gotten wealth.
But alas, in the past our courts had earned a fame of being magnanimous to criminals, by continuing to operate and skirt on corruption cases with rehearsed precision. Shockingly some quarters within society today can be exonerated for branding our courts as factional proxies used to achieve parochial fights. Even today in a “new Zimbabwe” all those people who marched in solidarity with the war veterans still hope that maybe with the change of leadership, our courts can have a semblance of a just and credible justice system.
What must Mnangagwa do in a post Mugabe era?
I am a very big fan of Christopher Mutsvangwa on the basis that from his subsequent dismissal from ZANU PF, he has been talking sense. Among issues he identified as being an Achilles heel in our economy was serious corruption by the G40 faction that he singled out as the main hurdle to economic revival.
However, there are some problems that I have with Mutsvangwa. In a just and democratic society, there is no institution that is immune to criticism. The way he views the army as invincible and flawless is worrying especially from a man who was vocal to the creature of a demigod that Mugabe had become. In the past, even Mugabe was portrayed as flawless and invincible such that even those within ZANU PF believed it for 37 years! It is this culture that must never be tolerated in a new Zimbabwe.
The army including the Generals are human as well who can err and make mistakes just like everyone. Positive criticism and tolerance must form the foundations of this “new Zimbabwe” for the simple reason that today skilful politicians around have proved adept at manipulating populist sentiment and using democratic structures to erect forms of personalised, authoritarian rule.
I think an onerous task lies ahead for Mnangagwa as the nation trudges towards democracy. The obvious task is to rebuild the economy and assure would-be investors that Zimbabwe is a safe investment destination. This process might involve serious amendments to the country’s indigenisation laws that have scared away potential investors.
This will also involve the implementation of sound economic policies that stifle economic growth. Other issues to be addressed include responsible governance, transparency, prosecution of those fingered in corruption, free and fair elections and an even application of the rule of law. One cancer that had crippled government ministries and parastatals is nepotism. The new government must also create a conducive environment where citizens enjoy fundamental human rights and freedoms that are enshrined in the constitution.
Closely related to this is the fact that the system of Mugabeism is still very intact and had permeated even to the lowest ZANU PF structures. These structures wield a lot of influence and power that even usurp that of constitutionally provided institutions such as Traditional leadership. For these and other hang-ons, it is high noon for them to appreciate and embrace the reality that Zimbabwe just like any sovereign state is for all of us to enjoy and rebuild.
In the final analysis, incoming President Mnangagwa has a herculean task ahead of him that require a tough and no-nonsense policy on corruption and impunity. This is so because through his recent press statements, he has raised hope and expectation on the need to be inclusive in the rebuilding exercise. The citizenry at the moment is closely monitoring if Mnangagwa will weed out corruption, deal with the deep rooted problem of impunity, improve Zimbabwe’s tainted human rights record and implement policies that will herald a new dawn for the country.
The days ahead will have many eyes.
Rawlings Magede is a rural political enthusiast who writes from Gokwe-Kana.He tweets @rawedges and contactable on [email protected]