WATCH: Zimbabwe has entered a new world, Mnangagwa tells investors
Africa / 19 January 2018, 8:37pm / Peta Thornycroft
Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwga has broken many of the old “rules” of former president Robert Mugabe’s 37 years in power and is speaking to the media, all the media.
While Mugabe would hardly ever speak with the privately-owned or foreign media in Zimbabwe over many years, the new man in the top job has twice in a week spoken with both local and foreign editors. Many of them were also denied access to state media conferences.
Mnangagwa’s message appears to be: “I implore you to migrate from the past...to the present dispensation…for economic development.”
And that the elections within the next five months will be observed by more or less anyone who wants to observe them, from the United Nations to the European Union (EU).
Ahead of his departure for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, the first time ruling Zanu PF has attended, Mnangagwa has been busy with the microphone.
He has visited four regional heads of State and spewed the same messaage: Zimbabwe has entered a new world, come and invest, your money will be safe, we have no enemies, only friends, the old order has been replaced etc etc etc.
Even some hostile as well as some false information circulating around Zimbabwe appears to have left him unfazed. Some of his enemies in Zanu PF, in particular those who fled into exile are sending out messages which all need checking to see if they are fake news.
The former G40 gang within Zanu PF has been thoroughly beaten, their members of parliament have been sacked, others have gone to ground and 30 top policemen have been sacked, accused of corruption within the force - fleecing motorists of cash fines at roadblocks for petty alleged offences.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), seemingly in significant disarray and dismayed by its leader’s continued ill health - Morgan Tsvangiarai is in hospital in South Africa for continuing treatment of his colon cancer - claims not all is as serene as Mnangagwa claims.
MDC spokesman Obert Gutu says that some voters have been forced to surrender voter registration slips to Zanu PF supporter and that about 2000 soldiers are campaigning in rural villages for Zanu PF.
This could not be independently verified.
But Gutu did also say he was interviewed last week by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) about up coming elections and the piece was not used by the state broadcaster which has a long record of partisan reporting almost since 1980 independence.
A ZBC staffer confirmed he did the interview but did not know why it was not used.
His senior, the ZBC news editor did not answer his phone.
“I called them and said we had information about the elections, and I was interviewed. It seemed to be okay, but it has not been used.
“There is a serious mismatch between the sweet things the government says and what is on the ground,” Gutu told The Zimbabwe Independent this week.
But for many on the streets and in the villages, there is hope of change. A new era has begun for many of them.
Mnangagwa is determined to make friends again with the West, the United Kingdom in particular.
Informal estimates by Zimbabweans and some British diplomats estimate more than 300 000 Zimbabweans fled to UK, mostly for economic reasons, since 2000.
Mnangagwa and others in Zanu PF long admired British education and two of his children were being schooled in the UK when travel and financial restrictions were slapped on him and most of the Zanu PF hierarchy in 2002.
He was forced to withdraw them and they completed their education at home.
He had previously regularly visited UK since 1980 independence when he was a friend and business associate of John Bredenkamp, a Zimbabwean tobacco millionaire who previously owned huge properties in the UK and was a citizen of both Zimbabwe and The Netherlands.
The two had fractious business dealings over the years, most latterly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Mnangagwa, regardless of his past and violent political background against opposition supporters, is being hailed by many in Zimbabwe, mostly because he is not Robert Mugabe and because he has breathed fresh life into the political scenery and many are confident the economy will improve.
“Anything is better than Mugabe. And we have known nothing else in our lives but him” said small trader Tendai Mahere, who sells cables at a traffic light in central Harare.
“We are not sure of him, (Mnangagwa) but it all feels better. We want to believe him that elections will be okay and not like the past,” he said earlier this week.
A senior businessman in Harare said on Thursday he believed that Mnangagwa has “really turned over a new leaf for Zimbabwe. He is practical and sensible and he knows everything about the economy and he knows what has to be done. Yes, we know of his past, of course we do, but we just have to move along and he will be a one term president who will try and undo the destruction of Robert Mugabe.
“Every day I hear of new businesses which may be coming to Zimbabwe. There are potential investors.
“He wants to make up with the West. He wants to do everything which will be expected of him so that Zimbabwe can re enter the world. So far he has been telling Africa about what he is doing. Soon he is going to Europe, and we expect him to do good work at Davos next week.”
Few believe much will happen for about 4000 evicted white farmers, except that Mnangagwa has forcefully repeated that compensation must be paid to those who were kicked off their farms from 2000.
He said the land grab, or land reform exercise was “irreversible,” but a couple of his ministers have helped one or two recently evicted white farmers return to the small portion of land they had managed to keep.
But few expect that any significant numbers of evicted white farmers, mostly now over 60, would want to return as most have left the country.
Mnangagwa has not yet come with any plans to find cash to pay evicted white farmers compensation.
Zimbabwe’s Constitution says that the UK must pay for the relatively small amount for the land its citizens began to seize in the 19th century and then went on to pass laws which prevent blacks from owning land in significant parts of the country, including the best farming areas.
The Constitution also says that the government must pay the hefty bill to evicted white farmers for the “improvements” or capital development on the farms taken from white farmers which probably now accommodate more then two million black citizens.
Mnangagwa knows Zimbabwe cannot pay the compensation claimed - which will likely be negotiated way below the claimed values,.
Mnangagwa is himself a farmer and has befriended several key farmers, particularly those who do dairy, near his hometown, KweKwe, in central Zimbabwe.
He conspired with Mugabe to crush the opposition after independence and again post 2000 to ensure Zanu PF remains in power, adding that the next polls before mid year will be peaceful and free and fair.
But for Mnangagwa the key moment remains ahead, can he fix the economy, provide a stable currency and create jobs. And he needs to be careful as people this week complained that he handed over new vehicles to traditional leaders.
Few of them are respected by towns folk: “The money for the vehicles should have been given to schools and hospitals, not to those corrupt chiefs. He did this because of elections,” said an MDC supporter in southern Harare.
Below is one of Mnangagwa interviews/statements:
A long interview with Mnangagwa will be published in the Financial Times on Saturday.