Zimbabwe has one shot at redemption
"The application is dismissed with costs.” With these words, Chief Justice Luke Malaba brushed aside whatever irregularities there might have been in the July 30 elections in Zimbabwe to affirm Emmerson Mnangagwa’s victory as “the will of the people”, setting the stage for his inauguration.
Elections all over the world, he argued, are not simply declared invalid simply because irregularities existed. It was always going to be an uphill bid for opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the elections were too flawed without the reopening of the ballot boxes and a recount of the votes.
The Constitutional Court challenge by Nelson Chamisa, from the beginning, seemed destined to fail. Africa analyst Gideon Chitanga told Thulasizwe Simelane on eNCA that the judiciary in Zimbabwe is too partisan for the court bid to succeed without adducing some primary evidence, meaning the forms.
He also cautioned President Mnangagwa to realise he might have “won legality but not legitimacy”.
Any party-political bias of the judiciary in Zimbabwe is beyond the realm of my competence as is the authority to dispute Chitanga’s take on the legitimacy of Mnangagwa’s 50.6% triumph.
What is of interest to me is whether Zimbabwe can build anything substantive in the five years of Mnangagwa’s reign.
Africa’s politics does not interest me as much as its economy, however organically interwoven the two are.
The presidency of Mnangagwa rests on what he will do in the first 100 days in office to consolidate all the international inroads he made since the departure of Robert Mugabe.
He will forever be associated with his predecessor and equally remembered for his role in the massacres of Ndebele civilians by the army in 1983 to 1987.
There is no denying that his government overreacted to the street protests after the announcement of presidential results on August 1 when six people were killed.
If the Zimbabwe National Army keeps on brandishing its rifles to quell mass demonstrations, then his legacy will be gorier.
Instead, he could do with a reconciliatory approach and magnanimity in victory.
His deliberate gesture to embrace those who did not vote for him will not only bolster the future success of his government, but will heal the rift entrenched by Zanu-PF’s rule since 1980.
In Chamisa, Mngangagwa has a worthy challenger. The 40-year-old’s time will certainly come.
The slim margin by which Mnangagwa won the presidential polls presupposes a split constituency. Support for Chamisa is bound to grow, if only he can build a solid MDC.
In fact, had Zimbabweans in the diaspora been able to vote, chances are we could be having a different conversation.
His declaration of victory before the results were made official was ill-advised and irresponsible.
Alleging electoral fraud, which no one can ever dismiss out of hand in any election, is much easier than proving it in a court of law.
But that is all irrelevant now; just like Chamisa’s tactical miscalculations in the build-up to the elections and tardy response to the results.
Zimbabwe still has a lot going for it. It is up to the two leaders to work together to rebuild it.
Its high literacy rate, exceptional work ethic and its strategic location in the Southern African Development Community position it for political and economic recovery, given the right leadership.
That leadership is not the responsibility of Mnangagwa alone. Chamisa, interestingly, has a great opportunity to prove his political mettle from the opposition benches and further strengthen his alliance - without the burden of running a country.
President Mnangagwa, on the other hand, faces the double headache of reconstructing the economy while leading a factionalised Zanu-PF to usher in his successor; another septuagenarian will not cut it.
Apart from being younger, his successor ought to be more attuned to what will surely be a more independent minded electorate in 2022.
Whatever happens from now on, the country has one shot at redemption.
The election of Mnangagwa was certainly not perfect, but this is as perfect an opportunity as Zimbabwe will ever get to save itself.
* Kgomoeswana is the author of Africa is Open for Business; a media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs, and a columnist for Destiny Man - Twitter Handle: @VictorAfrica
The Sunday Independent