When Emmerson Mnangagwa replaced Robert Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe, the wildly optimistic called it a new start.
Three years down the line, it has proved to all have been a false dawn.
Mnangagwa has failed an easy test to reinvent and rebrand himself.
That was all he needed to do to get himself and his country an easy pass of admission back into a community of nations.
For people who have always known Mnangagwa, the ongoing arrests of journalists, abductions of political opponents and civic leaders, cronyism and growing corruption in Zimbabwe have not come as a surprise.
For them it’s all keeping in kind. Mnangagwa, his detractors are quick to point out, has not disappointed.
In the midst of these chaos it is not clear who really is in charge in Zimbabwe.
The health of vice president Constantino Chiwenga has been a subject of national gossip.
Yet recently Chiwenga was in addition to VP also appointed minister of Health. He has no training in public health or any related field. And coronavirus has literally sapped all life out of Zimbabwe’s public health infrastructure.
To put the cherry on top, there is a groundswell of reports on a growing drift between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga. Mnangagwa has reasons to suspect Chiwenga might be plotting a coup against him – not altogether unfounded given that he retains close ties with the army.
As head of Zimbabwe’s security services just after independence, Emmerson Mnangagwa unleashed a genocidal campaign of horror against the people of Matebeleland the brutality of which to this day still festers in several parts inhabited by Ndebele people. Mnangagwa has steadfastly declined to atone much for those crimes.
For all the time that Mugabe was in power, Mnangagwa was his dotted henchman.
Together with Joyce Mujuru, Mnangagwa has been a part of Robert Mugabe’s cabinet and politburo until a few years ago when both of them were at different times sacked by Mugabe as his vice president.
Details show that for close to sixty years Mugabe took Mnangagwa as own son, advised and shepherded the young man’s education and later saved him when he faced a death penalty as a teenager.
Rather than lift sanctions, the west should increase them, including possibly citing the regime as a state sponsor or terrorism.
Most of SADC leadership, including president Mokgweetsi Masisi has campaigned tirelessly to get all sanctions on Zimbabwe removed. Their reasons, to be fair were convincing and somewhat compelling, only in so far as they vaguely talked about the people of Zimbabwe.
For President Masisi, much more than all the adverse effects Botswana sufferers as a result, the issue of Zimbabwe is much more personal. It is clear from his body language that he likes and relishes the company of Emmerson Mnangagwa – notwithstanding Mnangagwa’s history.
When Mnangagwa came to power he was welcomed across the capitals of the world. He was sold as a changed man who had fallen out with an incorrigible Mugabe so as to save Zimbabwe and the Zimbabweans. He too struck all the positive notes.
The IMF even spoke of opening a new leaf – a new chapter in its relations with Zimbabwe.
However all those who have known Mnangagwa advised caution. In dealing with a man they dubbed crocodile, the world had every reason to be skeptical, even cynical they said. They begged the world not to be fooled.
Now they have been vindicated by ongoing events in Zimbabwe. All reforms he pledged and promised are now under the water as Mnangagwa has retreated to his comfort lair of a security state.
In Davos just over two years ago, the globalists that control the World Economic Forum listened with amazing credulity when Mnangagwa told the world that “Zimbabwe was open for business.” They almost fell for his trickery.
From their faces they believed him – or at the very least were willing to give him benefit of doubt.
They all cannot believe what they are seeing playing out in Zimbabwe today, all under the watch of a man they so closely came to giving a clean pass to world re-admission.
Zimbabwe’s economy is in much deeper trouble than when Mnangagwa came into power following a military backed coup against his mentor and political godfather.
Power cuts have become more frequent and more endemic. People’s buying power has all but collapsed. Cash has run out, except for Mnangagwa’s cronies.
Fuel shortages are more regular. Elsewhere minerals and mines are a source of improved livelihoods for ordinary people.
In Zimbabwe they have instead become a source of corruption, violence and patronage against the people of Zimbabwe.
Cronyism has thrived under Mnangagwa.
The legendary Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran could not have foreseen the tragedy that has become Zimbabwe when almost a century ago he wrote his poignant poem “Pity The nation.” Yet nothing better captures the misery of Zimbabwe today:
Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as a hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful….
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in its funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins…
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.
Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
and farewells him with hooting,
only for them to welcome another with trumpeting again.
The West has, thankfully so far declined to remove the sanctions against Zimbabwe. And it should stay that way until such time that Mnangagwa can demonstrate that the reforms he is required to put in place have attained an irreversible momentum.
It is clear that Zimbabwe is truly on its way to becoming a failed state. And the people most suffering are the ordinary people. The world does not need any lecture from SADC leadership on this.
We also know that the beneficiaries of removing sanctions will be Mnangagwa and the elite that include the military junta led by General Chiwenga.
The political situation in Zimbabwe is precarious, made all the worse by recent abductions of opposition activists, the media and civic community leaders. Elections are due in 2023. The situation will get worse ahead of those elections.
Some people believe that official intolerance under Mnangagwa has already surpassed Mugabe’s. It might be an exaggeration, but it’s not too far off the mark. Pity the nation!