Zimbabwe was been ushered into a new dispensation in perhaps the least predicted way when the only leader it has known since independence in 1980, Robert Mugabe, was deposed in the most spectacular fashion. The former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa has now taken over the reins following a military led intervention.
Events culminating in Mnangagwa assuming the president’s office of the southern Africa country began in the second week of November when former president Mugabe at the instigation of his much maligned wife decided to sack his deputy. Within days of Mnangagwa’s sacking, the military made a spectacular intervention which was to be joined by the citizens putting pressure on nonagenarian eventually conceding to relinquish power on the 21st of November after 37 years in power.
The details of what transpired in the 10 days to the 21st of November are well document.
The country is certainly in a new era. Having been isolated for nearly two decades after the former president chose a hard line stance to retain power by firstly executing an often violent seizure of white owned commercial farms under the country’s Fast Track Land Reform program of the year 2000. The program invited and then unleashing a reign of terror on citizens particularly in the opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The sanctions on the entire leadership and state owned enterprises only worked to accelerate an economic decline which had started following Mugabe’s military intervention in the war in DR Congo and unbudgeted pay outs to the country’s liberation war veterans.
The new president Mnangagwa has hit the ground running. Within a week of taking office, there has been a few pronouncements which are far removed from the manner with which Mugabe carried on. The new president has promised a leaner government where some ministries will be merged and other dropped completely. His own party ZANU (PF) has already announced their congress in December’s budget has been slashed from US$8 million under Mugabe to US$1 million. He has made corruption the number one enemy of the state.
Known to be a pragmatist more concerned with the performance of private enterprise in the economy, Mnangagwa has declared the country open for business again.
Britain despatched a senior government minister in Rory Stuart ahead of Mnangagwa’s inauguration leading to an expectation that the UK government is more than keen to re-engage with the resource rich southern Africa country. With the UK exiting Europe following the Brexit vote in 2016, and the need to re-establish trade links for bilateral arrangements, the change in Zimbabwe and expected thawing of relations could not have come at a better time for both countries.
A crucial policy shift was announced in his inauguration speech. There will be some compensation for farmers who lost their farms during the farm invasions, the new president announced. Perhaps Rory Stuart had whispered something in the previous evening’s meeting with incoming president from Her Majesty’s government about availing some funds for that purpose. Whatever the case, that change of tone will be well received across Europe.
A different kind of scramble is definitely on. Not just for international investors hunting for that frontier to give a return better than has obtain across the globe since the financial crisis of 2008, but also for the country’s large diaspora population.
The change comes at a time the country’s diaspora population has matured in their adopted countries of residence. On the 18th of November and as it became apparent that Mugabe was on his way out, hundreds of Zimbabweans in the UK converged at their embassy in London to celebrate the events as they unfolded in Zimbabwe. While many might have been celebrating the demise of a man who had caused them untold suffering, some were excited by the economic opportunities the imminent change could potentially bring.
Zimbabweans have over the last two decades settled well and established themselves as residence of the various destinations they chose in getting away from Mugabe’s failing regime. A good number of them has built up successful enterprises and savings stock with which they are looking to their home country to invest. There is a tremendous amount of skill that has been developed and experience acquired in the years spent in the diaspora. All of it is keen to come home and contribute one way or the other.
Whatever honeymoon period the new dispensation has, Zimbabwe has an opportunity to craft something that will last into the next millennia. There is an opportunity to correct the false start of 1980. An opportunity to re-write the whole Zimbabwean story. A nation is expectant.
May the fastest out the blocks win!