The Sunday Mail
“Eddie Cross reports that a few years before he took over the reins of power, President Mnangagwa remarked, “What this country needs are free and fair elections.”
Emmerson Mnangagwa was not the President of the Republic then: he was just expressing what he felt were the needs of his homeland because he sincerely believed democratic reform was a major part of the solution pack for Zimbabwe.
His memorable visit to China as Vice President in 2015, where he gave an interview to CCTV, was in many ways a prospectus of a reformist.
He articulated his vision for a successful Zimbabwe.
He said that Zimbabwe would need political stability and economic stability in order to develop.
He said that political stability was the bedrock upon which Zimbabwe could reform and develop so as to recover from 16 years (then) of underdevelopment and regression.
Since that interview — for obvious reasons — the dynamics of Zanu-PF politics and his political fortunes took a different trajectory, culminating in both his poisoning and sacking from Government in November 2017.
But, as the story is now well-recorded, he left the country and happily came back a couple of weeks later to take over as leader of both Zanu-PF and the country.
In between, he wrote two open letters to then-President Mugabe.
He showed his views on democracy by declaring in his second letter that “The Voice of the People is the Voice of God”.
This, again, was a man nailing his colours to the mast of a democratic agenda and reform.
A deep-seated conviction
He capped it all with a dispensation-defining Inauguration Speech on the 24th of November 2017.
He said: “Today, the Republic of Zimbabwe renews itself. My Government will work towards ensuring the pillars of the State assuring democracy in our land are strengthened and respected.”
Nobody was pushing him to make this pledge.
Regardless, he made it because he had a conviction that this was the way to go and this was his vision of the country he wanted to shape Zimbabwe into.
It was this speech that marked the birth of the Second Republic. A New Dispensation was born.
A new era that was founded on democracy and an open society commenced. Zimbabwe renewed itself and continues to do so.
Consonant with the foregoing vision, Government has pursued an aggressive reform agenda, internally and externally.
Internally, Government opened up democratic space, a move that found expression in the levelling of the electoral playing field ahead of the 30 July 2018 Harmonised Elections.
All political parties were involved in the pre-election process and allowed to campaign freely, even in Zanu-PF rural strongholds.
The public media adequately covered the opposition as prescribed by our laws.
There was no violence, or intimidation. Naturally, the President’s detractors have always tried to portray that there was no difference between the First and the Second Republic.
But everyone who is sincere knows the distinction as clear as night and day.
Those intrusive and extortionist roadblocks, which were found everywhere, are gone.
Arms of State and security organs leave the opposition to engage in peaceful demonstrations, a right that is enshrined in our Constitution.
On the 29th of November 2018 they held what they dubbed “The Mega Demo”.
This demonstration’s impact was nothing to scream home about, a fact not lost on its organisers.
They then decided that the only way they could get the world’s attention was to be violent and provoke a backlash from law enforcement apparatus and turn themselves into victims.
This was their only way of upping the ante and raising the stakes.
And true to form, from the 14-16th of January 2019, they deployed the 1 August 2018 post-election violence template expecting a “heavy-handed” response.
This they would manipulate and maximise the political dividend to a world highly receptive to ED by accusing him of insincerity in his reform agenda.
Zimbabwe experienced violence and wanton destruction of property.
Government responded and restored law and order, suddenly the villain started playing the victim.
Dramatisations and accusations of the most odious of crimes started playing out on the international arena and Zimbabwe was once again on the international spotlight in the wrong light.
Surely this was more effective than the peaceful demonstration of the 29th of November, which was soon forgotten!
It carried the intended bad optics and sounds for the world to turn and look. Which was the intended outcome.
Violence to the opposition is as effective as the events of 1 August 2018.
Should they continue to be a major beneficiary of the political dividend, we will continue to come to this place again and again. We don’t need to.
Regardless of the deliberately contrived sideshow, the Government is unfazed in its reform agenda.
In Part VII of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) blueprint titled “Governance Reforms,” Government committed itself to ensuring the rule of law; political governance and democratisation; respect for human and property rights; national unity, peace and reconciliation; tolerance, freedoms of expression and association.
It is instructive to note that in defiance of the aforementioned deliberate provocations, Government is advanced in the process of repealing the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
It is going to be replaced by three pieces of legislation that are reflective of the Second Republic’s reformist agenda.
Cabinet has since approved the principles for the enactment of the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill; Protection of Personal Information Bill; and the Freedom of Information Bill.
The actual bills are being drafted as you read this.
The other piece of legislation, which is subject to condemnatory hype, is the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).
POSA is also on its way out.
Cabinet approved the principles for the crafting of a Maintenance of Peace Bill, which will effectively repeal POSA.
To doubt ED’s sincerity in his reform agenda is to be a tendentious denialist.
It is on record that the first piece of legislation ED assented into law was the National Peace and Peace and Reconciliation Act, within days of coming into power.
In line with the spirit of his inclusive politics, reconciliation and unity — a hallmark of the New Dispensation — President Mnangagwa has set the ball rolling through the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), with the mandate to ensure healing for past and present conflict.
In addition, as a listening leader, the President set up a Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), comprised of independent and diverse eminent sons and daughters of Zimbabwe, to give him independent unadulterated advice on the direction the country should take.
The consummation of inclusive politics is the hallmark of every democracy.
President Mnangagwa has set the tone for a National Dialogue, involving the totality of our opposition political parties, as well as members of the clergy and civil society.
This type of politics puts the demarcation between the old and the new dispensation.
The President appreciates that corruption erodes faith in democracy and stifles the instinct of innovation and creativity; hence, in his inauguration speech, he declared that “as we focus on recovering our economy, we must shed misbehaviours and acts of indiscipline which have characterised the past.
Acts of corruption must stop forthwith, where these occur, swift justice must be served to show each and all that crime and other acts of sabotage can only guarantee ruin to perpetrators.”
Turning words into action, President has established a firm foundation to uproot corruption, which chases away capital and impedes economic growth.
Frustrated by underwhelming corruption prosecutions, the President established the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU) in his Office.
The number of prosecutions have since multiplied.
However, there is still frustration that these are yet to be matched by the number of convictions.
ED’s desire is to see the corrupt removed from society for a period of reform and rehabilitation in prison.
On the external front, the President set the tone in his inauguration speech in 2017.
“Whatever misunderstandings may have subsisted in the past, let these make way to a new beginning which sees us relating to one another in multi-layered, mutually beneficial ways as equal partners. In this global world, no nation is, can, or need be an island, one unto itself. Isolation has never been splendid or viable, solidarity and partnerships are and will always be the way,” he said.
Pursuing this agenda and showing his sincerity, the President has spearheaded an aggressive international re-engagement foreign policy that has seen him re-opening diplomatic channels with our erstwhile international nemeses Britain, the European Union (EU) and the United States under the “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” mantra. Zimbabwe’s bid to re-join the Commonwealth is under consideration, while the EU and the US were invited to observe our elections, a thing that was anathema under the Old Dispensation.
Reform is never an easy process to undertake, especially when there are elements that have been eating from the feeding trough brought about by the old order.
The road has not been smooth as beneficiaries of the old order have been fighting tooth and nail to sabotage the reformist agenda.
Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and opposition elements have chosen the anti-reformist agenda to engage in violent, confrontational and undemocratic politics calculated to invite a backlash from Government’s instruments of peace, and consequently cry victim.
Government has not been swayed, nor deterred from executing its reform agenda by those who “throw sand” in everyone’s food and then give the wildest shrill that they are hungry and the people are starving.
Zimbabwe will forge ahead with its reform agenda that serves the people of Zimbabwe without being stampeded by anyone to subvert its internal Constitutional systems and processes.
President Mnangagwa expressed his commitment to reform in his inauguration speech in November 2017.
In August 2018, he renewed his reform vows.
His words have been matched by his actions and his sincerity should never been doubted because it stems from a long-held conviction that Zimbabwe can only thrive if it is a full-blown democracy.
And we are on course.