20 August 2013

Zimbabwe: After the Elections - What Will Mugabe Do Now?

Photo: SADC
Hawkers in Harare


President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe will be inaugurated on Thursday, following the decision by the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), Morgan Tsvangirai, to drop his legal challenge that questioned the results of the 31 July elections.

This past weekend, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) also endorsed the landslide election victory by Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) thereby concluding the regional body's exit strategy from Zimbabwe's political crisis. Will this plunge Zimbabwe back into the dark days the country saw before the 2008 Global Political Agreement, with a worsening political and economic climate?

In this Q&A Gwinyayi Dzinesa, Senior Researcher with the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division at the Institute for Security Studies, believes Mugabe might opt to tone down the country's radical economic indigenisation programme in order to prevent a renewed economic collapse. He also says Mugabe alone knows who he is planning to anoint as his successor.

The MDC-T called the 31 July elections a 'monumental fraud'. Yet it has now withdrawn its legal challenge of the results in which Mugabe won by 61% and ZANU-PF got 160 of the 210 seats in parliament. Was there any chance that the courts would have reversed the results?

The chances ranged from slim to none, considering the precedence of the Constitutional Court's judgements regarding the elections. There is definitely concern that the Constitutional Court members, who are appointed by Mugabe, are partisan and biased in favour of ZANU-PF. Some of the judges also benefited from ZANU-PF's controversial land reform programme.

The MDC-T also withdrew their petition because of lack of evidence in support of their case after last week's High Court indefinite reservation of judgment on pushing the release of information to the party by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

Some say this is now the end of Tsvangirai and he should actually retire after losing to Mugabe in three elections. Do you agree?

I think Tsvangirai has been outsmarted by ZANU-PF and by Mugabe's strategies. We should certainly look beyond the irregularities reported by international and local observers and look at the MDC-T itself as well.

Did Tsvangirai have a clear-cut strategy and a pro-poor ideology that would appeal to Zimbabwe's electorate?

While ZANU-PF won in the June 2008 presidential run-off election through coercion, this time it used the opportunity of interfering with the electoral process, including the manipulation of the voter's roll. The MDC-T was being skinned without realising it was being outfoxed by ZANU-PF.

It appears as though Mugabe has come out of this election with renewed vigour and has told opponents who question the outcome of the vote 'to go hang'. Does that mean he has little appetite for reconciliation with the opposition?

With Mugabe you can never tell, but it appears that he has been re-invigorated by the fact that he and ZANU-PF won by a landslide and people weren't expecting it. We might see him proceeding to appoint a ZANU-PF-only cabinet and going all out to make sure ZANU-PF retains its political hegemony in Zimbabwe. What we have now is a de facto one-party state. This is what ZANU-PF has wanted from day one. It won't be surprising to see ZANU-PF trying to kick the MDC while it is down.

Mugabe has also vowed to continue with ZANU-PF's economic indigenisation programme to transfer 51% of all foreign-owned businesses to Zimbabweans. He calls it 'the final phase of total liberation'. What does it mean for the economy of the country? Are we likely to see any violence as was the case with the farm evictions that started in 2000, when about 4 500 white farmers were replaced by over 200 000 black farmers?

This is a key question. I think ZANU-PF and Mugabe will go ahead with the indigenisation process, which was a key part of ZANU-PF's political manifesto, but I do not see this particular phase of the liberation of Zimbabwe turning violent. I think the message is clear to Zimbabwe's foreign-owned businesses that they must play along with Mugabe and they will not resist it.

But I don't think it is a foregone conclusion that he will implement the radical indigenisation policy, because it could be a death knell for Zimbabwe's economy. The country needs new investment, it needs new jobs and it also needs to increase its production levels. The indigenisation policy will only be a transfer of ownership and do none of that. So we will perhaps see Mugabe opting to moderate the indigenisation policy to normalise Zimbabwe's international and economic relations.

Some companies like Zimplats, Impala Platinum's Zimbabwe unit and the largest foreign investor in the country, seem to be playing ball. A deal was signed in January this year to transfer 51% of Zimplats to local ownership. Will others go along? Could the policy work?

If ZANU-PF and Mugabe decide to go all out with the process, we can actually see the foreign-owned companies complying. From ZANU-PF's viewpoint it will be seen as a success.

And if they don't comply, there will always be the massive Chinese investment, which stood at $700 million for 2011. Will Chinese businesses also be affected by the indigenisation?

That's the key challenge, because China has been friendly to the ZANU-PF government and it will be very interesting to see whether the programme is also going to target Chinese-owned businesses. If Mugabe decides to implement indigenisation and Western nations retain sanctions against Zimbabwe, we will see ZANU-PF continuing with its 'Look East' policy. Then the Chinese businesses might be safeguarded.

There is a lot of speculation about who will succeed Mugabe. According to reports, Vice-President Joice Mujuru has now been charged with selecting new ministers and taking charge of government issues. What are her chances of becoming Zimbabwe's next president?

If these reports are anything to go by, this will place Mujuru in pole position to succeed Mugabe. Within ZANU-PF there is a clear hierarchy and a policy that in the event that Mugabe decides to leave politics, the party's vice-president, who is automatically the country's vice-president, will succeed Mugabe. But it is ultimately only Mugabe who knows who among the ZANU-PF members is his preferred lieutenant.

There is concern that [the job of] nominating ministers could be a poisoned chalice given to Mujuru so that Mugabe can see where her allegiances lie within Zanu-PF.

We should also not rule out the other heavyweights like Emmerson Mnangagwa, the powerful outgoing defence minister who reportedly heads one of the ZANU-PF factions.

There is also Sidney Sekeremayi, another senior figure, who has been keeping a low profile since independence, but Mugabe has given him several powerful and strategic cabinet positions. He is the most recent Minister of State Security, which means he was probably monitoring political bigwigs, including Mujuru and Mnangagwa. Therefore some also see him as a potential successor to Mugabe.

Mugabe would want someone he trusts and whom he feels will be able to hold ZANU-PF and the country together. There is some concern that Mujuru, who is seen by some as the gentle face of ZANU-PF, might not be able to do that.

What if Mugabe dies while in office?

The results could be disastrous for Zimbabwe and for the country, because the daggers will be out among the heavyweights in ZANU-PF. One could see a similar scenario as the one that prevailed in April 2012 in Malawi when powerful people surrounding deceased President Bingu wa Mutharika tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent Vice-President Joyce Banda from succeeding to the presidency.

When will Zimbabwe's new government be announced?

Now that the MDC has dropped its court challenge, the president will be inaugurated on Thursday and he will then announce his cabinet.

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