8 July 2018

Tanzania: Mnangagwa's Visit to Tanzania Was About Zimbabwe Politics

When it was announced that Zimbabwe's President EmmersonMnangagwa would pay a state visit to Tanzania within few days of surviving what he has described as an assassination attempt, it is not a stretch to see why there are those who might have thought it was a bad idea and others who might have just wondered, as to why he was taking such a risk.

There are many reasons President Mnangagwa went ahead with his planned state visit. Since coming to power after his allies within the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and in Zanu-PF helped sweep aside nearly four decades of his predecessor in office, he has gone to some extra length to show that his promise of a different, better future for Zimbabwe is real.

It is a political norm that a ruler who survives an assassination attempt will unleash the mighty of the state terror to those accused,(fairly or otherwise) of plotting against him. MDC-T's Nelson Chamisa said as muchthat he feared the assassination attempt will be used to justify a crackdown on opposition supporters. President Mnangagwa did the exact opposite knowing fully that any blatant use of force will do so much harm to his carefully re-packaged image of a changed man, one who is ages away from the man who acquired the ruthless reputation of an enforcer for his former boss.

With political legitimacy and redemption so tantalizingly close, dodging the bullet was the only way for him.

He has visited all the countries with leadership positions within the regional body, SADC, in a bid to ensure that the changes in Zimbabwe are accepted by key regional allies, and on that front he has been very successful. Most importantly, knowing that politics in this part of Africa is firmly dominated by liberation parties where Mugabe is still revered as a hero, he and his allies have never questioned the past and claimed they were dealing with those "around" him.

His visit to Kaole in Bagamoyo was certainly not a footnote to be buried under the details of the agreements reached by the two presidents, and to those watching in Tanzania, those who lived through history of liberation struggles, it was yet another moment they were very proud of the past and those who led the efforts. They allowed so many generations ahead to walk with their heads held high.

There are many in this country who did not live through that era who at moments such as that one certainly do envy those who graced our past.

So, coming to Tanzania was completing that cycle while bolstering his liberation credentials. After all, he has been to China, a rising superpower that never abandoned Zimbabwe as the West tightened the noose around Zimbabwe's economy.

His visit to Tanzania was of psychological importance as well. Violence was a common feature of past elections and the blast as he ended his political rally in Bulawayo was a reminder of the times many Zimbabweans do not wish to go back to. It showed that Zanu-PF is far from recovering from the poisonous political chalice that is factionalism which was filled beyond its capacity with the politics of succession.He showed that he, and his faction and allies within the army are in control of the country and that the coming general election will be won by Zanu-PF despite the self-inflicted wounds.

After all, he is in the region where liberation parties have never lost power and the opposition in Zimbabwe are just as bitterly divided and fighting among themselves as much as they are fighting Zanu-PF.

That Zimbabweans are in safe hands under Zanu-PF.

Despite a few wins, Mnangagwa has a poor record with elections when he is on the ballot paper as he lost several times while running for parliamentary seats and ended up in parliament and government courtesy of Mugabe.

This time around he is projecting a very different image.

For a man, who the late Morgan Tsvangirai once described as "visionless" and one who "cannot win elections", he sure has shown remarkable political acumen.

He is nicknamed a "crocodile" for a reason. He certainly is a survivor and Zanu-PF is unlikely to lose power in the coming elections despite changing the rules of the game which has caught almost everyone in disbelief as the time for Zimbabweans to decide approaches.

Mnangagwa is in search of a different legacy to define his many decades in politics. His state visit to Tanzania, despite the obvious regional dynamics, had more to do with Zimbabwe politics.


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