25 September 2018

Zimbabwe: ED Explains to the World He Is His Own Man

Photo: New Zimbabwe
U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols, left and President Emmerson Mnangagwa (file photo).

Since arriving in New York for this year's United Nations General Assembly summit last Thursday, President Mnangagwa and his delegation have been busy with meetings and interviews.

Various media houses, countries and companies are dying to hear from them on how the country intends to move forward since the founding leader of the nation, Robert Mugabe, resigned in November last year and President Mnangagwa took over.

The President and his team have so far not wasted time in ensuring that their audiences, some of whom are potential investors and development partners, are fully briefed on the country's new economic trajectory and how it intends to achieve this.

The world was looking forward to President Mnangagwa's interviews with global media leaders such as the CNN and he did not disappoint.

In an interview with CNN journalist and television host, Christiane Amanpour on Friday last week, he seized the opportunity to clarify some of the West's misconception about him, for instance the fact that having worked under Mugabe for almost four decades he was likely to perpetuate the former's leadership style and that nothing much would change under his administration.

The events of August 1, which saw some six people dying as a result of skirmishes between the police and violent opposition members protesting against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) even when the electoral body was not yet done with announcing the results, is one issue which has been used by most people to liken President Mnangagwa to his predecessor.

President Mnangagwa rebutted the "Mnangagwa is Mugabe" insinuation by pointing out that he had put in place a commission of enquiry into the matter which is being led by former South African president, Kgalema Motlanthe.

He demonstrated his administration's commitment to transparency by indicating that, "we could not investigate ourselves."

The President gave a clear indication of the country's future by emphasising peace going forward.

Seemingly unsatisfied by this explanation, Amanpour insisted that President Mnangagwa was part of the previous administration and described the new Government as "old wine in new bottles" but the President demonstrated his commitment to championing change for Zimbabweans to enjoy better life than that experienced during the Mugabe era.

"If you look at me then you would say I belong to the old guard. That's a fact, but look at the Cabinet, how many people are new in that Cabinet you can see the direction that we are taking," said President Mnangagwa in reference to his gender-balanced and technocratic 21-member Cabinet.

This is a departure from the over 35-member Cabinet ninisters which used to characterise Mugabe's administration.

One matter which is the favourite of many global journalists is the Gukurahundi disturbances of the 1980s in the Matabeleland and Midlands Provinces.

Amanpour sought to pin him and press for an apology but the President pointed out to her that he had tasked the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to look into the matter and pledged to make public its findings and carry out its recommendations to bring closure to the decades-long matter.

His pledge comes against a background of another inquiry into the matter, the Chihambakwe Commission, whose findings were not made public by the Mugabe administration.

Another area which has been subject of speculation is whether or not President Mnangagwa would not, like his predecessor, stay in power for decades.

The President used the opportunity to allay such fears to show that although he worked with Mugabe for a long time and shared the same political party with him, he was his own man who is different from him and had a different vision for the country.

He indicated that he would abide by the two-term stipulation as provided for by the constitution, adding that 10 years was a long time and that he needed to give other Zimbabweans a chance.

Anyone could easily dismiss President Mnangagwa's responses as cheap talk, but those who have been in Zimbabwe since December last year will testify that they have begun to see change on the ground.

They have begun to see roads which have been patched over being resurfaced.

They have seen the President departing from the previous administration's prioritisation of senior party members for Cabinet posts in favour of young and technocratic people in line with the wishes of the people.

If anyone still nurses doubts about President Mnangagwa's commitment to improving the people's lives, abiding by the constitution and ensuring that Zimbabwe rejoins the international community of nations, they should visit the country and witness the progress made on the ground so far.

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