The outcome of last week’s general elections in Zimbabwe which returned the ruling-ZANU-PF to power has rekindled hope for continued democratic rule in the Southern African country.
Coming less than a year after the exit of the country’s independence leader, Robert Mugabe, the international community was anxious about both the outcome and the process of the election which incumbent, Emmerson Mnangagwa won with a narrow margin of 2,460,463 9(50.8 percent)against the main opposition candidate, Nelson Chimasa’s 2,147,436(44.3 per cent).
As it is customary with opposition politics in Africa, the MDC Alliance led by 40year-Chimasa shouted blue murder, alleging rigging of the vote by the ruling-ZANU-PF. The allegation of vote rigging became even more credible when the electoral agency, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission(ZEC) released the result on Thursday, August 2 four clear days after the voting ended across the country.
Supporters of MDC Alliance especially in their Central Harare stronghold began violent protests Wednesday, protesting alleged rigging even when result of the presidential was yet to be released.
With result of the parliament vote released by Tuesday, showing ZANU PF winning 140 seats against MDC Alliance’s 50, the opposition knew well that the vote had been won and lost.
Analysts believe that the outcome of the election was a true representation of the wishes of the people as Mnangagwa campaigned on the credentials of his personal integrity.
On the contrary, Nelson Chimasa was seen to be outlandish in his campaign promises as he promised to bring Olympics to Zimbabwe and build a bullet speed rail network across the country. Similar ambitious promises made his analysts doubt his capacity to deliver given the rather parlous state of the Zimbabwean national economy.
His rejection of the election result raised tensions at the weekend and created anxiety about the future of the country which has witnessed post election violence for most of the times Mugabe “won” the presidency with the ZANU-PF as his platform.
The violent protests earlier in the week, which forced President Mnangagwa to call the country’s Army led to the killing of at least three persons while scores were injured as the soldiers patrolled the streets to control the possible spread of the protests outside Harare.
Critiques faulted the President for early invitation of the Army for what would have been a police action. The criticisms came too late in the day as lives have been lost.
Mnangagwa may have made a bold statement about his democratic credentials with the successful conduct of the elections despite the obvious pitfalls.
Even though he promised fresh polls immediately upon assumption of office, a section of ZANU PF loyalists expected the elections to hold at a later date to enable him have a better hold on power.
The result of the election showed that ZANU PF, the party which won the independence election in 1980 was still enjoying a modicum of popularity in the country.
It was even more credit to Mnangagwa’s leadership that about 70 per cent of the five million registered voters turned out to vote, the highest in any African country in recent times where turnout to national polls has been below 40 per cent.
Now that the election has been won and lost, the task before President Mnangagwa is to settle down quickly to address Zimbabwe’s multi-faceted economic problems.
His election campaign promise to halt further takeover of farm lands from white farmers may and transform the national economy have endeared him to the West particularly Britain which had been in a long drawn battle with Mugabe over his administration’s policy to transfer large parcels of farmlands from whites to black Zimbabweans.
Mnagangwa has a rare opportunity to build on the good will he now enjoys with the West to attract foreign direct investments in the national economy and in the process, shore up the value of the Zimbabwean dollar whose value nosedived during Mugabe’s regime of nearly four decades to exchange at about Z$1000 to the US dollar!
On the political side, Mnangagwa should regard his victory as an opportunity to offer his best and leave the stage at the expiration of his five-year term.
Zimbabwe’s political space needs expansion to accommodate all
The country needs a new regime of younger rulers with fresh ideas to bring about the needed transformation. Having been part of the ruling-elite that governed Zimbabwe since 1980 when it won independence from the British, Mnangagwa, 75 should begin to groom a new generation of leaders in a succession plan within his party.