Zimbabwe has been witness to seismic political waves that saw the Mugabe regime being ousted through a military intervention. In his place rose Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, who assumed leadership of both the ruling party and the country.
There has been a body of opinion which has tried to cast Robert Mugabe and President Mnangagwa as two sides of the same coin. This stems from the fact that President Mnangagwa served in Mugabe’s 37-year calamitous rule that saw Zimbabwe transform from a promising state to a failed state. And, that is understandable.
Those of this assertion however have not gone to view Mnangagwa as a person, as a leader in his own right. While the system that these two men presided over is the same, it does not necessarily mean that they are the same too, and their regimes would be the same. To be of that view is myopic in a way. Mnangagwa has been in power for over a month, but already the differences are palpable.
Of course, as a person of the system that took 37 years to build and subsequently entrench, Mnangagwa is not going to let go of some privileges. There are some institutions of the old political dispensation that will remain in place. Some reforms much clamoured for will not be implemented. But for what it is worth, the differences between the old and the new are important to mention.
Robert Mugabe adopted a strong, fierce, harsh and scathing anti-West rhetoric. It served him well. He garnered the political points he needed to save his political life. He endeared scores of people in Third World countries. This resulted in Zimbabwe being an isolated nation, and as a result of this, we turned to the East. Mugabe took every opportunity that was at his disposal to lambaste the West.
The “illegal sanctions” became his favourite song. And again, it served him well. Every predicament the country faced was blamed on the “illegal sanctions.” While the sanctions did harm to the economy in considerable ways, Mugabe, and his government, got to a point where everything, literally everything, had to be blamed on sanctions.
Now enter the new man in town. President Mnangagwa has been a stark contrast to his predecessor. He has eschewed the anti-West rhetoric that was harsh. For Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe cannot remain an isolated state. It ostensibly hasn’t been splendid for the country, a country that has sunk in dire straits where even redemption seemed like a remote, alien possibility. How can you revive a decrepit economy without the help of the international community? Mnangagwa has rather adopted a conciliatory tone. His message is aimed at restoring frosty and fragile relationships between Zimbabwe and the West.
Ever notice how Mnangagwa has not used the sanctions as a scapegoat for the country’s demise? He has shifted from the sanctions rhetoric, rather, admitting in South Africa that Zimbabwe is 15-20 years behind and it needs to catch up. Now can you put that in the same category with Robert Mugabe’s utterances that Zimbabwe is the second most developed country in Africa after South Africa?
Emmerson Mnangagwa’s infant presidency already shows a lot of differences between him and Robert Mugabe, who he has held with great reverence, even referring to him “like a father.” The incumbent does not have a flair of oratory excellence, as compared to his former master. His ability lies in executing tasks well. Which is what made him ZANU-PF’s water carrier. Now Zimbabweans are waiting for this promised action to turn into reality. For Mugabe, it was all talk and talk and talk. Perhaps God gave the man the gift of eloquence.
Let’s talk about white farms. It is there for everyone to see. Under Mugabe, farms were expropriated from their rightful owners often through unlawful means and using force. Political connections in most cases were all one needed. Already, some who have had their farms taken from them through unlawful invasions have seen these return to their hands. When Mnangagwa was still the Vice-President, he heard the case of Rob Smart, whose farm was taken by a cleric through force. Probably Mugabe’s presence hindered him from intervening, because now that he is president, he immediately took action.
Just a recent one. Mugabe was known not to have any problem with the enforcement of price control. And every Zimbabwean bears testimony to the detrimental effects that were brought by these. The period 2006-7 remains infamous for price controls. Following the recent price hikes by some retailers in the country, Mnangagwa openly said that he does not support price controls. He obviously knows the devastating effects of taking that path.
For all we could say, one would still go back to the root problem: Mnangagwa was part of the Mugabe government for 37 years, so why the fuss? Times change. Okay, we know he could preserve some things from the old system, but remember there are elections.
This is evident beyond any reasonable doubt. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is different from his predecessor, Robert Mugabe. The reason for the differences are on many facets, but well, the fellas are different.