A few days ago President Robert Mugabe was declared the winner of the 2013 Zimbabwean presidential election. According to official figures he received 61% of the total votes cast.
Like most elections in Africa, this election has been challenged by the opposition. There have been too many irregularities in the electoral processes and I do not believe, even for a moment, that we would have the same results if the electoral processes were done in an open, fair and transparent manner.
Regardless of my doubts and personal biases, the fact is that Robert Mugabe, at 89, has been given the mandate to lead the people of Zimbabwe for five more years. If he lives through his term until 2018 he would have led our country for 38 years.
As Zimbabweans absorb the election results and debate them in pubs, homes and on the web the most important question being asked is what President Mugabe’s win means for the country- that is if the court challenge being prepared by the MDC against the election fails.
Firstly it means a new cabinet, entirely chosen by President Mugabe. He will have a difficult task of balancing the competent and repaying the loyal. Like most African leaders President Mugabe has some loyalists who he will obviously appoint to important positions. The chances, therefore, of seeing many new faces in the new government are slim.
However there is hope that because President Mugabe wants to salvage his tarnished reputation, he may choose his government based on merit, particularly the ministers of the crucial ministries of Justice, Finance, Foreign Affairs and- now that we have diamonds- Mines. This is unlikely but Zimbabwe is a land of miracles: miracle money, miracle babies and, according to Obadiah Musindo, miracle votes for President Mugabe. We can as well hope for miracle appointments.
Much will also depend on how the indigenisation and empowerment policy is handled. The policy, which seeks to reverse historical imbalances by giving locals a majority stake in all companies, has come under fire from many people who accuse it of being extractive, partisan, prone to abuse by politicians and unfavorable to investors whose money Zimbabwe desperately needs. I think with some revision and transparency the Indigestion and Economic Empowerment can do wonders for Zimbabwe. If not handled well this policy will ensure that after five years we will have a poorer country and much richer politicians.
The Ministry of Home Affairs is another ministry which needs to be headed by an able person. The police and the registrar’s office, which both fall under the ministry, are easily Zimbabwe’s most corrupt departments. The police will also have to contend with corruption and a culture of impunity which has become part of us. They will also have to contain political thugs who, for over a decade, have committed heinous crimes with little or no punishment.
There are also justified fears that because ZANU Pf has parliamentary majority it may amend laws it doesn’t like. ZANU PF minister, Patrick Chinamasa,hinted so when he said the constitution needs “cleaning up”. This is one of the greatest fears Zimbabweans have; the struggle for a new constitution has lasted a decade and half and significant progress has been made. The new constitution the country overwhelmingly voted for in March is not a perfect document but it is good and clipped state powers while increasing the freedom of the individual.
Another challenge the country will have to contend with is corruption. Zimbabwe has suffered from serious corruption for over two decades. It will take great willpower for President Mugabe to clamp down on corruption because his lieutenants are reputedly the country’s most corrupt people. Whether President Mugabe will be able to stop corruption is doubtful, as it has now become an acceptable way of doing business.
Zimbabwe will also be expected to reconsider its foreign policy in particular its relationship with the United States and the European Union who have both imposed sanctions on the country. This is going to be difficult as these countries are unhappy with the way our election was conducted.
Interestingly the US and European countries find themselves in a quandary: They had said they would accept our election results if SADC and AU observers declared them free and fair. Now despite SADC and AU saying the elections where free and peaceful the US and UK have said the elections are not a reflection of the people’s will. The US and UK obviously won’t accept a process they view as flawed as it casts their own reputations into doubt. The sanctions we’ve had will therefore likely remain or perhaps get tighter.
This, of course, means we can reasonably expect five more years of anti-sanctions rhetoric from ZANU Pf and endless arguments about whether they are really sanctions or “targeted sanctions”- depending on who is talking- and their effect on the economy. But the West having seen how the sanctions rhetoric has played neatly into ZANU PF’s propaganda may decide to lift the sanctions. With their scapegoat for every problem of the past decade gone, the government may work harder, more transparently and perhaps we will see real national development.
If the past ten years have taught us anything, it is that international isolation is both undesirable and retrogressive. The time for powerful anti-imperialism rhetoric is past. People now need solutions that put food on their tables and policies that ensure that they have enough money to take care of their families. Three decades after independence we cannot continue to blame colonialism for our woes.
Regional and international relations must also be mended. In an increasingly global world greater cooperation between countries leads to development.
Depending on how we handle our internal politics and economics, we can either make progress or push ourselves into further into isolation. Unfortunately we will most likely see the same old corrupt, tried and failed team which likes to blame everything on imperialism and sanctions.
A lot depends on the choices of president Mugabe and he has never been the most predictable of people.
Wither goes Zimbabwe then? I cannot say