Real change will only come to Zimbabwe with electoral reforms and unity among the opposition in order to challenge the ruling Zanu-PF’s long-held position of dominance.
A panel of prominent Zimbabweans told a Gordon Institute of Business Science forum that despite the initial euphoria following last month’s resignation of Robert Mugabe after 37 years as the country’s president, only genuine political and economic reforms would ensure the long-term renewal of the country’s fortunes.
Achieving authentic political change
Professor Arthur Mutumbara, Zimbabwe’s former deputy prime minister and president of the Movement for Democratic Change, explained that while Mugabe’s resignation saw “the end of Mugabe the person, Mugabeism the system is still in place.”
He called the departure of Mugabe “Part One, whereas the departure of Zanu-PF from power will be Part Two”.
The most important task is to create a dispensation that will allow for genuine change through democratic means, he said.
Mutumbara said the energy and enthusiasm among the electorate seen after Mugabe’s departure meant people realised that change could happen.
However, free and fair elections next year were not guaranteed.
Albert Gumbo, secretary-general of opposition party The Alliance for the People’s Agenda, called the coup to force Mugabe’s resignation “a well-choreographed event. The military created a window of hope.”
However, Zimbabwe’s constitution is very clear that the military may not intervene in politics, and the coup had created “a very bad precedent”.
Mutumbara called President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s new cabinet “dull and unimpressive, seeking to reward Zanu-PF loyalists. It is a securocratic state, with the army running the country now. These fellows cannot deliver a globally competitive economy or a free and fair election.”
“The momentum Zimbabwe had is slowly being eroded. There was so much good will in the country and internationally, and it is being squandered,’ he said.
A unified opposition
The unification of the opposition could create a platform on which to deliver change, and articulate a new vision for Zimbabwe, Mutumbara said.
“We must be united so as to have a fighting chance. Unity has a mobilising effect and will create momentum in order to win votes.”
Gumbo called for free, fair and credible elections in 2018 with international support and supervision. He said monetary support from the international community and institutions such as the International Monetary Fund should only come after genuine democratic reforms.
“You cannot reward a crime for the sake of convenience. Mnangagwa is looking for quick wins, we are being played and we need to be alert to this. If we want sustainable change, Zanu-PF must go.”
The opposition has to adopt a strategy that Zanu-PF won’t anticipate and should be happy to be considered the underdog in the run up to the elections.
“If they think the opposition is in disarray we will be able to reach the voters by stealth and spring a surprise on Zanu-PF it won’t be able to recover from.”
Mugabe had destroyed the fabric of Zimbabwean society, Gumbo said: “In our desperation we are clutching at straws. We need to finish this job. The biggest mistake will be to have Zanu-PF rebooted. We must not settle for appeasement for the sake of expediency. Anything else is superficial and prolongs the suffering of the people.”
Aligning the values of the opposition was essential to sustainably building the nation and the opposition must ensure its actions are constitutionally driven, he added.
Asset manager and founding partner at Rudiarius Capital Management, Fungai Tarirah, said from a macroeconomic point of view Zimbabwe’s problems were “few but large”.
The country’s budget deficit meant it could not continue on its current spending path.
“Spending has to be restrained and redirected to activities that will grow the economy, alleviate poverty and create employment. Interventions have to be bold,” he said.
While sharp price movements attracted short-term speculative investors, foreign investors and local institutional investors were a potential pool of funding for credible projects of a long-term nature.
Investors with a long-term investment focus would be key to rebuilding the economy, as was returning confidence to the people who participate in the market.
Michael Hove, member of the ICT Steering Committee of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe and a chartered accountant based in South Africa said the Zimbabwean professional diaspora was hesitant to return to the country, despite the initial euphoria of Mugabe’s resignation.
He said a return would have to be led by a “significant shift” but that despite disappointment he “remains hopeful” of returning one day.
“Investor confidence comes from real political certainty. Core values and competence are what will rescue Zimbabwe,” Gumbo concluded.
“Confidence comes from real political change,” Mutumbara said. This included political and electoral reform and the release of political prisoners.
“Change is possible. We can break with the past and build a new country. The legacy of liberation and land reform was Mugabe’s legacy. Mnangagwa’s potential legacy is the economy: How to create a globally competitive, peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe.”
• City Press is a media partner of the Gibs forums.