Hope remains that the ‘soft coup’ in Zimbabwe could lead to 10 easy victories
The "soft coup" in Zimbabwe could well turn out to be a mere shifting of deck chairs within Zanu (PF), allowing Emmerson Mnangagwa to finally take the prize that he has been waiting for, for so long.
However, it is clear that many change-anxious Zimbabweans are hoping that negotiations currently underway will produce more than this. The situation presents an opportunity for different interests across the political spectrum to come together in an interim administration that, hopefully, would work to stabilise country ahead of planned elections.
Many in the establishment have in the last 17 years accumulated assets — farms included — and will be looking to keep them and finally see them regain their true value; hence they can be expected to support a return to normalcy and the rule of law.
Should Robert Mugabe finally leave the stage, there are 10 easy victories for whatever authority emerges to immediately implement to ease the plight of citizens and win their support, along with that of the international community.
1. Police: Zimbabweans have almost always been able to count on the police's zero tolerance for any kind of crime. However, in recent years the police have been used to hound political opponents and intimidate citizens. They must now be eased out of politics and allowed to regain their rightful role in enforcing the rule of law and respect for human rights. Anyone who has driven to Zimbabwe in a foreign-registered vehicle will have a story to tell about the multiple roadblocks and the ridiculous demands by the police for petty bribes.
2. Economy: The economy has de-industrialised and shrunk by half over the past 18 years. This has left the majority with little choice but to eke out a living in the informal sector. Even mining, a key pillar in the economy, has had little new investment. The key could be in suspending stringent indigenisation regulations that work to discourage foreign investment.
3. Amnesty: There must be an announcement of political amnesty for all opponents of the Mugabe regime, and an undertaking to establish the whereabouts of those that remain unaccounted for, such as activist Itai Dzamara.
4. Currency: The country remains in the throes of a liquidity crisis which needs urgent attention if citizens are to transact normally, reap the full benefits of their work, and save. Thus it is necessary to re-engage with the international community, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, for emergency and balance of payments support. There should also be a prompt decision on which currency Zimbabwe would use, at least in the short term.
5. Government: Just as critical is making all government departments and state institutions, including the judiciary, work better for everyone. The nucleus of government work remains intact although many departments appear to have been hollowed out. There is a need to re-emphasise that institutions exist to serve citizens and not vested interests. However, it may be necessary to start afresh, by replacing many of the current crop of leaders with individuals who have the required mindset.
6. Farming: Agriculture must be brought to full production, not least through the adoption of a pricing mechanism that allows for the proper production of maize and the re-establishment of cotton and horticulture, among others. No less important is the expansion of extension services, along with the enforcement of red and green zones for livestock, to prevent the spread of disease from endemic areas. Success in agriculture would assist in bringing many out of absolute poverty and the vast tracks of unused and undertilised land back to full production.
7. Local authority: Power must be handed back to local authorities to allow them to make and enforce their own by-laws. The inability of cities to act freely has led to a decline in service delivery and has, for instance, hampered Harare’s ability to solve its water problem, leading to intermittent outbreaks of cholera.
8. Freedom: The arsenal of laws that curtail media freedom, along with the freedom to interact, organise or to speak one’s mind, must be suspended. There would also be room to open the airwaves for truly independent players, including community stations such as Bulawayo’s Radio Dialogue. This is no time to fear open debate and discussion, which in any case is happening on social media.
9. Diaspora: A plan to re-engage with the vast Zimbabwean Diaspora must be created, in order to allow members to contribute to the country’s well-being, beyond just receiving remittances.
10. Beitbridge: A plan to build a new complex at the border has been on the drawing board for a couple of years now. It may now be time to settle on a funding model - not excluding BOT - and an implementation plan. Modern infrastructure at one of Africa’s busiest border posts would boost trade and provide a pleasant experience to the throngs of travellers and tourists who pass through Beitbridge on a daily basis.
All this might be wishful thinking, depending on the events of the next few days. An inclusive political process would no doubt return the country to a growth path that affords citizens the opportunity to work, and to dream again. There is much to gain and very little to lose for all Zimbabweans, including Mnangagwa.