What Remains on the Horizon: President Mnangagwa's First 100 Days

A conclusion to the analysis of the President's first 100 days

Published 9 months ago in Africa and Opinion

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President emmerson mnangagwa 1 e1511894755934 1

Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa outlines achievements in first 100 days in office (Source: CGNT Africa)

My previous article on Mnangagwa’s first 100 days focused on some of the positive aspects of his first 100 days in office. Furthermore, it expounded on the various skepticisms that many Zimbabweans have concerning Mnangagwa’s new policies. There are other initiatives that Mnangagwa has undertaken that were not covered in that article, such as the attempts to repair the healthcare sector; the establishment of Anti-Corruption Courts; and improvements to the National Railways of Zimbabwe. The following segment of this analysis however, will focus on a significantly unaddressed aspect of Mnangagwa’s first 100 days. It is not essential to cover every aspect of Mnangwawa's presidency that the public has criticized. What is essential, however, is to address a crucial element of any political system: democratic accountability.

What is a democracy supposed to look like? Arguably, democracy is much more than just universal adult suffrage. Zimbabweans for the last decade can attest to the fact that elections, as a cornerstone of democracy, has been found wanting. As important as elections are, they are not the key to reviving a country politically and economically. The 2008 crisis in Zimbabwe is a clear indication of this. I remember as a child when I walked into a shop and all I saw was tissue paper and soap on the shelves. I was left utterly confused because several years before this, this very same shop offered groceries, kitchenware, electrical supplies, and several other necessities. As a child I never really understood what an economic crisis was. All I really knew was that something was wrong. What I also knew, was that many Zimbabweans felt that the solution to our problem was to elect a new President from a different party. This attitude left me convinced that if I wanted to see more things on the shelves, and if I wanted to see my parents no longer queuing for bread, or stop waking up early in the morning to bake bread using the bread maker that my father bought because of the lack thereof on the shelves, then what needed to happen was for Zimbabwe to elect a new President.

That day did reach our fingertips for a couple of seconds. I was on a school bus heading home. The air was filled with joy, laughter and singing on the way back. It was in that moment that what was going on outside grabbed our attention. There was noise in the streets. Morgan Tsvangirai had apparently won the first round of elections. Was this it? Was there finally going be change in our country? Before we could even grasp this thought, it immediately slipped away from our fingers. Days later, President Mugabe won the election. How this occurred remains a mystery. There are differing opinions about what exactly had happened.

Almost all citizens can sense when things are wrong, and when change is needed. All Zimbabweans have a sense of what democratic accountability must look like. If Zimbabwe’s Presidency had ameliorated it's functionality, the ideals of democratic accountability would have been drilled into the back of his head for years to come. Instead Mnangagwa felt was concern for a political system that he could barely understand. 

Whether elections then were free and fair or not, what does not change is the fact that a nation needs to change when things go wrong. Zimbabwe needs to learn to seek medication and help when it detects symptoms of heart failure. Currently the biggest issue is that we have lived with these symptoms for so long that we do not know how it feels to be healthy. We have also accepted a diagnosis that the doctor never said was unfixable. What I mean by all this is that Zimbabwe needs to heal. Zimbabwe needs to move back to healthiness, and understand what the symptoms of a failed state are. And all of this begins with the steps taken by the current government. What we need from our new President is not quick fixes, but the creation of lasting change through democratic accountability. We need him to plot our country on the road to recovery.

What many determined as ineffective was the handing out of 84 brand new Isuzus to traditional leaders. The question is not whether this is right, the question is: why was the President never held accountable for this policy decision and why the people never ran out into the public square to interrogate and protest the necessity of this policy decision.

The same can be said for why the indigenization policy was not relaxed in the mining industry in regards to diamonds and platinum. Public participation is important. The public needs to feel that their voices matter. The public needs to be confident that when they go to Court, or go to Parliament, they will achieve something, and participate in making their country better. The public needs to be able to understand what economic recovery looks like, what policy decisions are best, and be able to hold those responsible for economic recovery accountable. Justice does not only take the form of retribution, but it also takes the form of restoration. As a result, the balance needs to be restored. The younger generation needs the Executive to open their eyes, and show them what democratic accountability looks like. 

As a result, President Mnangagwa has done a lot to remedy many ills that Zimbabwe faces. However, all of it remains null and void if efforts at improving accountability are ditched for clientelism. This is why Zimbabweans remain skeptical. We need to know that all of this is not just an effort to win the upcoming elections. We need to know that all of this is a genuine effort to repair a broken system and restore the hopes of the people. We need President Mnangagwa to aim for lasting change that will continue when he is gone. This is why with the entrance of a new President, Zimbabweans are both hopeful, and worried. That may seem like a deep paradox. But as late author G.K. Chesterton once explained, life is full of paradoxes, and these apparent contradictions reveal the deepest truths.

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