Zimbabwe’s incumbent Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, popularly known as the ‘Crocodile’ for his leadership of the “crocodile gang” back in the 60s and eventually for his political shrewdness, has won the 30 July 2018 presidential polls. However, he is still to legitimise his rule originally earned from the 2017 coup as opposition disputes his victory amidst violence largely perpetrated by armed and security forces.
“The results were announced early Friday 03 August 2018. Mnangagwa won 50.8 percent of the vote, ahead of Nelson Chamisa of the opposition [Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)] party on 44.3 percent, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said.”
Mnangagwa’s party, the ZANU-PF, founded by Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s only President since independence until 2017, has also won the parliamentary elections.
“ZANU-PF has ruled the African nation since its independence in 1980, and walked away with 145 parliamentary seats. Opposition …[MDC], led by Nelson Chamisa, grabbed 63 seats, along with two other small factions gaining one seat each.”
Mnangagwa benefitted from a coup that ousted Mugabe in November 2017 to come to power. Mugabe had attempted to make his wife, Grace Mugabe, the leader of the ZANU-PF. This led to in-fighting in the ZANU-PF between the old-guard factions and younger members of the party led by Grace. To clear the way for Grace, Mugabe fired Mnangagwa from Vice Presidency and the ZANU-PF. Mnangagwa then fled the country to Mozambique from where he was airlifted to South Africa.
The army, led by Constantino Chiwenga, now Vice President, stepped in, cornered Mugabe to resignation leading to Mnangagwa’s return from exile as new leader of the ZANU-PF. He was eventually voted as President to complete Mugabe’s mandate.
Since then Mnangagwa has been trying to win legitimacy for his rule nationally and internationally. He promised radical changes in the way the country was governed, calling for respect for democracy and reforms in civil-military relations. He has equally been working tirelessly to have sanctions slammed on Zimbabwe following Mugabe’s legitimate yet poorly executed land reforms lifted.
Mnangagwa’s swearing in as President on 24 November 2017 following the coup was in conformity with the constitution and thus legal. The only problem he has had is the acceptability of his rule.
While his coming to power was received with cheers by a population exhausted from seeing Mugabe in power, he received only partial approval as most people suspected he would eventually remain true to his nature as the ‘Crocodile’, Minister of the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s, and chief agent of Mugabe’s 2008 win tainted with widespread rigging and killing of protesters. Gaining acceptability would therefore truly make him a legitimate President.
His claimed departure from the iron-fisted style of ruling under Mugabe to which he contributed as a co-architect and his international seduction was therefore geared towards garnering this acceptability. His victory at the polls would have cemented the acceptance were it not for the narrow nature of his victory and the violence that erupted in the run-up to the announcement of the results.
As the MDC Alliance supporters cried foul, protesting the eminent stealing of the victory of their champion Pastor Barrister Nelson Chamisa, the army could hardly pretend republicanism. It descended on the population with brutish violence, mercilessly flogging civilians including women. While Mnangagwa called for calm, stated that violent soldiers will be prosecuted and engaged in discussions with Chamisa on how to end the violence, he is still to remove the army from the streets and firmly instruct the police to do its job.
As President-elect, Mnangagwa will usher Zimbabwe into its Second Republic. The next five years would be his first mandate and he has the possibility of running for a second mandate going by the Constitution. However, the post-election violence is a strong signal of a divided country. Mnangagwa’s only shot at governing the country democratically is deep reforms in the armed and security forces.