THE BLOG
05/06/2018 10:41 SAST | Updated 05/06/2018 10:41 SAST

Can Ramaphosa And Mnangagwa Clean Up The Rot From The Past?

'The fact that both leaders are serving out the terms of other presidents could be to their advantage or it could work against them.'

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Zimbabwe's ED vs SA's Ramaphosa

It has been six months since the dramatic political transition in Zimbabwe that paved the way for ousted former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa to assume power from his longtime boss Robert Mugabe.

The much-celebrated change of power had many sceptics asking questions ranging from the legitimacy and constitutionality of the change to whether there would be any real or significant difference, with some arguing that only Mugabe the person had been removed, and not Mugabe the system.

The fundamental question to ask is whether there has been any significant change in the last six months in the lives of the ordinary Zimbabweans? The answer to this question depends on one's perception and where one stands, bearing in mind also that six months is way too short a period in the life of a country, especially one that has been battered and ravaged over many decades.

From the point of view of personal freedoms, there has been at least one major shift, abuse by police on the roads has certainly come down. Having driven on the roads before December 2017 and more recently, one certainly can breathe some fresh air. It is not an exaggeration to say that where one was stopped 10 to 15 times over a 500km stretch of road, one now expects to be stopped only once or twice. In other respects, much has been said but little has happened.

Life is still very difficult for the ordinary Zimbabwean. Cash shortages are still frustrating both individuals and enterprises. Alternative payment methods such as electronic point-of-sale and cellphone banking come at exorbitant costs and do not favour the elderly and not so electronically astute citizens. Unfortunately, the ED government seems clueless as to how to resolve the cash crisis.

On other fronts, investors have been listening and taking their time to evaluate and observe trust issues. My gut feel is that they are waiting to see if elections will be credible before making any commitments.

The fact that both leaders are serving out the terms of other presidents could be to their advantage or it could work against them.

With the elections coming up shortly, it will be interesting to see how the electorate rate ED and his junta. Have they done enough to be given another chance through a fresh mandate or is the end of the road for them?

Investors will also be making a similar evaluation when they decide whether or not to invest in the country. These decisions will decide the country's prospects going forward, considering that various countries are competing for investment based on political and economic stability, policy certainty, returns on investment and many other factors.

What do Zimbabwe's ED and SA's Ramaphosa have in common?

  • Both are presidents of neighbouring states
  • Both are former deputy presidents
  • Both are completing their former boss' term
  • Both are lawyers by qualification
  • Both are going to elections in the next few months
  • Both are leading fractured former liberation movements

The fact that both leaders are serving out the terms of other presidents could be to their advantage or it could work against them. Their presidencies could be regarded as honeymoons, in the sense that if they fail, they might not be judged harshly, they could simply throw their hands in the air and say "it was not me"! If they succeed, on the other hand, they could raise their hands to claim the prize.

Both leaders have a short period to use as a dress rehearsal for their own terms, but these periods are also just long enough to dig their own graves while writing their obituaries at the same time. For all intents and purposes, the two excellences should be comparing notes as they face very similar fates.

Political stability is essential for sustainable economic prosperity to take place, this is even more important in the context of regional integration and development of the SADC region.

Mnangagwa

Luc Gnago / Reuters
President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks during Africa CEO Forum at the Sofitel Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, Ivory Coast March 26, 2018. REUUTERS/Luc Gnago

President Mnangagwa may be riding the crest of the wave for a nation that knew only one president for 37 years. His people may truly have been fatigued and therefore welcoming of any new face, regardless of who that may be, hence the frenzy and celebration around his inauguration. That his presidency is surrounded by the military is, however, a worrying factor for democracy.

Many in Mnangagwa's cabinet are either retired generals or retired specifically to take up cabinet positions. This includes the most recent ambassador to the U.K. The presence of the army in the electoral supervision body is also not a comforting factor.

The fundamental question the opposition parties and other interested parties need to know is whether the coming elections will be credible, free and fair? ED's government keeps assuring the nation that they will be, however, reports suggest that the government is not actually open to public scrutiny on the matter. If there is nothing to hide, why is the government not willing to play open cards?

Ramaphosa

Paul Childs / Reuters
Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa during a press conference. Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

President Ramaphosa similarly took the reins after a tumultuous and troubled period for the ANC and South Africa. Ramaphosa has scored some major victories in restoring confidence in government by dealing with, or at least taking the first steps towards dealing with, corruption and allegations of state capture.

Whether or not he has done enough to restore the image of his party to win a fresh and resounding mandate of his own from the electorate still remains to be seen.

In conclusion, political stability is essential for sustainable economic prosperity to take place, this is even more important in the context of regional integration and development of the SADC region. In this regard countries such as Botswana and Namibia seem to have set good precedents.

One hopes that the two presidents herald a new era in regional politics and that their arrival on the scene will usher in good governance through the observation of constitutional term limits on presidencies. Here's hoping they believe that the best leaders are still to be found and are not necessarily themselves.