After Years of Apartheid, Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa Calls for Racial Unity

President Emmerson Mnangagwa talks with the voters in Harare during an election rally on Saturday. Photo: @edmnangagwa on Twitter
President Emmerson Mnangagwa talks with the voters in Harare during an election rally on Saturday. Photo: @edmnangagwa on Twitter

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the President of Zimbabwe, has called for racial unity in a landmark election rally in Harare. Addressing a crowd in Harare, President Mnangagwa said the lands owned by the white farmers will not be taken anymore.

“We should cease to talk about who owns the farm in terms of color,” he said. “It is criminal talking about that. A farmer, a black farmer, a white farmer, is a Zimbabwean farmer,” President Mnangagwa added. Emmerson Mnangagwa said confiscation, seizure of white-owned lands unfairly taken by settlers, of white-owned lands is a thing of the past.

Mr. Mnangagwa, a key enforcer of his predecessor Robert Mugabe’s regime, has been an ardent advocate of white farmers’ land confiscation that triggered an economic crisis in Zimbabwe. Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, however, was ousted by a popular military coup last year marking the end of his nearly four-decades-long tenure.

In spite of being a popular revolutionary figure at the beginning, Robert Mugabe gradually emerged as the symbol of polarization in Zimbabwe. He enforced his strong grip over power, never to let go of it, that his wife Grace Mugabe said he could become president even as a corpse.

Zimbabwe’s former First Lady Grace Mugabe, for the last few years, was being projected as the heir to her husband President Mugabe who was already serving as the oldest incumbent president in the world.

In 2017, the military-backed uprising against Robert Mugabe’s leadership subdued Grace’s longest desire to emerge as the president of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean military forced their ‘comrade’ out of the office to replace him with Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former key ally to President Mugabe, famously known as ‘crocodile’ for his political shrewdness.

 

Mnangagwa courts white voters ahead of elections

President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised of reforms since the inception of his role as the leader of Zimbabwe. But the cabinet he formed spoke differently as he installed several military figures in key ministerial positions.

Ahead of the general elections scheduled to be on July 30, President Mnangagwa is trying to court the white voters of Zimbabwe with promises that their lands will not be seized anymore.

Just a few days ahead of a challenging election ahead where opposition leader Nelson Chamisa poses him a major contest, President Mnangagwa acknowledged that his government was racially blind in the past and promised to treat all the people equally irrespective of colors.

Mnangagwa’s open call for racial unity in Zimbabwe just a few days ahead of a general election is largely seen as a move to win the white voters in the upcoming general elections in Zimbabwe. The white voters, however, are traditionally seen to vote for opposition forces as opposed to the Zanu PF Party.

 

A survey shows Mnangagwa and Chamisa neck to neck

According to a recent survey by Afrobarometer, the coming elections on July 30 is going to be a challenging one for the ruling Zanu PF and Emmerson Mnangagwa. The survey shows that President Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF marginally leads over opposition alliance MDC-T led by contending presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa.

“By any measure, this is a considerable swing in favor of the challenger. Any further projection of this momentum into the final weeks of the campaign would reduce the gap between the contenders within the survey’s margin of error (+/-2 percentage points), rendering the election too close to call,” Afrobarometer report reads.

Nelson Chamisa is popular

Mnangagwa may lead the poll for now, but the challenge he is coming across from an opposition candidate this time in the general elections is unprecedented in Zimbabwe.

Nelson Chamisa, a lawyer in his early 40, leads the opposition alliance MDC-T which includes National Patriotic Front, a Mugabe-sympathizer group campaigning against Zanu PF in support of their disgraced ‘comrade’.

Apart from Mugabe issue, Nelson Chamisa himself is very popular with young and unemployed Zimbabweans.   If elected, Mr. Chamisa will emerge as the youngest president of Zimbabwe.

The young votes of Zimbabwe are a big factor in Zimbabwe general elections. When more than half of the Zimbabwean population are under 25, about 43.5% of the registered voters are below 35.

Robert Mugabe factor

President Mnangagwa’s contenders in the upcoming elections are not limited only in Nelson Chamisa, he also encounters the ghost of Mugabe family who still got sympathizers in the country.

G-40, a group known as loyalists to Grace Mugabe, formed a political party known as National Patriotic Front. They have a strong support base in places like Masvingo where a few Mugabe loyalists can make a massive difference.

The Elders’ efforts for peaceful election

Meanwhile, The Elders, an international non-governmental organization of public figures noted as elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates, who were brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007, have met the presidential candidates in Harare in a bid to ensure a peaceful election.

According to The Elders’ Twitter post, the group, led by former UN Chief Kofi Annan, met the Zimbabwean presidential candidates in Harare urging “free, fair & competent elections with all stakeholders taking their responsibilities.”

A better Zimbabwe ahead?

Both the top candidates promise a better Zimbabwe free of apartheid and corruption. Zimbabwe, a country once blessed with a booming economy in Africa, was gradually turned into almost a failed state plagued by corruption and apartheid under Robert Mugabe’s authoritarian rule.

If the last century’s booming Rhodesia again emerged as a booming Zimbabwe of 21 century, no one will be more blessed than the 16 million Zimbabweans hungry and desperate for a decent life.

But to avail that better tomorrow, the political parties and the candidates must ensure a free, fair & competent election. They must prove honesty to their promises after the people of Zimbabwe declare their verdict of the ballot for the next five years.


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About Masum Billah 37 Articles
Masum Billah is a Staff Writer for The GeoStrategists. A Graduate from the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Masum Billah is a human rights activist. He writes columns on human rights, foreign policy, and terrorism.
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