It has been two and a half months since former President Robert Mugabe resigned from office. This momentous occasion ushered in Emmerson Mnangagwa as the third President of Zimbabwe. The Mnangagwa presidency serves as a transitional government that will prepare the country for the upcoming election. During the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the president stated that by March, his government will make a proclamation regarding when the elections will happen.
What has President Emmerson Mnangagwa been doing for the past two and a half months?
The Mnangagwa’s presidency has decided to tackle on the biggest and controversial issues in Zimbabwean politics, land reform. In a televised speech, the new president stated “our land must be productive. We must mechanize and modernize our agriculture,” he said, adding that the land reforms were “irreversible.” He continued to say, “our economy is struggling, unemployment is high, our youth lack opportunities, too many people are unable to afford essential goods for their families and our infrastructure is stuck in the past.”
The first initiative in the agriculture sector that the new government has initiated revolves the leasing of land for white farmers. The former president, Mugabe’s government had made it difficult for white farmers to remain active and profitable in the industry. For one, white farmers were only allowed to lease land for five years. The government gave white farmers 99-year leases like their black counterparts. This change was welcomed by the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) director Ben Giplin. Although the criteria “sounded narrow for now,” the change is still a step in the right direction.
This move mirrors President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s comments during the World Economic Forum. He claimed “Our economy is struggling, unemployment is high, our youth lack opportunities, too many people are unable to afford essential goods for their families and our infrastructure is stuck in the past. Farmers are farmers. We have lots of former [white] commercial farmers who have happily integrated into our system by accepting to have their farms reduced or downsized.”
The second initiative that the new government initiated is that farmers can use their farms as collateral when obtaining loans. The Zimbabwean reserve bank governor, John Mangudya stated that “in line with the current economic dispensation’s aspirations to transform agriculture into [a] viable business proposition and taking into account the significant improves made by [the] government on the 99-year-leases to enhance the security of the tenure of the lease and making it bankable and transferable, the [Reserve] Bank has agreed with banking institutions for them to accept the 99-year leases as security for accessing credit from financial institutions in line [with] the provisions of the leases.” This government sees this strategic move as a positive move to change the agricultural sector.
Although the government is making positive steps to appease the white farmers in Zimbabwe, the government made it clear that white farmers who lost their land during the Mugabe era will not be given their land back. The tacking of the white farmland was a ploy by Mugabe to ensure his victory during the 2000 and 2008 election. Some white farmers attempted to challenge the evictions but lost the court case since the agricultural land in Zimbabwe technically belongs to the government. One white farmer, Robert Smart, managed to get his land back after being evicted out of his land in June 2017 by Mugabe’s government.
As the government is attempting to correct some of the wrongs of the Mugabe era, the opposition is battling its own struggle. The man Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was hospitalized less than a week ago in South Africa. He is currently undergoing treatment for colon cancer. As the leader is hospitalized, the two vice presidents of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri, each claimed through social media that they were in charge of the party. The conflicting statements from the two individuals show a divided home. Additionally, the third MDC vice-president Thokozani Khupe has boycotted recent party meetings. The status of Tsvangirai’s health, in addition to the lack of unity within the MDC, raises concerns whether MDC will be a strong enough contender for the upcoming election.
It is very difficult to accurately depict the future of Zimbabwe. The current president and his government has made both positive and concerning moves. As stated in a previous article, The Members Of Zimbabwe’s New Cabinet: Old Wine In New Wineskins? the current president placed mainly military officials to be part of his cabinet. This move troubled many analysists as it seemed to be a step backwards and a return of Mugabe-like era with the domination of the military. The steps toward land reform is an important step forward as it shows the people of Zimbabwe that the government is willing to make necessary and positive changes to fix the problems that Mugabe had made.
In the words of Victor Kgomoeswana, “nobody could have predicted that Zimbabwe would be where it is today, but the changes that took place in November 2017 put the country on an irreversible bullish trajectory. It is early days yet, but the horizon looks much more promising for Zimbabwe than it did a few months ago. And if it looks optimistic for Zimbabwe, it should look optimistic for the SADC region and also for Africa.”