Newly-inaugurated Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa is promising a bright future for his country, and asking all the country’s citizens to unite and embrace his vision.
However, with the opposition MDC Alliance promising to punch holes into his presidency, which it challenged in court, analysts say Mnangagwa has a long road ahead.
Before his fellow citizens, regional and international spectators, Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, declared his allegiance to his country at his inauguration, held in the capital, Harare.
“I Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, swear that as president of Zimbabwe, I will be faithful to Zimbabwe and will obey, uphold, and defend the constitution and all other laws of Zimbabwe…”
Unlike back in November when Mnangagwa took the same oath, following a military intervention that propelled him to power after forcing the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe, this inauguration was clouded by a contested election by the opposition MDC Alliance, and a violent post-election incident that left six-Zimbabweans dead.
The developments have raised the ire of the international community, including the U.S. which issued a statement recently, raising concern about the state of human rights and calling for accountability.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, says the U.S. approach is reasonable.
“I think that exercising caution and looking for results rather than rhetoric is the right way to go. It is after all going to be up to the Zimbabweans to rebuild their own country.”
However, Ambassador Ray, who served as Ambassador to Zimbabwe under the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2012, says Mnangagwa has shown the ability to win over the international community.
“When he was made president after Mugabe was ousted I thought he did a lot of the right things – reaching out to mend relations with Botswana, approaching the commonwealth for readmission and the statements he made about honoring the rule of law and working to build a better Zimbabwe, were all the right noises. But the rhetoric has to be backed up concrete actions.”
Professor Chipo Dendere, who teaches political science at Amherst College in Massachusettes, just returned from Zimbabwe and agrees that the onus is on Mnangagwa and his government to deliver.
“If they can create a Zimbabwe in which the media reforms are taken care of, human rights are respected, respond to the Itai Dzamara question in a more meaningful way, they respond to what happened on August 1st by blaming the opposition, but actually taking some serious measures to demilitarize politics, so if they take these really strong steps all these things that they are being asked to do are very small things.”
Domestically, Mnangagwa continues to face strong resistance from the MDC Alliance which has rejected the Constitutional Court ruling that dismissed its evidence of fraud as “bold and unsubstantiated,” and is threatening mass action against the new administration.
But Dendere warned against such actions, saying it may not work in Chamisa’s favor, because of the controversy surrounding his own ascendency to the leadership of the MDC Alliance and also the MDC-T following the death of its former leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. The elected vice president of the MDC-T, Thokozani Khupe, alleged she was the rightful successor to Tsvangirai and challenged Chamisa in court.
“Nelson Chamisa also has a really tough time. Of course he’s had some legitimacy issues going back to how he got into the position of being president of the Alliance, and that has followed him throughout the election. And the events of August 1st are not just an Emmerson Mnangagwa problem, they are also a Nelson Chamisa problem, because he’s repeated that he’s willing to advocate for more street protests, but most people are going to feel less willing to go to the streets because of what happened on August first. The court case as well, the judge repeatedly said that there was some evidence that was not presented.”
Ambassador Ray said while he understands the Chamisa and his opposition party’s frustration at losing the election, further protests would only cause more violence and derail the country’s progress.
“I think it’s incumbent upon the opposition to at least honor the court’s decision, not to stop working to improve the conditions in Zimbabwe, but to look for ways to pull the country together to look forward to improving people’s lives there, and look to the next election.”
Weighing from Devry University in Columbus, Ohio, where he teaches Business Administration, Professor Elliot Masocha says the opposition has to move on.
“At times we just have to see reason and move on, but I understand where those opposition leaders are coming from.”
Masocha said he’s encouraged by the direction that President Mnangagwa wants to take the country.
“Taking from the words of the president, he is ready to move forward, he’s ready to embrace everybody who needs to be embraced, without using any force, that is what matters to me most, because I pay attention to efforts to achieve peace and stability for any country in the world.”
President Mnangagwa said he will soon set up a commission of inquiry to look into the post-election violence.