Incumbent Zimbabwe President Emmerson Dambudzo has narrowly won the country’s presidential poll, making him the first democratically elected president to succeed longtime leader president Robert Mugabe.
However, the victory, may not be so sweet following contested polls and violence that left six people dead.
Mnangagwa won the ballot by 50.8 percent of the votes, giving him the legitimacy he sought after the November military intervention that forced the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe, and ushered him into office.
Professor Elliot Masocha of DeVry University says the outcome of the election expresses the will of the Zimbabwean people, despite the rejection of the vote by MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa and his supporters.
“It’s the will of the people. You talked about some people saying it was not fair, well what I want to tell you and other Zimbabweans is that that’s the character of opposition politics. They have to do that.”
Masocha says Mnangagwa’s victory was pre-destined due to his role in the removal of former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, or RG as he is also known.
“When I was in Zimbabwe in May and June, I met a couple of people who really switched their allegiance from MDC to Zanu-PF because of what happened in November. I don’t know if you saw a statement that people were saying that he who removed RG, will get my vote.”
Not all concur with Masocha however, given the questionable handling of the ballot and Wednesday’s images of soldiers in the capital beating, arresting and shooting at MDC Alliance supporters, killing six.
New York-based professor and analyst, Dr. Wangu Mazodze, says the way Mnangagwa got into office in November, was not embraced by all, including opposition members who wanted new leadership.
“To be precise, Mnanagwa came in through a military coup. The people gave him a benefit of doubt. But the moment he showed that all that he was saying was just an issue of words without any particular action or any sign that he was divorcing from the culture and mentality of Mr. Mugabe, the least that people expected to have was free and fair elections, which he has failed the test.”
Executive Director, Jeffrey Smith of Vanguard Africa concurs. “If you go through the litany of concerns both in the lead up to the elections, during the elections and after the election, namely the brutality, the violence that we witnessed yesterday, indicates that the vote was deeply flawed and does not reflect the true will of Zimbabweans.”
Since his inauguration in November, Mr. Mnangagwa and his government have declared that Zimbabwe is “open for business” and had begun re-engaging the international community, which had isolated Mugabe. The U.S., which had imposed targeted sanctions on some Zimbabweans, is in the process of amending a controversial act known as ZIDERA – The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.
But following Wednesday’s violence, some, like Steve Feinstein, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and an Associate Professor at Boise State University in Idaho, says the election victory has been overshadowed.
“Mnangagwa’s kind of road show ahead of time, was really meant to try to persuade the international community and many others that it wasn’t business as usual, that he represented a break from multiple decades of oppression by president Robert Mugabe as well as the Zanu-PF ruling party. I think a lot of us were skeptical…And I think what we are seeing now when it comes to the security apparatus, together with the ruling party, start to use the wheels of oppression, something that has been a very prominent part of Zimbabwe politics for many years, I think we are seeing the showing of the true colors of Mnangagwa and his allies.”
Dr. Masocha disagrees, saying one incident, while is regrettable, is not enough to undo Mnangagwa’s gains.
“I think Zimbabwe is going to have a good relationship with the international community. Things have been done in a better way than before, and that should count. I mean…the international community they were there, after a long time when they were not allowed to be there. So they have seen improvements which, if they are not going to be biased, they have to acknowledge that there’ve been improvements in Zimbabwe. So, Democracy is a work in progress.”
Independent analyst Leon Hartwell, says while damage has been done on the part of Mnangagwa, he can turn the tables around.
“I do sense a lot of anger inside Zimbabwe, and I think it will be hard also for some of the western governments to justify moving forward with him. He’s gonna have to really show that he is genuinely interested in a peaceful Zimbabwe to move forward.”
It remains to be seen whether Mnangagwa will unite a divided nation following the killing of three civilians by the military in Harare on Wednesday.