Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday vowed to ensure the rule of law, fight corruption, enact laws that attract investors and conduct free and fair elections next year. But the opposition says the country’s new president and his government are no different from the old regime of Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa pledged that Zimbabwe would unveil a "robust" re-engagement policy and open up to foreign investment, as he delivered his first State of the Nation address since taking office nearly a month ago.
The president's remarks come as he prepares to head to South Africa Thursday to meet with potential investors.
Mnangagwa also sought to reassure Zimbabweans about the integrity of elections, expected in 2018.
“My government is committed to entrenching a democratic society driven by the respect for the constitution, the rule of law, mutual tolerance, peace and unity. To this end, [the] government will do all in its power to ensure that the 2018 general elections are credible, free and fair," said Mnangagwa.
However, the president's special adviser Christopher Mutsvangwa told the media last weekend that the ruling ZANU-PF party would use the military to ensure victory next year.
The International Commission of Jurists told VOA that Mnangagwa – who came into power on the back of the army – must not rely on the military for policing Zimbabweans as the country prepares for the elections.
Tendai Biti, a member of the opposition People’s Democratic Party and a former finance minister, says many Zimbabweans are worried about the military's involvement in politics and that Mnangagwa's Cabinet had been “militarized” by having two retired generals, including the one who announced the army “had taken over” state institutions.
“We have nothing per se against the military, but we know that the essence of the rule of law and constitutionalism is that of democracy, and democracy is a government for the people and by the people. So the people that are ultimately decisive in our country are ordinary citizens who have the right to choose men and women who will serve them. You cannot make a transition from a barrack to a public office and we are concerned about that,” Biti said.
Nelson Chamisa, the vice president of the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, says the new government has nothing to offer Zimbabweans.
“We are only confident that we will form the next government, we know it and Mr. Mnangagwa knows it. We are going to be the next government - that is why they are panicking. But even if we form the next government, it is going to be a very good dispensation for Mr. Mnangagwa and his team. We will be very inclusive and tolerant of the opposition,” Chamisa said.
Mnangagwa is expected to appoint former head of the army Constantino Chiwenga as his vice president after retiring him this week “pending redeployment.”