Pushing for a better future for Zimbabweans amid tough challenges

By Shen Xiaolei Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/21 21:23:40

Political turmoil is plaguing Zimbabwe as the country's incumbent President Robert Mugabe was reportedly put under house arrest by the military early Wednesday last week. Yet Mugabe has resisted mounting pressure to step down, telling the nation on TV on Sunday that rather than announcing his expected resignation as Zimbabwe's head of state and government, he will preside over a ruling party congress next month, adding great uncertainty to the country's political situation.

Mugabe's address on national television came after the decision of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) during a special meeting earlier on Sunday to recall Mugabe from the position of party leader, and to reverse his expulsion of former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa and appoint Mnangagwa as president and first secretary of Zanu-PF. Upon Mugabe's refusal to step down, the Zanu-PF party has begun impeachment proceedings against him on charges that include allowing his wife "to usurp constitutional power," according to BBC.

Mugabe, who has ruled for 37 years since Zimbabwe's independence from Britain in 1980, is among one of the longest serving leaders in the African continent. Initially regarded as a hero for national independence, Mugabe has now been ousted from his position as party and national leader, with many having mixed feelings regarding the vicissitudes of his political career.

The factional fight within Zanu-PF is highly likely to have caused the military maneuver in Zimbabwe. The fact that Mnangagwa was removed from his position of vice president on November 6 was a triggering point. The reasons why the military forced Mugabe to end his reign was due to Mugabe sacking Mnangagwa and then supporting his wife Grace to become his successor, with the military having concerns over political prospects if Grace takes office.

What left a great impression on me within the political chaos was the hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Harare on Saturday, singing, dancing and hugging soldiers in an outpouring of elation at Mugabe's expected overthrow.

The root causes of the political upheaval in the nation lies in Zimbabweans' longing for policy assurance, or a power transition resulting from the downward pressure on the economy, a high unemployment rate and people mired in destitution over recent years.

Last year, Zimbabwe registered a negative GDP growth rate of -3.0 percent, and its unemployment rate stood at over 80 percent (95 percent according to the World Bank). More than 60 percent of the population is living below the poverty line. Foreign investment in Zimbabwe totaled $421 million in 2015, much lower than neighboring Zambia and Namibia.

Since a short-term recovery between 2009-13, Zimbabwe's economy has been again in a trough due to political strife, a deficit of management and policy failures. Everyday poverty faced by the people has been a key spark in society calling for political upheaval, which should be noted carefully by Mugabe and his successors.

A series of tough challenges lie ahead for Zimbabwean leaders, including how to mitigate repercussions of the political crisis and achieve political and social stability, how to shift the ruling party's focus from partisan struggle to economic development, how to adjust strict policies that have hampered economic growth and prop up economic building to improve people's livelihood, and how to interact with the international community, especially the West, to win more general support and investment. If these problematic issues are not properly addressed, a new round of crises may spring up.

Fortunately, Zimbabwe is endowed with great potential. It enjoys abundant natural resources, a literacy rate of over 90 percent, a high-end labor force, adequate infrastructure and enormous potential for industrial growth. Zimbabweans are optimistic and diligent people. We hope the leaders after Mugabe could draw lessons from the past and lead the country toward a better future.

The author is an assistant research fellow at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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