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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

What Hope for Zimbabwe?

Robert Mugabe has gone from office. It is not clear whether he will be allowed [or required] to stay in the country, or what will happen to his deeply-hated wife.

There has been great public rejoicing at the fall of Mugabe; but that is just one man, who has been set aside by the alliance of military officers, former 'freedom fighters' or 'War Veterans' and the current members of ZanuPF: Mugabe's party. There has been no ambiguity about what they want to happen next: the recently-deposed vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa - a Mugabe thug for the past four decades - is to be put into the top job. He has a record of extreme violence, most notably the 'ethnic cleansing' of Matabeleland in the 'eighties. This was part of the campaign to establish ZanuPF as a one-party government, which never succeeded fully but was sufficiently ruthlessly maintained for the opposition never to have a chance of winning either the presidency or a majority in parliament. North Korean mercenaries were imported to do much of the killing, and estimates of the numbers killed run around 20,000.

Especially in the light of his recent experience, some commentators are asserting that the incoming president might prove to be a pragmatist, who will recognise the need to engage the opposition in a widespread reform of how the country is to be run. It is blatantly obvious to all commentators that the economy must be opened to international capital, at least some cash-crop farming must be reinstated [though not on the old Rhodesian basis of white-owner-occupied large-scale holdings], and corruption - especially by the police - must be stamped out. How far the new president has the will or the intellectual capacity to do these things, only time will tell.

When Southern Rhodesia had white minority rule it was extremely prosperous, with a high educational standard right across the races and classes. Mugabe has destroyed much of the prosperity, but the educational standards have been maintained. There is almost universal access to the lingua franca - English - and there is an unusually high proportion of graduates among the population: many of whom are unemployed. Insofar as academic qualifications have maintained their value, the latent talent pool is massive.

Mr Mnangagwa is seventy-five, and although he appears to be fit it would indeed be remarkable if he has either the physical resources or the will to hang on to power for more than a decade. He has the opportunity to set in process a positive restoration of the country, and thus become the national hero that Mugabe certainly was not. We shall see....

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