Mnangagwa’s Achilles heel, legitimacy at all costs

Emmerson Mnangagwa
Emmerson Mnangagwa

Things are not looking good for President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Lauded and idolised a year ago as a key factor in the post-Robert Mugabe transition, but cursed in the past week and considered to be a liability to the growth of Zimbabwe.

The dissonance among Zimbabweans comes from comparing the haughty promises Mnangagwa made a year ago with the toil and hardship characterising Zimbabwe in the last few months. Mnangagwa’s salient promises included economic recovery, tackling corruption, managing rampant debt and resuscitating depleted social services.

Zimbabweans took Mnangagwa at his word with guarded optimism, rightfully, as there appear to be more of the same hardships. Some are even wishing for the return of Mugabe.

The straw that broke the camel’s back appears to be an imposition of a fuel tax masquerading as an ordinary increase in the price of fuel. All of this happening to a people already broken down, not just by the current economic and social hardships but by a sustained period of suffering during the Mugabe era.

That despot sought to entrench his rule through force and brutality, and Mnangagwa appears to be borrowing the same modus operandi, though maybe in a clandestine manner ... talking the talk yet his actions betray him; the Achilles heel of a search for legitimacy at all costs.

In the last week, Zimbabwe counted the cost, the return of the overt and covert Mugabe tactics in the arrest of prominent civic leaders including citizens, the suppression of dissent and gagging of the media, and the portentous military brutality. In all of this, Mnangagwa could just have shown the world that he is really a chip off the old block, his lessons learnt from the master tactician, Mugabe himself.

The brutal events of the past week crush any form of goodwill or rectitude that Zimbabweans could have attributed to Mnangagwa. At best, his actions through the work of the repressive military should be a warning signal to all Zimbabweans that a luta continua.

A further lesson here is that the citizenry should never underestimate what a man in search of legitimacy will do. This should not only embolden the watchful eye of the citizenry but raise their voices even louder.

Chinyamurindi is an associate professor at the University of Fort Hare and a social activist

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