It is a year since President Emmerson Mnangagwa came into power after the army dislodged long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in dramatic fashion.
Mnangagwa, who bounced back a few days after being fired by Mugabe, promised to set Zimbabwe on a different trajectory of democracy and rapid economic growth.
He promised to be the total opposite of his mentor, whose legacy was economic ruin and dictatorship.
To take stock of Mnangagwa’s presidency, our senior reporter Veneranda Langa (VL) had a wide-ranging interview with Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary Ndavaningi “Nick” Mangwana.
Mangwana described the president’s first year in office as an overwhelming success, claiming 800 000 jobs had been created.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
VL: How would you describe President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first year in office?
NNM: President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first year in office has been very successful to the extent that his main thrust has been to deal with fundamental issues like, firstly, the fundamentals that improve our democracy, as well as economic fundamentals that will ensure there is an economic turnaround with regard to national aspirations as per vision 2030, whose aim is to turn Zimbabwe into an upper middle income country.
He was also very successful in instilling national culture to ensure that everybody comes together to embrace the national vision — not in a partisan manner, but as a national aspiration.
Vision 2020 does not look at who wins the elections in 2023. The point is that as a nation we should agree that Zimbabwe should be an upper middle class income economy in terms of changing the national culture and setting the tone for achieving vision 2030.
VL: There is a school of thought that Mugabe the person is gone, but Mugabeism remains and they cite unfair treatment of the opposition, compromised judiciary and rights violations, among other things. What is your reaction to that?
NNM: That is a false narrative in the sense that the opposition has particularly been very fairly treated, and in Zimbabwe there is an opposition that can do whatever they want.
However, whenever there is a court judgement which goes against the opposition, then people say that the judiciary is compromised — and that is a false narrative.
Judgements have actually been given against the president and an example is the case of the 27 people that have so far been arrested for corruption.
If the judiciary was indeed compromised, it would do a lot of good for the president if they were all convicted, but that is not happening.
If the evidence that is presented before the courts is not beyond the shadow of doubt and does not pass that bar, then the accused persons are acquitted, and that is not a compromised judiciary.
Everyone has a losing stake if they go to the courts. If you take 20 weak cases, then you will lose; but if they are strong, then you will get 20 judgements in your favour.
You cannot go to the courts with a very weak case and think that the judges will work miracles.
VL: In your view, why has the new government taken so long to realign the various laws to the constitution?
NNM: President Emmerson Mnangagwa was inaugurated at the end of August, and alignment of laws is a process.
The Ninth Parliament was sworn in on September 6 — that is only two months ago and you can see that there has been a lot of movement in the alignment of laws.
For instance, in my ministry there are already consultations being made with stakeholders in the information and media industry to align laws.
We want to involve everybody and use an all-inclusive approach, and if we did not consider that by now we would be presenting Bills before Parliament without the people’s input.
It is not a question of realigning the laws, but a question of what else do we want in those laws so that we widen them and strengthen the democratic space.
Right now, on our ministry’s Twitter handle we have already put in our proposals for the Access to Information and Protection to Privacy Act (Aippa) and we want three pieces of legislation to come from Aippa, and we are listening to what people are saying. So, alignment of laws is something that government is totally seized with.
VL: What do you consider to be the major highlights of Mnangagwa’s first year in office?
NNM: One of the major highlights is the appointment of the current Cabinet, which defied all political history.
It is a progressive Cabinet, is all, inclusive, and has taken in people from across the political divide and very competent people.
The free and fair elections on July 30 were a major highlight because people campaigned freely and international media was allowed in.
For 20 years it had never happened that international observers would be allowed to move freely and access polling stations as they did and those were some of the major highlights.
VL: In the run-up to the elections, Mnangagwa signed investment deals worth over $16 billion and the government promised that this would lead to a swift economic turnaround. Why has government suddenly gone quiet about these deals yet Zimbabweans are feeling the heat from a deteriorating economy?
NNM: You do not implement deals worth $12,2 billion in two months because those are long-term investments, which need everything to be in place, including funding itself.
In two months, government clinched the Karo Resources investment in Mashonaland West.
Go to Ngezi and see what is happening there. Actually, Karo Resources was operationalising that deal with the president last week.
A deal of $12,2 billion is a long-term investment, which needs everything to be in place, including funding itself.
These companies do not have bags of money — they go to look for partners and funding from banks and that funding is coming in.
Go to Hwange right now and see the Zesa projects, which are some of the deals.
Money is also coming in for the Cold Storage Company (CSC).
Investment is happening, but it is not happening overnight. Right now, 800 000 people have got jobs in a short period and it shows that this is not a joke.
VL: There are reports of bad blood between Mnangagwa and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and utterances by Zanu PF youths as well as former presidential advisor Chris Mutsvangwa seem to lend credence to those reports. What is the source of the friction? Are we witnessing a fight over the share of the spoils from toppling Mugabe?
NNM: There is no bad blood between these two people. People in Zimbabwe like drama, but there is no drama in the presidium.
In fact, I have the privilege to be with both Mnangagwa and Chiwenga in the same room and there is rapport and chemistry between them.
When it comes to comments about some people — I am not going to comment on any particular individual, but I would like to say that Zanu PF is a party, which has internal democracy and people are given the freedom to say their opinions and enjoy section 61 of their constitutional rights.
What they say is their personal opinions and is not the opinion of Zanu PF or the ministry of Information.
It is just an opinion of a person and it does not make it a Zanu PF position.
When persons hold personal opinions, it does not make it a government opinion or party position.
Mnangagwa and Chiwenga are actually friends. When you talk about spoils to share — what spoils? There are no spoils to share.
Zimbabwe is not a bounty where people get to share spoils.
The only thing that is there to share is a vision to be attained and responsibilities to be shared.
VL: Did the meeting between Mnangagwa and Mugabe that was mooted soon after the coup eventually happen, and if not, what is delaying it?
NNM: I am not aware of any meeting, or even that such a meeting was ever proposed.
We now have a president and a former president, but who says they should meet and do what? It is up to them to decide to meet or not. As far as I am concerned, whoever the president meets outside work is his business, and has nothing to do with how government operates.
Mnangagwa has a relationship with Mugabe and they can meet, but whatever meeting they have has nothing to do with news.
Actually, Mnangagwa can meet anyone in the country whenever he likes.
He met Trevor Ncube (Alpha Media Holdings chairman), and so whoever Mnangagwa meets is not a Mugabe issue.
Mugabe is now a retired old man at home and he can also meet anyone he likes. Even yourself, you can make an arrangement to meet him too.
VL: There are also claims in some quarters that the current arrests over corruption related cases are targeting the president’s opponents. How genuine is the anti-corruption campaign?
NNM: Are you saying that Ginimbi (Genius Kadungure) and Wicknell Chivayo, former Health minister David Parirenyatwa and others that have been arrested for corruption are opponents of the president?
So who is the president’s opponent? Let me explain to you who the president’s opponents were during the July elections.
His opponents were the 22 presidential candidates who opposed his election, like Nelson Chamisa (MDC Alliance), Thokozani Khupe (MDC-T) and the other candidates.
Those were the opponents, but have they ever been arrested for corruption? Can you say Ginimbi who has been arrested is the president’s opponent?
VL: A year after the coup, we are yet to see the arrest of the so-called criminals that surrounded Mugabe. Was that statement mere rhetoric used to justify the military involvement in Mugabe’s ouster?
NNM: There was no coup, what coup? It was an intervention, and when the now Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo said we were only after criminals, some of these criminals ran away, while others were arrested.
The thing was that during that time there was organised crime and they were destroying the country’s infrastructure with impunity.
There were criminal syndicates around roadblocks and no one knew where the money collected went.
There was organised crime in Zimdef projects and lack of transparency and accountability.
Even the Auditor-General’s reports indicate that there was a lot of pillage of natural resources, and you cannot deny it.
These criminals are either on the run, being arrested or appearing before the courts.
VL: Is the recently unveiled Zanu PF youth league slogan #ED2023 not a contradiction of the president’s pledge that his presidency will be about the economy first?
NNM: Zanu PF is a political party and the party constitution says that at every conference — of which we have one in December — the party shall affirm that the person elected at the previous congress is going to be the presidential candidate for the next election, which means this conversation is going to happen in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023 to pass the resolution that Mnangagwa is the presidential candidate.
Whichever person is chosen at congress, and then it means that conversation will continue every year.
There is, therefore, no contradiction between the presidential narrative and the constitutional narrative.