WHILE President Emmerson Mnangagwa might have won the hearts of many citizens by dislodging their former long-time ruler, Robert Mugabe, we strongly believe he still faces the herculean task of legitimising his stay in office and rebranding himself to gain international acceptability.
It’s no secret that the new leader has a tainted and dark past because of his association with Zanu PF’s autocratic politics. That has to change for him to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
Soon after taking over power, Mnangagwa appeared to have struck the right chord by pledging to take the country back to democratic rule, with all its forms of freedoms and other related attachments.
That way he moved closer to endearing himself with the majority, most of whom had viewed him with scepticism given his close relationship with Mugabe for the past 40 years or so.
A lot still needs to be done for him to win the fight for legitimacy. This can only be won by walking the talk and implementing the many juicy promises he made on inauguration day.
The battle for legitimacy is not confined to just winning an election, but through ensuring that the election through which one ascends to power is free and fair. This has been opposition parties’ rallying point for many years, and Mnangagwa has an opportunity to extend his envisioned reforms to this area.
If Mugabe was associated with questionable elections, Mnangagwa must do things differently by ensuring that the concerns of the opposition are addressed to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders.
Electoral reforms and levelling the political playing field are key areas of concern ahead of next year’s general elections. The fact that MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads the MDC Alliance going into next year’s elections, has sent a high-powered delegation to the United States as a way of ratcheting up pressure for reforms, means there is need to look into that area.
Unless these reforms are implemented, and even if Mnangagwa wins next year’s elections, he will remain haunted by the tag of illegitimacy and he risks losing the goodwill that the international community, which is critical in unlocking the country’s economic gridlock, has so far shown towards his administration. The crisis of legitimacy must be dealt with once and for all if the country is to move forward as everyone is anticipating.
This is an area that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency and must be part of wider reforms that Mnangagwa intends to make. The political side must be dealt with just as the economic aspect if the country is to genuinely forge a new path going forward.
If indeed the voice of the people is the voice of God, then Mnangagwa is duty-bound to hear the concerns raised by the opposition and other stakeholders in relation to levelling the political playing field through urgently implementing critical reforms ahead of the elections.
Indeed, the need for free and fair elections cannot be overemphasised because this is the only entry point into a new era for which Zimbabweans have waited for a very long time.
The blatant rigging of elections which had become synonymous with Zanu PF’s DNA must become a thing of the past – far removed from a modern and progressive democracy such as ours.