As the new leader of Zimbabwe, President Mnangagwa has indicated a commitment to a democratic, just and prosperous country. However, it remains to be seen whether his promises won't live to be mere rhetorical intentions.
November 22, 2017
The unprecedented events in Zimbabwe over the past several days have rightfully seized the world’s attention. Vanguard Africa has closely followed developments in the country and has collaborated closely with activists and pro-reform political parties long before our organization was formed in 2016. At this truly historic juncture in the country’s history, the Vanguard Africa team wishes to extend our well wishes, strength and hope to the millions of Zimbabweans who can now look forward to a potentially brighter and more prosperous future.
The hard work now begins. The same military officials responsible for egregious human rights violations, disdain for the rule of law and countless killings, disappearances and detentions of activists, journalists and dissidents are poised on the precipice of immense power. This will require vigilance on the part of Zimbabwean citizens. The future of the country undoubtedly lies in your hands.
In order to set a sustainable democratic foundation in Zimbabwe, a broad-based coalition authority will be necessary. This transition period will ideally be followed by free, fair and credible elections -- including the presence of legitimate international poll monitors -- as soon as it is feasible. Importantly, elections should take place after significant state reforms are implemented and the country’s laws are properly aligned with the 2013 constitution.
We additionally urge the United States government to back democratic forces in Zimbabwe by investing in programs that support a robust civil society, a free and independent media and an empowered citizenry that is enabled to safeguard basic democratic rights. Objective technical support for the upcoming elections -- including assistance with the country’s electoral register and data systems -- will be paramount in order to prevent the type of brazen election rigging that has plagued Zimbabwe in the past.
We also call on U.S. lawmakers and Department of State officials to increase diplomatic pressure and principled engagement with leaders in Harare at this critical time— these moves can help expedite necessary electoral and legal reforms and raise the odds that Zimbabwe’s new leadership will adequately reflect the will of the people, which is long overdue.
At Vanguard Africa, we continue to stand in solidarity with the countless courageous Zimbabweans who have, quite literally over the years, put their lives on the line to advance social change. You have inspired us all. We sincerely look forward to your next chapter, and to helping you attain your country’s long latent potential.
Disclaimer: Several members of the Vanguard Africa team have directly supported Zimbabwe’s political opposition movements since 2008. To stay updated on all of our activities, including in Zimbabwe, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or visit our website. We look forward to being in touch.
“It’s long been suspected that Robert Mugabe, his family, and close associates have been dipping their hands into state coffers, or otherwise plundering Zimbabwe’s immense natural resource wealth for their own benefit,” said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of democracy group Vanguard Africa.
“It’s clear the new government is genuinely resolved to make a clear and unequivocal break from the dictatorial past,” says Jeffery Smith, director of Vanguard International, a pro-democracy outfit that works across the continent. “But the perceptions is that much of that goodwill has yet to be translated to on-the-ground results.”
“You have a lot of these organizations, these PR firms, lobby firms, out there, and they’re essentially just mercenary outfits that do work for the highest bidder, regardless of their bloodstained track record,” Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, an organization that advocates for good governance on the continent, told VOA.
All of this is very awkward for other African governments. Under ideal circumstances, regional leaders, including South Africa, would probably prefer Mnangagwa. He’s anything but a reliable democrat—as Todd Moss and Jeffrey Smith note “He was the chief architect of a massacre of some 20,000 civilians in the 1980s, an episode known as Gukurahundi” and “is also implicated in billions of dollars in missing diamond revenues”.
"He is a war veteran and a military commander by training. He is one of 'them,'" Jeffrey Smith, analyst and executive director of Vanguard Africa, told IBTimes UK.
Could this military takeover truly lead to democratic transition? It’s not a given, says Jeffrey Smith. The executive director of the pro-democracy non profit Vanguard Africa told The Independent that “Zimbabwe's military has long been a chief impediment to democratic progress in the country” and a true transition would require them to engage in a “genuine dialogue with civil society and the political opposition.”
The rapid developments followed a warning for Mugabe from General Constantino Chiwenga, who demanded the president stop removing members of his own Zanu PF party or face a mobilized military.
Jeffrey Smith, analyst and executive director of Vanguard Africa, told IBTimes UK a coup is not likely at the moment.
"While the events in Zimbabwe today are certainly alarming, a military coup is likely not imminent. The troop movements are a public seeping of the long-widening fissures within the country's ruling party, ZANU-PF," he said.
"It appears to be a public show of force meant to accomplish two key things. First, it reminds, unequivocally, who wields true power in the country. And second, it puts those on notice who are backing Grace Mugabe's political rise, and potential presidency, that such an outcome will not be tolerated by the military and security forces."