MANY Zimbabwe observers and analysts say they were fascinated watching vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s interview on CCTV after his official visit to China last week.
Mnangagwa, 72, who some influential business leaders believe is most likely to succeed President Robert Mugabe, 91, when he dies (probably in office), is playing an ever more public role in Zimbabwe’s day-to-day business affairs.
He went to China on an official visit, which he said was necessary to fill in some detail on ‘deals’, which Mugabe signed up to last August during his state visit to Beijing.
Some top businessmen have been saying privately that Mnangagwa is going to try and fix the economy.
After changing the Zanu PF constitution at the last minute during the party’s congress last December, which prevented delegates from voting for new office-bearers, Mugabe appointed Mnangagwa as one of two vice-presidents.
Mnangagwa has taken on major public functions since then which indicate that he is senior to the other VP, Phelekezela Mphoko.
A privately-owned weekly newspaper ran an unusual editorial on Friday recording that Mnangagwa had spoken unambiguously about the country’s predicament and admitted that development had fallen far behind other countries, and Harare needed to “bite the bullet”.
His remarks in a substantial interview on CCTV were both “revealing and instructive”, the editorial said.
The paper provided readers with some of Mnangagwa’s criticism of the country’s economy.
He said the government was “working on a massive reform process”, including social and legislative frameworks, “to bring Zimbabwe back to the table of nations”. “We must know that investment can only go where it makes a return, so we must make sure we create an environment where investors are happy to put their money because there is a return,” he told CCTV.
“In fact, capital will go where it finds comfort, so we need to create an ease of doing business environment.”
The editorial noted that Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe needed to learn from China, which, after the death of its communist leader Mao Zedong in 1976, “picked itself up under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping to transform from being an economic backwater to a global powerhouse – now the world’s second largest economy.
“We have to see how we can create an investment environment which will attract the flow of capital.
“These are the tasks we face and we have to look at even legislation, and our social systems need to be reformed in order to catch up with current global trends.
“So we are looking at the reform measures that China has gone through to help us move forward.”
The editorial said Mnangagwa had to “cover his back by sounding politically correct to avoid President Robert Mugabe’s wrath”, and it tells readers “Mugabe remains chained to the past – that he can’t even learn from his Chinese friends”.
To remain “politically correct,” Mnangagwa blamed US travel and visa restrictions against about 100 Zanu PF leaders for the poor state of the economy. He “also sang the sanctions mantra to obfuscate the real reasons why Zimbabwe is in such a mess.
“Needless to say, this has nothing to do with sanctions as such,” the paper said. “Sanctions only exacerbated an already calamitous situation. The root causes of the current economic problems are leadership and policy failures.”
It says Mugabe’s unbudgeted payouts to liberation war veterans in 1997, and his military adventure into the Congo war a year later, plus the “scorched-earth policies” on land that devastated the economy.
The Independent says Zimbabwe needs a “change of mindset” and a new leader who is essentially a “progressive pragmatist”.
Several businessmen who read the editorial said the Independent, which does not support Zanu PF and was regularly critical of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, was suggesting that Mnangagwa may be the “progressive pragmatist” Zimbabwe needs.
One businessman who had a meeting with Mnangagwa in Harare in the last two weeks but who asked not to be identified, said: “Mnangagawa does know what is wrong. He is also quite calm and wants to work quietly.
“But he has to move very carefully because of the old man, and nothing can really change until the old man goes