Emmerson Mnangagwa, who became the new and theoretically temporary president of Zimbabwe after the military cordially invited his nonagenarian mentor Robert Mugabe to consider retirement, made his first foreign trip in office on Thursday. He visited South Africa to convince investors that Zimbabwe is once again a safe place to put their money.
South African President Jacob Zuma, who is looking a bit temporary these days himself, praised “Comrade President” Mnangagwa’s leadership and his ability to “stabilize the situation” in Zimbabwe.
“I also commended the manner in which the army, when it had a concern, how it handled the situation. The situation could not go out of hand,” Zuma said of his meeting with Mnangagwa.
“I think it indicated the maturity of the Zimbabweans in handling any situation that will develop,” Zuma added. “We are grateful for that because in a number of countries, if the army decides to stand up, they leave a trail of destruction, generally. In Zimbabwe, I think they were able to be under control and indeed, finally, the situation was controlled politically.”
Zuma said Mnangagwa offered assurances that the deposed Mugabe “will be looked after.”
“He is our father. He grew us in the struggle, and I appreciated it. This is what is important, that in Africa we should take care of our elders who played a role in our countries,” said Zuma, lavishing praise upon the dictator who ruled Zimbabwe for five decades, taking it from one of the most prosperous countries in Africa to a basket case where the black market accounts for a third of the national economy and a loaf of bread costs fifty trillion dollars.
Mnangagwa said after the meeting that his administration will “focus on economics and trade cooperation,” saluting South Africa as Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner.
“I came to assure President Zuma that we should feel open to discuss any challenges in order to grow our respective economies as well as to grow our cooperation,” he said.
Mnangagwa gave his first “state of the nation” address on Wednesday, promising to repair the economy, create jobs, and vigorously prosecute corruption:
Corruption remains the major source of some of the problems we face as a country and its retarding impact on national development cannot be overemphasized. On individual cases of corruption, every case must be investigated and punished in accordance with the dictates of our laws. There should be no sacred cows. My government will have zero tolerance towards corruption and this has already begun.
He described a strategy for economic renewal that would include trimming Zimbabwe’s bloated civil service and dismantle or privatize state-owned companies that have been “for a long time an albatross around the government’s neck.”
The Zimbabwean opposition is calling for political reforms that will guarantee clean elections in the future. Mnangagwa has promised his government “will do all in its power to ensure that the 2018 general elections are credible, free, and fair.”
He is expected to announce none other than Constantino Chiwenga as his vice-president, the general who popped up on Zimbabwean television in a military uniform to assure the public a coup against Robert Mugabe was not in progress, no matter how many tanks they happened to notice rolling through the streets.
Voice of America darkly notes that Mnangagwa’s special adviser Christopher Mutsvangwa “told the media last weekend that the ruling Zanu-PF Party would use the military to ensure victory next year.”