ZIMBABWE’S opposition parties had the rug pulled from under their feet after President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his military allies dramatically took over power last November, academic and human rights lawyer Brian Kagoro has said.
Speaking at a Southern African Political and Economic Series (Sapes) discussion in Harare this past week, Kagoro said the opposition needed to find new narratives after its ‘Mugabe must go’ campaign premise was rendered redundant.
President Robert Mugabe, who ruled the country from independence in 1980, had been the focus of opposition campaigns over his lengthy, brutal and economically disastrous reign.
But the now 94-year-old was ousted in a coup last year as the military, led by then Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, revolted against perceived attempts to facilitate a takeover of power by Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
Chiwenga was appointed vice president by Mnangagwa who succeeded Mugabe.
“The ‘Mugabe must go’ narrative has been taken over by Mnangagwa and Chiwenga. They have done a very good job of it although they needed us to be in front of military tanks,” Kagoro said.
Kagoro said Mnangagwa’s government also appears to have been accepted by the international community in contrast to the Mugabe regime which was effectively shut out by western countries for nearly two decades.
“Chiwenga and Mnangagwa are pushing a re-engagement agenda. A lot of people are believing them,” said Kagoro, adding that the new government has also embarked on an economic reform agenda that is resonating with business locally and internationally.
“They are pursuing a particular type of economic reform; but we have not seen alternative voices to critic the new narrative.”
Kagoro also lamented what he described as a “dearth of intellectual capacity and leadership in the opposition”.
“We have transacted the change politics in an ethical and ideological vacuum and gotten away with it because some among us were somewhat articulate.
“Going forward, it is possible that an inarticulate regime with international goodwill and a people willing to accept any form of change might actually nominally defeat those whose ideas must be clearer,” said Kagoro to applause.
He warned that the opposition might need to bargain for defeat in elections expected by July this year.
“If we continue with the arrogance we see today in which some think they can go it alone and do not need anyone. I will be here in September and the story will be ‘we have been rigged’.
“The opposition would have lost its sixth election and it’s a distinct possibility.”