By Thandiwe Garusa
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa believes Zimbabwe’s reform agenda has taken positive steps in the two years since he took power following his predecessor Robert Mugabe’s removal in 2017.
In an O-ped published by CNBC Africa, a South African television station, on 17 November 2019, marking exactly 24 months since he took the reins, Mnangagwa said his government, unlike Mugabe’s, has given Zimbabweans latitude to express themselves including free campaigns during last year’s elections.
The Zanu PF leader claimed he has allowed criticism of his government while he has personally engaged with citizens on social media.
“Criticism of the government and the presidency would no longer be taboo, but welcomed, even encouraged. I answered tough questions on my Facebook page, as I promised to be a listening president,” Mnangagwa said.
However, human rights groups claim more people have been charged with undermining the authority of the President under Mnangagwa than there were under Mugabe.
Said Mnangagwa: “On July 30th of 2018, eight months after coming to office, we held the freest and fairest elections in the country’s history. While no electoral process is perfect, all international monitors noted the new and free environment of the campaigns, and the vast improvement in the electoral process.”
The issue of the rule of law constrained by a litany of oppressive laws has been a major bone of contention in Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa said his government has moved to repeal some of the remnants of Mugabe’s dictatorship.
“Just last week, we removed the much maligned Public Order and Security Act (POSA), a remnant of the old Zimbabwe that limited the right to protest and replaced it with a new Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill, devised with input from civil society and our friends around the world,” said the Zanu PF leader.
The opposition argues the new law is “old wine in new bottles.”
Mnangagwa said his government is also repealing the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) replacing it with three separate laws that will regulate communications and the media.
“Part of this is reforming antiquated legislation and opening up the political space. We are repealing AIPPA, replacing it with three new laws, consistent with the ethos of the new Zimbabwe: The Freedom of Information Bill, the Protection of Personal Information Bill and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill.
“These have been key demands of the international community, and should be interpreted as a sign of our commitment to reform,” he said.
The President however said the reform agenda is not aimed at pleasing the international community.
“Yet the impetus for change and reform comes from within. We are not reforming to appease the nations of the world, but because reform is necessary to build the future our people desire.
“Of course, there is still much work to do, but we are heading in the right direction,” he said, adding, removal of Western imposed sanctions will allow Zimbabwe to grow at a quicker pace.
“I call on the nations of the world to help us speed up this process, to support the people of Zimbabwe as we undertake these painful but necessary reforms.
“If the goal of sanctions is to stimulate the reform process, their effect is the opposite,” said Mnangagwa.