Explosions rocked Bulawayo, Zimbabwe this Saturday during a political rally for the current President, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Assassination attempts on leaders are nothing new in Africa, but something like this has not happened in Zimbabwe since Robert Mugabe consolidated power nearly four decades ago. With the rise of Mnangagwa to power, there have been changes to the largely monolithic political movement, focused on state ownership and African style socialism. Zimbabwe is in a period of change, as existing political structures have weakened.
Zimbabwe was ruled by Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF since the end of the bloody Rhodesian Bush War in 1979. During those decades, Zimbabwe stumbled as white-owned farms were redistributed and poorly managed, the economy was laid to waste by corruption and poor planning, and inflation ran into the hundreds of trillions. In November of last year, the 93-year-old was deposed by the military and Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s Vice President, took his place.
Soon after elections were announced at the end of May, Mnangagwa hit the campaign trail. On Saturday, during a rally in Bulawayo, a bomb went off near the President, killing two security personnel and wounding dozens more. It is unknown who perpetrated the attack, but Mnangagwa took to Twitter saying that this incident would not slow him down in moving forward.
May their souls rest in eternal peace. pic.twitter.com/0Qd0gPk0MT
— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) June 26, 2018
This afternoon, as we were leaving a wonderful rally in Bulawayo, there was an explosion on the stage. Several people were affected by the blast, and I have already been to visit them in the hospital.
— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) June 23, 2018
While Zimbabwe is certainly in a precarious position, with many groups vying for power in the elections and this most recent assassination attempt, the country does have potential to reach a bright future. Just three days after the bombing, Mnangagwa announced the creation of the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank. This bank will give poor women access to capital to invest in their communities and into small businesses.
Microfinance for women has largely been a success around the world and was not established in Zimbabwe prior to this bank. The government invested around ten million dollars into this endeavor. The increase in productivity and general improvement in the quality of life is well worth this investment.
Earlier this month, President Mnangagwa commissioned a 30 million-dollar Pepsi plant run by Varun Beverages. This plant, along with a new steel plant, has the potential to breathe new life into Zimbabwe’s largely agrarian economy. While there is uncertainty for the future, these small moves towards a more market-friendly economy will put Zimbabwe in a better position for tangible economic growth moving forward.
In addition to economic reforms, Mnangagwa’s efforts to “build a new Zimbabwe” include potential re-entry into the Commonwealth of Nations, the collection of countries that once made up the British Empire. In late May, Mnangagwa announced that Zimbabwe would begin the processes for reentry into the Commonwealth, fifteen years after Robert Mugabe left the group.
This is an interesting shift westward as Zimbabwe has developed strong ties with China, both politically and economically, in its time as an independent nation. While there are no signs that Zimbabwe would weaken relations with China, strengthening ties with countries that value the Western political system will likely prove fruitful to a country looking to adopt greater freedom in its markets.
While Zimbabwe has been criticized over election-rigging in the past, this year’s election could be different. Since 2002, when Mugabe was accused of Human Rights Violations to sway the election, observers from the EU and the US were banned from monitoring elections. In this year’s election, Mnangagwa has encouraged observers from the US, the EU, the Commonwealth, and a slew of other nations to come and see that Zimbabwe’s elections are in fact “free and fair.”
Current polling indicates that there will be a high turnout for this election. It also appears as if ZANU-PF has more support than opposition parties, but that a sizable percentage of the population is still undecided, leaving many uncertain about the outcome of the elections.
With years of Human Rights Abuses, vast unemployment, low productivity, massive inflation, and single-party rule under their belt, Zimbabwe certainly has a long journey ahead of them. Since Mugabe was ousted, there have been slight improvements in the country, however. The question now becomes whether or not these moves are simply lip service or true moves towards a nation characterized by free markets and true democracy.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.