PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is trying hard to portray himself as a totally different political animal from his predecessor, Robert Mugabe.
By EVERSON MUSHAVA
While Mugabe had lately become known for spending most of his time outside the country, hardly found at work, while pictures of him sleeping during meetings were now common sight, Mnangagwa has been spotted at his Munhumutapa offices during weekends and even public holidays working seven days a week as he battles to revive an economy that had suffered fatal blows from Mugabe’s near four decades of misrule.
“May I say that I am hopeful, my team is hopeful. There is no business as usual. Things have changed. It is a new era. I am from the military. If it is left turn it is left turn, if it is right turn, right turn. My ministers are very clear about that stance,” President Mnangagwa told Zimbabweans living in South Africa during his maiden foreign trip to the neighbouring country soon after he was helped by the military to wrest power from Mugabe.
“We are almost 16 to 18 years behind others. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We need to catch up and overtake them and to do that we the politicians must create an environment where you can survive.”
Mnangagwa’s loyalists too were very active on social media making claims that portray him as a leader with humility unlike his predecessor.
Yes, the claims can be understood, for a man who rose to power through a military intervention, not through elections, the desperation to sell his image for the next elections can be understood.
But indeed, the man has been working around the clock and his work ethic has left tongues wagging, with others saying Mnangagwa is doing what Zimbabwe really wants, while others describe his work ethic as a mere public relations stunt to win the hearts of Zimbabweans.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said Mnangagwa’s work culture should match outcomes.
“Under proper dictates of governance ethics, leadership life style should be commensurate with the living conditions of the general populace,” Rusero said.
“For Mnangagwa it’s a good start, and demonstration that unlike his predecessor he ought to be a workaholic even if it means forgoing holidays and weekends.
“However, it must be accompanied by results because hard work without tangible dividends can simply be misinterpreted as grandstanding, posture and desperate gimmicks of seeking cheap publicity. But we have to give Mnangagwa the benefit of the doubt.”
Rusero added: “The only challenge Mnangagwa faces is that he ought to present himself as a desirable brand as compared to the faded brand of Mugabe. Mnangagwa must be a workhorse who cannot call his lieutenants to order while in the comfort zones of his residence.
“He ought to be at work, because with the extent Zimbabwe had been vandalised under Mugabe’s watch, the in-tray of the president is abnormally loaded and needs a 24-hour schedule. For now we may say it’s a pretty good start, serve for the fact that his ministers are not demonstrating the same zeal and enthusiasm that he has,” he said.
But former National People’s Party spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire dismissed Mnangagwa’s work ethic as nothing but a political stunt. He said working long hours by a leader who should be delegating the work was a sign of dictatorship.
“Good and smart leaders don’t spend weekends working then publicise that routine as if it’s a Herculean move,” Mawarire said.
“They work smart within specific schedules and afford their bodies’ time to rest.
“A leader doesn’t need to do all the work by themselves ending up spending weekends at work, it’s a sign of an absurd leadership regime.
“Even Moses in the Bible went that route but was ridiculed by his father-in-law Jethro. Good leadership is about smart delegation and getting quality work done in the shortest possible time not spending hours on end in an office doing everything by oneself.”
Mawarire added: “Dictators are the ones that work alone and spent long hours at work so they appear like some super being, some kind of demi-god working all day round without rest. It’s all froth, no drink.”
UK based Zimbabwean political analyst Reward Mushayabasa said he did not think Mnangagwa’s actions were mere public relations work. He said in his view, the president was out to differentiate himself from his former boss.
Mushayabasa said Mnangagwa will want to work overtime to reap the necessary economic spin offs as the country edged towards next year’s elections.
“I do not think this is a public relations stunt,” Mushayabasa said.
“The man is Zanu PF through and through. Like his former boss, he is no moron; he is savvy. On the political front, I don’t think we are likely to see many changes apart from the purges of G40 members from Zanu PF’s ranks,” Mushayabasa said.
He added: “We are likely to witness a few cosmetic changes to consolidate Zanu PF’s grip on political power. He will need to assert his authority and create his own legacy.”
On the economic front, Mushayabasa said, Mnangagwa would try to show that he is different from Mugabe, the reason why he was working hard.
“That he is not doctrinaire; he is a realist and pragmatist,” he said.
“For instance, he has changed overnight the country’s law on indigenisation. The law was a major stumbling block to foreign investment. On the economic front, I think Mnangagwa is likely to endear himself with foreign governments and investors and win more goodwill. As we inch towards the general elections next year, I think we are likely to see a lot of economic spin offs from Mnangagwa’s policies.”
Political analyst Tamuka Chirimambowa said spending time in office did not mean one would necessarily record success.
“Let us see policies and their results. Let us focus on substance and not cosmetics. Mugabe used to hold politburo meetings that would last 15 hours but nothing came out of them,” Chirimambowa said.