The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

56 MARCH 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL gagwa adroitly targeted a variety of audiences. To the private sector and foreign investors, particularly the Chinese, currently Zimbabwe’s main trading partner, he promised a country that was efficient and safe for investors. To the political opposition, he spoke of drawing from all talent and from all groups to achieve his objec- tives. Next year’s elections would be held, he said, vowing that they would be “free and fair.” He committed to keeping Zimbabwe’s citizens “secure,” without explaining what that meant. And not alienating his support in the party andmilitary, many members of both having enriched them- selves through rent-seeking activity, he spoke against corruption without calling out or identifying individuals. His first public address as head of state had none of Mugabe’s fire and belligerence. And while some in the opposition were dis- appointed that he didn’t delve intomore detail on certain issues, he didn’t seem to upset anyone too severely. His announcement of Cabinet positions after his inauguration is also not surprising. While he did bring a couple of outsiders into government, his cabi- net prominently features senior military men, senior supporters and even a few holdovers fromMugabe’s Cabinet. Interestingly, no opposition politicians are included, which signals that his priority is probably to consolidate control over ZANU-PF and ensure its continuing control of the reins of power. What Next? The coming months will be interesting for Southern Africa watchers on both sides of the Atlantic. Even thoughMnangagwa promised that the July 2018 elections will take place as scheduled, the devil is, as always, in the details. Zimbabweans and a lot of the world will be watching what happens between now and July. Will the elections—assuming they are actually held—really be free and fair, and without the violence, intimidation and cheating that have characterized past elections? Taking the helmof a party seriously weakened by infighting between generations, will Mnangagwa be able tomaintain his support with senior military and party mem- bers? If not, will they abide by his promises to allow an election that could see them losing? Will the United States, the European Union and the rest of the international community be willing to work with the interim gov- ernment—beyond the official statements reminding Zimbabweans that they now have an opportunity to develop a government that responds to the will of the people and that there should be respect for the constitution and human rights? A useful component of most international statements is that it should be left to the courts to decide the legality of the military’s actions in November. But beyond that the international community has to decide if it is will- ing to work with all parties to ensure a free and fair election. U.S. policy toward the members of ZANU-PF has been less than cordial for the past decade, while the European Union has shown more flexibility over the past five or six years, even relaxing some sanctions. As Zimbabwe gears up for possible elections in July, it remains to be seen whether or not the United States will change its somewhat inflexible position. What role will China play in Zimbabwe’s political situation? While the Chinese government has stated that beyond “monitor- ing” it has no involvement in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, Gen. Chiwenga’s visit to Beijing shortly before the military’s move is highly suspicious. Few are convinced that the Chinese did not have forewarning of the coup, and that they probably tacitly agreed with it. Given their desire to see stability in the country—and the prospect of instability Mugabe’s machinations on behalf of his extremely unpopular wife generated—it’s hard to imagine the Chinese objecting to the military “making it possible” for a steadier hand to take over at the helm. Events in Zimbabwe since November have sent shock waves throughout Africa, and other “leaders for life” have to be look- ing anxiously over their shoulders. What happens in Zimbabwe between now and July will also have a significant impact on views regarding democracy in Africa. If the stars align, and everyone involved acts in good faith, Zimbabwe could see its first-ever tran- sition to a truly representative government, which could embolden others on the continent. If Mnangagwa can keep his ZANU-PF hardliners in check, and actually include representatives of opposi- tion parties in the governing process and, at the same time, ensure a fair and peaceful process leading up to elections, I would say the future is, if not bright, at least not dim. Mind you, however, I have learnedmy lesson. This time, I make no predictions. n Robert Mugabe, then president of Zimbabwe, at the 12th African Union Summit on Feb. 2, 2009, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. U.S.NAVY/MASSCOMMUNICATIONSPECIALIST2NDCLASSJESSEB.AWALT