Lovemore Ranga Mataire
President Mnangagwa will wind up his regional tour with a State visit to Botswana after having charmed regional leaders with his adept understanding of the critical ingredients needed to rebound the Zimbabwean economy.
Ordinarily, such regional tours would not have been necessary had it not been for the unique manner in which the President ascended to power. The manner in which he ascended to power made it imperative to give first hand appraisal to his regional colleagues.
The visits could also have been necessitated by the need to dispel any falsehoods regarding Operation Restore Legacy masterminded by the military in the month of November which subsequently led to the resignation of President Mugabe.
The pacification of critical regional, continental and international players was also crucial in the reimaging of ED as a man of peace and development — shirking off the hardliner image projected in some media organisations over the years.
What has come out of these visits is that far from being just an ordinary politician propelled to leadership by chance, ED is a smooth operator whose demeanour tells a story of someone who has been there and done that.
If there was ever any doubts about his statesmanship, then the visits completely shattered those sentiments as the man acquitted himself well.
There was no room for ambivalence. Everything was said as is – straight to the point – either addressing Heads of State or at business forums.
It is clear that the man they call ED is well groomed in political realism and etiquette without any trace of arrogance or strongheadedness in his speech or body language. Whoever designed the whole regional tour is a genius of some kind.
His first port of call was South Africa, the biggest trading partner of Zimbabwe. It is a country in which he sought sanctuary after being sacked from government by ex-President Mugabe. But of much significance is the fact that President Jacob Zuma holds the chairmanship of SADC.
The visit was just the tonic he needed — coming just after his inauguration as the President of Zimbabwe. He assured thousands of Zimbabweans gathered at a business meeting that his administration was open for business and is clearing the way for easy of doing business in the country.
The fact that the business meeting was oversubscribed was testimony to the enthusiasm Zimbabweans living in the diaspora have in playing a part in shaping the economic trajectory of the country. After South Africa, the President visited Angola — a regional economic powerhouse.
Angola was also strategically important in that it currently holds the chairmanship of the Sadc Organ on Politics and Security. The organ is critical component in overseeing regional security issues.
Namibia and Mozambique were the next countries on his itinerary and in all the countries the President was warmly received as he enunciated his administration’s vision and emphasising the need for cooperation.
In essence, the regional tours should be seen more as assuring partners that the government does indeed stand by its commitments to do things differently from the previous administration.
Ahead of the 38 Sadc summit in Windhoek, Namibia and the 30th Ordinary Summit in Addis Ababa on the 22nd of January to 29 January, the visits became part of the house-keeping process needed before the President can formally meet his colleagues.
Namibia’s Hage Geingob will assume the chairmanship of the group and it was significance that President Mnangagwa had a brief with him.
Also, given the respect that the former President had in the region, it was important for the new administration to reassure the region of his safety and welfare.
But there is also something different about these trips. All of them were a day’s trip with no sleep overs and with a leaner delegation. The President was normally accompanied by the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
The composition of his delegation is indicative of his vision of focusing on economic issues. Besides introducing himself to his regional colleagues as the new sheriff in town, the visits were part of the new government’s initiative of strengthening bilateral ties with key regional allies.
It is difficult, so far, to fault the new Zimbabwean leader on anything he has promised. ED is sticking to the same things he outlined in his inauguration speech where he pledged to be a servant leader pursuing the common good of all citizens. It is clear that he is intent on pursuing a non-antagonistic foreign policy hinged on peace and mutual respect with major focus on ways to stimulate the economy.
And to his credit, goodwill has been following him all the way. There is no doubt that besides solidifying his power, the regional tours are part of the President’s desire to pursue a pragmatic foreign policy. A non-antagonistic foreign policy is critical for the sustenance of the new dispensation for it determines and shapes how other countries perceive Zimbabwe. Without a clear cut tangible foreign policy country’s intentions risk being misconstrued by other countries.
But so far President Mnangagwa has been crystal clear that Zimbabwe wants to be an equal member of the community of nations and is intent on repairing all sour relations with strategic partners.
In all the countries visited so far, President Mnangagwa has charmed his counterparts by his humble demeanour with some doses of humorous anecdotes of how he ascended to power after fleeing the country when his life was under threat.
So masterful was the one who crafted the whole schedule for he/she saved the best for last. After visiting South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia – President Mnangagwa will wind up with a State visit to Botswana.
Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama is known for his legendary negative attitude towards former President Mugabe.
Technically, the visit to Botswana is his first State visit in that other trips were categorised as ‘courtesy calls’. A State visit is the highest and most official expression of bilateral relations between countries, involving various ceremonies and protocols.
The visit is set to usher a new era in terms of relations between the countries which in the past have been characterised by uneasiness and open hostility.
Judging by the rapturous applause President Khama received late November in a packed stadium during President Mnangagwa’s inauguration, it is not premature to say that the two leaders have already cleared the path for cordial relations.
Khama was the most vocal African leader against President Mugabe and on numerous occasions called on him to step down. Khama frequently swam against the tide in bodies such as the African Union and SADC.
Until the next regional and continental summits, the groundwork in ensuring that regional leaders are adequately informed of developments in Zimbabwe has been done. It is such kind of rapport that augurs well for the new administration’s resolve to turn around the economy by cementing ties with both regional, continental and international allies.
All things equal, ED looks like the man that will turn things around for Zimbabwe.