ZIMBABWE’S pariah state tag haunted President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent visit to the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland with political analysts equating the journey to a trip of shame.
Mnangagwa was one of the four African heads of state who joined the political and business elite in Davos for the 2022 annual meeting which ran until 26 May.
The others were Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, Namibian President Hage Geingob and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
This year’s theme was History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies and there were 200 sessions attended by more than 2 500 leaders and experts.
It was the first in-person Davos meeting since the Covid-19 broke out in December.
Mnangagwa’s trip to Davos, a trip of shame
Having attended the 2018 forum a few months after romping to power through a military coup, sources said Mnangagwa had a torrid time this year to explain how he had largely failed to implement reforms he promised then.
While there was international media fanfare when he attended the 2018 forum with the world keen to know how he would end the bad governance and human rights trampling presided over by his predecessor, the late Robert Mugabe, this year’s event was a damp squib for the Zimbabwean leader.
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure told The NewsHawks that he was not surprised with the isolation of Mnangagwa at the Davos meeting.
“There are certain things that he promised to do during his inaugural visit in 2018 which he failed to implement for Zimbabwe to be a secure investment destination. There has been a mismatch between what he says and what he does. This acted against him,” he said.
Masunungure added that the pariah state tag of Zimbabwe, accentuated by United States and European Union sanctions, haunted Mnangagwa.
“The pariah state tag for Zimbabwe is still there and it could not be shrugged off by his visit to Davos. The invitation on its own does not mean much in projecting how the world views Zimbabwe. There is more that Zimbabwe needs to do to erase its past demeanours and he has (Mnangagwa) failed to do that,” said Masunungure.
After attending the 2018 Davos conference where he projected himself as a reformer, Mnangagwa went through a general election that was contested by the main opposition.
In-between the legal contestation, several people were killed while others suffered gun-shot wounds while demonstrating against delays of presidential election results that the opposition said it had won by over 60%.
Defenceless citizens were shot dead by the military.
Gladys Hlatywayo, the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) secretary for foreign affairs, told The NewsHawks that Zimbabwe’s isolation from the international community will persist if key reforms remain frozen.
“The pariah state tag is not shrugged off by attending international conferences and meetings but real work on the ground. Real reforms are needed in Zimbabwe and anything else is child’s play,” she said, adding: “An authentic national dialogue to discuss the reform agenda, including electoral, political and economic reforms, is needed urgently so that Zimbabwe can move forward and can be taken seriously on the global stage.”
“Without this, attending international conferences and meetings is just meant to harvest per diems at the expense of suffering citizens.”
Before Mnangagwa’s infamous Davos trip, Fight Inequality Alliance (FIA), a network of organisations that seek the fair distribution of wealth, power, opportunities, social status, access and control of resources in Zimbabwe, raised concerns.
It said the country’s participation at the World Economic Forum (WEF) was a waste of time and resources.
The meeting, which the organisers market as a platform that offers world leaders an opportunity to “take stock of the state of the world and shape partnerships and policies for the crucial period ahead”, is held annually in Davos, Switzerland.
FIA castigated President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s attendance of the summit, saying it does not advance the interests of the country but “rather deepens inequalities through domestication of the ideas and policy choices that further entrench poverty.”
The body requested that government disclose the size of its entourage to such meetings and justify the expenses drawn from taxpayers’ money.
Rashweat Mukundu, a political analyst, told The NewsHawks that Mnangagwa’s rhetoric on unfulfilled reforms and promises of open democracy and end to human rights abuses marred his Davos visit.
“Authoritarianism, capture of the judiciary and repression of Zimbabwe’s democratic processes makes it hard for President Mnangagwa to have the world believe what he says at such international meetings, be it at Davos or other meetings. What he says will be contrary to what these groups then see happening in Zimbabwe in terms of the policies like the PVO Bill, which is essentially a closure of the business space, because we are saying the people must not organise themselves to speak out.”
“The international community has a challenge on believing what president Mnangagwa says and the reality on the ground. So there is need to close the gap between what is said by the Zimbabwean leader and what actually happens on the ground,” said Mukundu.
The Davos forum placed focus on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, but Mnangagwa was not interested since Zimbabwe abstained from a United Nations vote to decide action on the aggressor, Russia.
Mnangagwa and Russian leader Vladimir Putin are allies.–STAFF WRITER.