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Zimbabwe: No big changes are expected from the elections, and the economy is on the verge of collapsing

Longtime missionary and one-time prisoner, Jesuit Father Brian MacGarry, shares his feelings in an interview about the upcoming Zimbabwean election. Agenzia Fides reports.

Harare – “The generals have everything under control. The candidates that belong to the majority and the opposition are however in some way controlled by them. To be honest, I do not think the elections will bring big changes in Zimbabwe”. Father Brian MacGarry reads the post-Mugabe political situation with disenchanted eyes in view of the vote to be held on 30 July. Father Brian is a Jesuit who has known all the hopes and disappointments experienced by former Rhodesia in the last forty years. An English missionary, in the seventies he obtained Rhodesian citizenship. He was a supporter of Robert Mugabe and of his fight against the rigid system of apartheid imposed by Premier Ian Smith. In the new Zimbabwe, which became independent in 1980, he then progressively distanced himself from Mugabe, who transformed himself from an enlightened resistance leader into a cruel despot.

“The new president, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa”, Father MacGarry explains to Agenzia Fides, “took part in the struggle for freedom. But he shared power with Mugabe for years. He breathed the air of the Mugabe era and has been a member of the Zanu-PF, the ruling party for decades. I do not expect anything from him”.

In Zimbabwe, however, there is also the Movement for Democratic Change, the opposition party. Recently, its historic leader, Morgan Tsvangirai died and was replaced by Nelson Chamisa. “Chamisa” notes Father Brian, “transformed the MDC in the Zanu-PF, the ruling party since 1980. The struggles to take power within his party have exposed his craftiness and ambitions”.

There remains the unknown factor of the military who, in the past, influenced the elections.

Through violence and intimidation they have always favoured the Zanu-PF. “The military won right from the beginning” says Father Brian. “The military, however, are able to win the election, but not to revive the economy”.

The economy is on the verge of collapsing. Cash is now almost non-existent and has been replaced by «Bond Notes» (which are officially worth a dollar, but in fact much less). In the last period an “import ban” policy continues with the aim of supporting domestic production.

Agriculture remains the main source of income for the Country for over 70% of the population and would potentially be able to generate more revenue related to exports and greater employment than any other productive sector, but the country's agricultural structure in the last decade has been undermined by Mugabe’s demagogic agrarian reform. “The English” continues Father Brian, “are Mnangagwa’s biggest supporters because they want to ensure the control of the country's mineral resources. But they cannot afford to rebuild the entire economy”.

As far as personal freedom is concerned something has improved. “Yes,” concludes Father Brian, “There is some form of freedom. Mnangagwa, however, has hinted that he wants to 'restore order'. So the situation could get worse. I am not afraid. I have always said what I thought of Mugabe and his family and I will continue to say it. I was even sent to prison. Now I have nothing to lose”. (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 25/7/2018)

Image: Agenzia Fides

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.