Crocodile and buffalo

Zimbabwe's president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

The crocodile is a notoriously stealthy hunter, adept at concealing itself and sneaking up on its unsuspecting prey.

Once its prey is within reach, the crocodile is galvanised into action, its powerful jaws snap shut and it drags its prey into the water and off to its lair.

Emmerson Mnangagwa isn’t known as “The Crocodile “ for nothing.

Like that cunning saurian hunter, Mr Mnangagwa stalked his unsuspecting prey, and once it was within reach, his steely jaws snapped shut, and the decades long dictatorship of Robert Gabriel Mugabe came to an abrupt end.

Zimbabweans across the country and the diaspora rejoiced, hailing the advent of a new dawn, which in many ways echoed the Arab Spring that gripped North Africa and the Middle East.

Mr Mnangagwa was sworn in as president and he immediately launched a charm offensive calculated to lure back foreign investment by convincing the international community that a new era had dawned in Zimbabwe, characterised by adherence to the rule of law, a free press, freedom of association and unfettered political activity.

He promised free and fair elections and for the first time in decades, the opposition MDC Alliance winning a parliamentary majority and even the presidentail popular vote, became a tantalising possibility.

The election has come and gone, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Zanu-PF won an overwhelming majority in parliament, and Mr Mnangagwa retained the presidency by a margin akin a gnats ballhair.

Predictably, the opposition MDC Alliance cried foul, accusing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of malfeasance, insisting that the vote count in urban areas – the MDC’s traditional stronghold – was fudged to favour Zanu-PF.

Violence erupted when the ZEC announced preliminary results which indicated that Zanu-PF was the clear winner.

Protesters clashed with police and the military, who fired live rounds, resulting in six deaths and 40 injuries.

Zimbabwe has since teetered on a knife edge for days, but one thing is quite clear: president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa has a firm grip on the levers of power, and he is not afraid to wield that power.

The Crocodile’s cunning strategy has paid off: Zanu-PF remains firmly in control.

Much like the crocodile, the buffalo is a daunting opponent. Revered by big game hunters as a fearsome adversary, a wounded buffalo is feared for its habit of ambushing and killing its antagonist.

In the same way that the crocodile patiently and stealthily stalks its prey, the buffalo lies in wait for its unsuspecting tormentor to walk into its ambush, before springing the trap.

Like the buffalo after which he is named, then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa cunningly set his ambush and lay in wait for his antagonist, then President Jacob Zuma, and just like the arrogant big game hunter, Mr Zuma walked into the ambush believing that he was immune to any attack, and thus came to an end his ruinous nine-year rule.

The timing was impeccable, because much like Zanu-PF, the ANC was on the ropes, and the likelihood that the ANC would lose its parliamentary majority in the 2019 election, was fast becoming a probability, rather than a remote possibility.

Mr Ramaphosa was sworn in as president, and true to form, he launched his charm offensive, promising a new era of stability, policy certainty and a determination to root out corruption.

The country and the international community rapidly succumbed to Ramaphoria, witnessed by the surge in the value of the rand and the positive noises from the rating agencies, which paused the dive towards junk status of the country’s sovereign debt.

Even the opposition expressed cautious optimism in response to Mr Ramaphosa’s blandishments, with the caveat that he would be held to his promises.

Even the jarring eleventh hour adoption of the by now infamous expropriation without compensation (EWC) resolution at the ANC’s 54th elective conference in December, was seen as a ruse to deal with the long-stading and unresolved land question, without turning the country and the economy on its head.

The adoption of an amended EFF motion in the National Assembly in support of EWC was seen as a strategy for the ANC to regain the initiative in the land reform question.

But the patient reassurances that any changes to the constitution to effect EWC would be done within the rule of law and via the parliamentary process are now open to question.

The nationwide parliamentary committee hearings on whether or not Section 25 of the constitution ought to be amended to allow EWC have yet to be concluded, and already the ANC has made a pronouncement which preempts the outcome of those hearings.

In a pre-recorded national address after the ANC national executive committee lekgotla on Tuesday August 1, usually reserved for the president of the country to address the nation, Mr Ramaphosa chose to speak as the president of the ANC, announcing that the ANC would amend Section 25 of the constitution to enable EWC.

In one fell swoop, Mr Ramaphosa erased the line between party and state that he had so assiduously fostered after he came to power.

Like the buffalo after which he is named, he trampled on his promises of policy certainty, stability and his undertaking that land reform would not disrupt food production or negatively impact the economy.

Anecdotal evidence from the land reform hearings suggests that the majority of the population sees land reform as a zero-sum game. It must be taken away from the haves and given to the have-nots.

And by agreeing to do so, the buffalo ensures that the ANC will remain in power after 2019.