Zimbabwe has finally set a date for this year’s presidential elections, even as the world waits with baited breath for its first democratically elected president after Mugabe. The elections have been set for the 30th of July, amidst efforts by its president, Emerson Mnangagwa to ensure foreign investors once again invest in Zimbabwe. The country’s parliamentary elections have also been set for the same day. With the announcement of this date, this will be the first election since Zimbabwe’s independence that has not had Robert Mugabe’s name on the ballot papers.

Also missing from the papers will be Robert Mugabe’s long-term rival and former leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai who died soon after Mugabe stepped down last year. Tsvangirai was replaced by the 40-year-old Nelson Chimasa, who last month promised to drive out China if he was elected as president.

Zimbabwe’s redemption

For Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former Vice-president and Zimbabwe’s acting president, this election is one of legitimacy for him. After being Robert Mugabe’s right-hand man for many years, both in Mugabe’s role as president and also as leader of the ruling party ZANU-PF, this election is an opportunity for him the clear the books and present himself as a reformed Democrat.

He has invited election observers from the United Nations, and other analysts to monitor Zimbabwe’s presidential elections, with the promise that Zimbabwe’s elections will be free and fair, and also transparent. Mnangagwa, once Mugabe’s henchman in regards to committing electoral fraud for his boss in presidential elections, is now ironically the poster boy for democracy in the country.

Chairwoman for Zimbabwe’s electoral body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Priscilla Chigumba told journalists during the election announcement that partners of the body would provide around $50 million of the budget needed to fund the elections. Some of its partners include the agencies of the United Nations.

Mnangagwa has also invited the Commonwealth to monitor the elections, as part of a bid to rejoin the nations bloc, after leaving nearly 20 years ago. Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson has supported its bid to rejoin the Commonwealth, and a free and fair election would surely help that bid. A successful election could also mean some of the sanctions placed on Zimbabwe can be lifted, and once again, Zimbabwe could hopefully get access to loans that were denied it by sanctions.

David and Goliath

The only threat to Mnangagwa’s election as president is MDC’s leader Nelson Chamisa, who seems like a young David to Mnangagwa’s Goliath. His campaign rallies have drawn big crowds, and his rhetoric has garnered support from Zimbabweans who saw Mugabe’s removal as the first chapter of revolution in their country. Bringing down the ruling party is next. And severing its affiliation with China, one Chamisa says he abhors, is one way to do that.

However, analysts say Emmerson “The Crocodile” Mnangagwa will win the elections, owing to the fact that “experience, depth and state incumbency will triumph over youthfulness.” If any of the candidates fail to garner 50 percent of the votes after the election, a second round of elections will hold on the 8th of September.

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