President Trump isn’t the only world leader unexpectedly booking a trip to the globalist Davos economic summit next week.
Having just ousted longtime autocratic leader Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa will travel to the World Economic Forum at the tony Swiss resort to tout what he says is a turnaround underway in one of Africa’s poorest and most mismanaged countries.
It has been a whirlwind three months for Mr. Mnangagwa, who was once one of Mr. Mugabe’s closest allies. Dismissed from the government and expelled from the ruling party, he fled to South Africa and kept in contact with generals in Harare as they surrounded the presidential palace with tanks. On Nov. 21, facing impeachment, the 93-year-old Mr. Mugabe resigned after more than 37 years in power.
Mr. Mnangagwa returned from exile and was sworn in as head of state. The Davos gathering marks a coming-out party to pitch reforms planned for a Zimbabwean economy wracked by hunger and massive unemployment. The United States, Canada, Australia and the European Union maintained low-level sanctions against the Mugabe government dating back more than a decade after reports of torture, political repression and rigged elections.
Wilf Mbanga, editor of The Zimbabwean, said the attendance of Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnangagwa at Davos next week gives the potential for a greeting much like that between President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro at the 2013 funeral of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.
“No one expected that handshake, and within 18 months Washington had reopened its embassy in Havana after more than 40 years,” Mr. Mbanga said.
Zimbabweans, he said, will be watching to see which Western leaders agree to meet with their new president.
“There’s a huge amount at stake,” he said. “The Zimbabwe economy has flatlined, banks regularly run out of money and, while there were celebrations when Mugabe stepped down in November, there’s been no sign of investment from abroad except China retooling a power plant south of Victoria Falls.”
The U.S., he said, might have won part of that project if relations were better.
“America is South Africa’s third-largest trade partner after China and Germany. In Zimbabwe, it’s not even in the top 10,” he said.
In a move that might improve the welcome he receives in Switzerland, Mr. Mnangagwa announced Thursday on a visit to Mozambique that national elections will be held by June — months earlier than mandated under the constitution. U.N. and European Union election observers, blocked under Mr. Mugabe, would be welcome to monitor the vote, the president said.
“We will ensure that Zimbabwe delivers free, credible, fair and indisputable elections to ensure Zimbabwe engages the world as a qualified democratic state,” Mr. Mnangagwa told the state-run Herald newspaper while in Mozambique.
African leaders traditionally have been among the biggest players at Davos, although Mr. Mugabe never made the trip. It was there in 1992 that South African President F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, newly out of prison after 27 years, shared a platform and laid out plans for the transfer from white apartheid rule to democracy.
But with the ruling African National Congress and South African President Jacob Zuma rocked by charges of corruption, Mr. Zuma will skip the gathering of political and business leaders in Davos for the first time since 2009. Instead, Pretoria’s delegation will be led by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who recently replaced Mr. Zuma as head of the ANC and is expected to succeed him as president next year.
After nearly four decades under Mr. Mugabe, Zimbabwe, once considered the region’s breadbasket, now relies on aid and imports to feed its people. Unemployment is estimated at 90 percent, and the local currency unit was abandoned in 2008 after inflation reached 79 billion percent.
Harare switched to the U.S. dollar, but notes are in short supply.
Mr. Mnangagwa has said re-engagement with Washington is a priority for his government.
With some of Africa’s largest coal deposits, Zimbabwe would be a contender for the U.S.-led “clean coal” alliance if relations with the Trump administration are normalized. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who proposed an alliance of countries using coal with the latest clean technology, will accompany Mr. Trump to Davos.
New Zimbabwean president will join Trump and other world leaders at Davos
Source: The Washington Times