By Golden Guvamatanga

WHEN the country’s senior men’s national soccer team, the Warriors, troop into the Cairo International Stadium for their 2019 AFCON encounter against hosts Egypt tonight, it will be much more than donning the national colours but further consolidating the new dispensation’s efforts of bringing the nation together. 

It will also probably be the first time in more than a decade that the nation of Zimbabwe will shift focus from political antagonism, economic challenges that have been wrought onto the country by Western-sponsored illegal economic sanctions, among other issues.

Not since September 15 2008 when the country’s dominant political parties signed what is referred to as the Global Political Agreement (GPA) has Zimbabwe been bound together as one country and one people.

But tonight will be the day Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa’s troops will be the centre of attraction, uniting a country that has been divided along political lines as a result of the seemingly never-ending intrusion into the country’s internal processes by the West.

The likes of star striker and captain Knowledge Musona, mercurial midfielder Khama Billiat and steely defender Tendai Darikwa, among others, will be the glue that will bind the country.

The Warriors’ match comes on the back of efforts by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to extricate the country from more than two decades of isolation, while at the same bringing together the people of Zimbabwe.

President Mnangagwa’s reform agenda thrust has received widespread endorsement from across the globe as he moves towards reviving an economy that has been under a sustained onslaught from an aggrieved West over the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme of 2000.

Under the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) which was launched in October 2018 and will run until December 2020, Government has put in place measures to cut expenditure while attending to both the internal and external debts bedevilling the country.

The TSP seeks to stabilise the economy, establish a foundation for shared and sustained growth, while at the same time, attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

In addition, target areas of the programme include macro-fiscal stabilisation, building a conducive investment environment and launching quick-wins to stimulate private sector led growth, reintegrating the country into the global economy among others.

“Some of the critical policy reforms that have been implemented since the last quarter of 2018 include the introduction of the two percent Immediate Monetary Transaction (IMT) Tax, the separation of Nostro foreign currency accounts (FCAs) and real time gross settlement (RTGS) FCAs,” reads the document in part.  

Results of the initiative are beginning to be felt with surplus in excess of US$500 million being realised since the beginning of the year. 

Expectations are high that the reform agenda will in the short to medium term bring relief to the burdened majority.

Roads are being constructed while investors are trooping back to the country after years of snubbing it.

The tourism sector has been on a rebound due to an aggressive marketing strategy by the authorities and also as a result of the shedding off of the negative perception tag.

While all these positive signals have endeared President Mnangagwa’s administration with the majority, it has done little to stop the opposition from their politics of confrontation.

They have been threatening to unleash another wave of violent demonstrations after their so-called demonstration on January 14-16 2019 left a trail of destruction with hundreds of people injured.

While the opposition has been threatening to destabilise the country, progressive minds across the world are endorsing President Mnangagwa’s reform agenda.

Writing in the London-based EU Today, Martin Banks, a contributor to the magazine notes that President Mnangagwa’s commitment to reforming Zimbabwe has put the country firmly back on global spotlight.

This is what  the 90-minute Warriors hunt tonight when we lock horns with Egypt will confirm.

Said Banks: “All these reforms take time, but they are necessary for the EU and US to lift long-standing sanctions. 

The IMF appeared pleased, stating recently that significant economic reforms were underway in Zimbabwe.

To push through these reforms, the (President) Mnangagwa Government has taken significant steps towards unity and reconciliation, reaching out not only to the opposition with the so-called Political Actors Dialogue initiative, but also to labour and businesses with the Tripartite Negotiating Forum, aimed at shaping policy and binding legal agreements on social issues that affect production and labour.

(President) Mnangagwa also directly addressed the opposition leader of the MDC Alliance, Nelson Chamisa, tweeting post-election that his ‘door is open’. However, Chamisa has refused any collaboration so far and instead called for continued protests. 

The EU, meanwhile, supports the dialogue platform, maintaining it must be made on equal footing and discussions must be frank through a free exchange of views.

Relations between Zimbabwe and the EU were frosty throughout most of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year reign, which was marred by corruption, economic mismanagement and human rights abuses. 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to transform the country, implement reforms and open the country for business, in order to woo foreign — and increasingly, Western — investors.

“It is a noble undertaking, but Western leaders are keen to see concrete results quickly, a difficult task following nearly four decades of Mugabe misrule, which ruined the country. Nevertheless, progress is beginning to show.”

The commitment is also being shown on the political front where President Mnangagwa has in the recent launched the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) that is aimed at bringing together parties that fielded candidates in the July 30 2018 harmonised elections.

Despite President Mnangagwa’s call for national and inclusive dialogue, MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa has refused to take part in the process, instead preferring to try and have what he says would be a private conversation between him and President Mnangagwa.

That has been deemed unnecessary by the authorities who feel that they cannot fall into Chamisa’s grandstanding trap. 

All this drama will be shelved tonight because the day belongs to the Warriors.

If anything, our Warriors have a better chance of progressing to the next stage given the quality in the squad.

Tonight the whole country sings: “We are Warriors!”

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