Story by Alec Russell. Filmed by James Sandy. Produced by Filip Fortuna. Footage: Reuters/Getty
I've just had the first interview with Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's president, since he replaced Robert Mugabe, the veteran autocrat late last year.
Now, to be clear, this is a hard man. His nickname is The Crocodile, and with good reason. He's a ruthless and wily operator.
But he made a bold pitch to reach out to the world and open up Zimbabwe's economy. He called for international monitors from the EU, the UN, and the Commonwealth to observe elections later this year. He held out an olive branch to investors who have despaired of doing business in Zimbabwe in recent years. Such has been the profligacy of the ruling party. He also said that both he and Britain, the former colonial power, were keen for Zimbabwe to join the Commonwealth, and he could see this happening as early as next year.
Now, there are reasons to be wary of his optimistic rhetoric. The opposition rightly highlights his links to the military. And they also say that, frankly, a free and fair election, even if monitored, is absolutely impossible. And they also say that Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, 50-plus years in the liberation movement, is too old and too dyed in the wool to actually change.
But the very fact this interview took place, something unthinkable in the 24 years that I've been covering Zimbabwe off and on, is a sign of how that the new guard is keen to open up to the West. The question that remains now is, can the new president deliver? Does he really have the determination to act on what he has promised?