President Mnangagwa's Independence Day speech: A balloon full of hot air

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In his first independence speech dated April 18, 2018, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (ED) touched on bread and butter issues, painting a positive picture that re-ignited hope. Fast forward to April 18, 2019, the president re-cycled the same content- awash with same liberation rhetoric, callouts and promises.

With so many sentiments emerging from his speech, the president doesn’t bring any new or unique political style or usher in a new trajectory, let alone conditions for nation building or healing. Instead of changing tact he uses the same heavy-handed tactics that Robert Mugabe used. For someone who came to power through a ‘soft coup’ he doesn’t appear to see the risk of losing the people's good will if he continues to use the army to intervene in political and economic disputes. ED has failed to demonstrate in any meaningful and tangible ways that he can overcome the baggage he carried as he grabbed the presidency.

His speech fails to outline broad and real solutions to tackle the crises impacting the country. It lacked substance and it’s a mere reflection of failed reforms. Actions speak louder than words. The challenges of the day are beyond the president’ reach and claiming that ED is the beacon of hope, is an exaggeration; a suicidal thought.

I acknowledge his effort in calling for hope, but he has failed to lay the foundation for hope. The president tried hard to preach unity, peace and prosperity that strongly doesn’t have a basis or foundation in Zimbabwe today. His propaganda rhetoric seeks to normalize the abnormal crises on the ground.

The speech was typical of the campaign rally narrative-false claims and promises full of presidential campaign falsehoods. It is clear that ED strongly believes in post-truth politics. It is hard to believe that the president will bring meaningful impact to the ailing economy and revive the collapsed sectors. The broad changes that the Zimbabweans yearn for are far from the horizon and far from seeing the light of the day.

Zimbabwe netzens responded to his speech; expressing their frustrations. The nation is fed up with politics of promises, non-deliverance, poor governance and leadership embroiled in corruption. Real positive change is missing. The president again declared commitments that he knows he will not enforce and deliver on; he cannot walk the talk. The promises to revive the ailing economy, rehabilitation of social services, create jobs, revive agriculture, industry and manufacturing remains the same old promises; year in and year out. His Independence Day speech remains a balloon full of hot air.

With a very low success rate or achievements to show since taking office, His presidency mark is already on the horizon- mega deals full of hot air. ‘You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.’

In short his Independence Day speech was about the ‘Development of the economy and the quality of life’ however, it lacks the sincerity and commitment giving a lip service to the multiple layers of crises affecting the country. The speech is misleading, painting a picture that all is well and under control in the 2nd Republic. It falls short in giving the answers we have been waiting for (e.g. Resolving monetary issues, missing US$15 Billion diamonds revenue). It is evident that the head of state lacks foresight and aspirations to improve the pathetic living conditions of the citizens.

With his head always in the clouds and presiding over a poorly organised and managed government, His presidency has dampened the renewal of the spirit of hope. The inflated claims of action, including reviving decades old ghost projects (e.g. dualization of main highways, Hwange 7 and 8 Expansion, Batoka Hydro Electric Plant) makes his presidency less trustworthy.

The soaring basic commodities prices cannot be solved by coercive measures. His significance in taking Zimbabwe through the hard-economic crises and ensure food security remain uncertain.

On corruption

The Zero tolerance on corruption has become a national anthem that is only sung when it’s convenient for the leader and senior government members. The implementation of mechanisms to uproot corruption has yielded zero results since he came into office. The drive to succeed is lost by the lack of courage to adopt and implement unpopular decisions that directly affect his comrades and loyalists. The president’s political acumen and capital in dealing with his cronies is dubious. The prevalence of sanitised corruption in the government and parastatals remains unabated with no suggested viable and actionable solutions. As someone already deeply implicated in corruption, his lack of resolve in tackling the vice leads one to conclude that he has chosen to use corruption as one of the technologies to legitimize his power.

On Reforms

The structure of ED’s speech clearly hint that political and legislative reforms, democratic tenets, rule of law, and good governance are peripheral issues in the 2nd Republic. Located at the bottom of the food chain, ED gave a flash hint on reforms that the international community, civil society and human rights defenders place at the core of Zimbabwe’s road to recovery (E.g. Transparency, accountability, rule of law, non-partisan ethics and autonomy of ZEC, RBZ, ZBC and ZACC, the removal of the army from party politics, the separation of state and party (Zanu PF) and criminalisation of dissent, etc.) The manner in which national politics is managed is a recipe for protracted suffering of the masses.

Policies and programs that promote political tolerance, inclusion and participation in decision making remain missing, enhancing loss of trust in government. Building a democratic Zimbabwe that respect the rule of law remains fundamental as a special tribute to the fallen heroes. Strengthening and respecting the pillars of our democratic principles, adopt policies that improves investor confidence remains fundamental but not a priority in the 2nd Republic.

For over 13 months there has been no movement on reforms. What makes us believe that ED will follow through with the reforms he gave a lip service to on Independence Day? Zimbabwe remains a high-risk country for investors. It is these conditions that should be addressed first. Singing about implementing measures that will never see the light of the day is a betrayal of the will of the majority.

Supporting local businesses

It is hard to understand what forms the basis of policy formulation in the 2nd Republic. The Zimbabwe is open for business mantra has been shifted towards local businesses which is probably a positive attribute of the president’s speech if viable solutions are implemented. The mega deals and local media screaming headlines have failed to materialise leading to his embracing of indigenization, giving attention to SMEs and small-scale miners to improve revenue inflows. The President's concept of building national prosperity has slightly shifted from much emphasis on luring foreign investors. It is a late, but timely realization that the obligations for economic recovery lies in the hands of Zimbabweans. Providing grassroot support and policies that promotes local businesses remains a viable solution however, with no stable financial sector his promises remains hot air.

Living in the past and hoping for the future

With no concrete policy ideas on the cards, the president’s speech is a constant reminder that we should continue living in the past, ignore what is valued now and hope for a brighter future. The soring basic commodities prices continue eroding the purchasing power. The president is not doing enough to address the basics and the ordinary people’s plight. Hard work is no longer rewarding. The country is sliding down the 2008 hyperinflation highway, a leap into the unknown and uncertain times. He falls short on the strategies that address short and long-term challenges. Vision 2030 remains an elusive dream, how will we get there? The promised Canaan- ‘a brighter future’ will remain a pie in the sky.

The president has a heavy agenda on his table. With his speech we hope that concrete steps, policies and programs will be adopted to address the problems he identified. It remains very uncertain how the president will translate that into tangible and realistic policy victories-for the citizens are tired of unproductive and experimental policies. He cherished ambitious goals for the nation and his success or failure rests in delivering them. Relying on the past experiences, there is little evidence on the ground that ED will follow through with all these promises.

With his presidency limited in success stories, the main task of rebuilding the country to its former glory and beyond remains a daunting effort. There is need for an all hands-on deck approach, employing high focus from all citizens and civil society. Zimbabwe remains a lost glory, that the citizens will eventually reclaim.

Zimbabweans are a very patient, reasonable and progressive lot (judging by how they were so ready to give ED the benefit of doubt in November 2017 and how they have not grabbed Robert Mugabe to settle old scores). ED is taking the nation for granted. He has a very short window period to heal, inspire and unite the nation. If he continues on the business as usual casual road he will only have himself to blame when ‘the people’ turn against him in a resolute way.

Arise and shine Zimbabwe, Muka upenye, Phakama Ukhanye. Let’s fix it Zimbabwe.

An ordinary Citizen’s Voice of Hope.

By Tichaona Dande
Environment/Climate Change/Energy Policy/Legal Expert
Governance/Democracy/Global Politics Scholar.

Feedback & Engagement
ariseandshinezimbabwe@gmail.com


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