State of the nation address - long on promises short on detail
President Emmerson Mnangagwa presented his inaugural State of the Nation Address (SONA) before a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament at the Harare International Conference Centre on Wednesday afternoon, December 20, 2017. The SONA was very brief and it hopelessly lacked details on how, exactly, the new administration was going to deal with pressing national issues such as the collapsed public health delivery system, the financial and other challenges being faced by tertiary students in institutions of higher learning, rehabilitation of collapsed infrastructure such as public roads and the national railway system.
The MDC is thoroughly unimpressed with the half – hearted commitment that the Mnangagwa administration has so far shown towards opening up the State – owned print and electronic media. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) radio stations and the sole television station remain virtually closed to all other political parties except the ruling Zanu PF party. Surely, it doesn’t take much effort in simply instructing the powers that be at the ZBC to ensure that they give access to other political parties and not just to the ruling party. As it is, the ZBC is continuing with its usual biased and one – sided coverage in favour of the ruling party.
Whilst the MDC is pleased to note that the new administration has publicly pledged to combat corruption, it is very worrisome and disturbing to note that only members of a particular faction of the ruling party are being targeted for arrest and prosecution. It is a public secret that there are several high level crooks and criminals who are still occupying lofty positions in the Mnangagwa administration but these individuals remain scot – free.
Thus, there is a perception that the anti – corruption crusade is being executed on factional lines. The MDC is on record calling for the arrest and prosecution of all criminals regardless of their factional and political affiliation. It is only when the anti – corruption fight is impartial and holistic will the generality of the people of Zimbabwe start to believe that the new government’s much touted zero tolerance towards corruption is genuine and not just meant to settle political scores.
The SONA was disappointingly bereft of any details regarding how the Mnangagwa administration will deal with the prevailing crippling liquidity crunch. Long queues are still the order of the day outside all commercial banks and the majority of the people are finding it extremely difficult to access their money from banks. If anything, the liquidity crunch is actually worse than it was during the Robert Mugabe regime. Prices of basic goods and commodities are skyrocketing and the government appears to be completely at sixes and sevens regarding how to contain this problem. Mere promises and threats are not good enough to restore sanity within the business sector. Concrete measures and steps have to be immediately put in place in order to protect the vulnerable groups of society from the ravages of skyrocketing prices.
President Mnangagwa has promised that the 2018 harmonised elections will be free and fair but some of his most senior lieutenants such as Christopher Mutsvangwa have publicly disclosed that soldiers and traditional leaders will be assisting Zanu PF to campaign in the forthcoming elections. This is a very alarming and disturbing development that shouldn’t be allowed to take place if at all next year’s elections are going to be held in a free and fair environment.
The MDC will take comfort from a state of affairs whereby the newly appointed Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Philip Valerio Sibanda, would publicly announce that the army is not going to take part in campaigning for any political party and also that the army will accept the results of a free and free election regardless of who is the winner of the Presidential election.
The jury is still out on the Mnangagwa administration and we hope and trust that all the promises and undertakings that were made in President Mnangagwa’s inaugural SONA will be implemented. Indeed, action speaks louder than words.
MDC: Equal Opportunities for All
Obert Chaurura Gutu
MDC National Spokesperson