By Kundai Marunya
I remember the day president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (ED) took office; the celebrations around his coronation. To many people it marked an end of tyranny, corruption, unaccountability, and bad governance that had left the economy crippled and many of us poor and jobless.
I heard his inauguration speech from a friend’s car stereo. I had gone to help him his car having broken down. “Kana takambotenga maBima zvakaoma kudai gore rino tino driver maRange Rover (If I could afford to buy a BMW during the tough times I will definitely be able to afford a Range Rover)” he said.
Many people shared his euphoria and very high expectations which were later amplified in ED’s speech and substantively in his 100 day progress plan. His ‘new dispensation’ promised a mouth-watering policy change.
“In the immediate term, the liquidity challenges which have bedevilled the economy must be tackled head-on and must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. People must be able to access their earnings as and when they need them,” said ED in his inauguration speech.
To date people still wait in long bank queues, failing to access their funds. Most banks still has a withdrawal limit of less than 100 dollars per week. Illegal money changers still reap people of their hard earned cash, demanding at least 20 percent of withdrawal/ mobile money cashout.
Yes there was the scraping off of fees for bank transactions below $10 but that really isn’t something we can celebrate, considering how meagre the fees were anyways. And there is the issue of retailers who still charge extra-fees for mobile money and bank transactions and those that still refuse these forms of payment despite threats of government prosecution.
Ed’s ascendance to power came with price hikes from fuel to various other basic commodities. His government may have tried to reduce prices by dropping import tax on fuel, but let’s face it, 5cents isn’t that much.
Instead of the move having a ripple reduction effect on other commodities that really on petrol and diesel for transportation, things remained the same, some commodity prices went up even.
Some fuel stations only reduced their prices for a day or two while some maintained their charges. This is because the government lacks a follow through, same as they failed to follow through on illegal money changers. To people on the streets, the change is something you can only read about in newspapers but never a reality they can live.
“As we focus on recovering our economy, we must shed misbehaviours and acts of indiscipline which have characterised the past. Acts of corruption must stop forthwith. Where these occur swift justice must be served to show each and all that crime and other acts of economic sabotage can only guarantee ruin to perpetrators,” he said ED on 24 November.
Choice of government
Though he boldly said those words what followed never inspired public confidence. His cabinet is filled with mostly those who served in the former regime. Those who have been accused of corruption and abuse of office, and to police them is a man perceived to be one of the most corrupt individuals in the country owning vast lands in Matabeleland, the Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu.
To show that he is untouchable, he arrogantly dismissed members of parliament who questions him about missing funds in the Mugabe regime.
ED’s stance on corruption seems to be targeted at his rivals, and even to them justice has not been as swift as promised. Thus five months later, none of the arrested former government and ZANU PF officials have been tried and convicted.
His social safety measure to cushion the poor by scraping off healthcare treatment fees for vulnerable groups, including children under the age of five, pregnant women and a senior citizen above 65 years is nothing new really. It’s been there in the Mugabe era and as before healthy facilities find a way around it.
At some clinics, health practitioners demand ‘security fees’ for these groups while some just ignore the directive completely. Some facilities offers free treatment but deny medication to these patients writing them prescriptions to buy at private pharmacies.
Just like his predecessor, ED still uses police to thwart opposition evident in excessive force used to stop a demonstration by students at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). Excessive force was also used to stop a demonstration against kombis from getting into town resulting in the death of two people.
He fails to address root causes and applies force to deal with consequences. The absence of government run public transport instead of private owned has always been the reason kombis are uncontrollable. Same as his stance on vendors; it’s just trying to use Mugabe’s tactics of chasing them out of town instead of creating employment.
This indicates the need of a new government with fresh ideas rather than recycling the tried, tested and failed ministers whose methods are the same as before, and expect to be successful this time around because its the ‘new dispensation’.
New wine, old bottles
You remember the time when the Mugabes (Robert and Grace) were vastly covered in state owned media? Well, it’s the same case with the Mnangagwas. I’m yet to watch a ZBC TV broadcast news bulletin without at least two mentions of ED and his wife. They are always the top story. On the very rare occasions they are not then it’s either the two vice presidents or top leadership in ZANU PF.
Of-late its been the forthcoming ZANU PF elections that have been making headlines; never opposition rallies or campaigns. The only times opposition parties are covered is when there are disputes or in smear campaigns.
ED’s realisation that you can’t survive in a vacuum, you need outside assistance is one of the few things he did right. The failure of Mugabe’s Look East policy must have been an eye opener that ED has gone on a drive to restore investor confidence by ‘looking everywhere, engaging anyone interested in working with Zimbabwe. On that he deserves to be applauded.
He however needs to redress and human rights abuse of his predecessor. Instead of talking free and fair elections, he needs to actually introduce electoral reforms and loosen the grip military has on government that we head to elections without fear or intimidation. We have heard preachings of free and fair elections before yet it’s been all talk.
Its been three months of the same Zimbabwe we new under Mugabe. For us ordinary Zimbabweans the struggles continues.