By Farai Chirimumimba
Worldwide, Independence remarks have been undoubtedly political, they usually follow the same pattern which includes counting the years since Independence, extol on the virtue of liberty and unity. For the past 38 years Zimbabweans have been accustomed to the underlying themes through former president Robert Mugabe and now Emmerson Mnangagwa who is trying what he says is, “a new way of doing things…” The question is are Zimbabweans willing to listen when they are being criticized and when they are being called out to better themselves?
President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday pointed to the …”need to progress together despite creed and language…” as he made his case for his agenda in his Independence Day speech at the National Sports Stadium where thousands attended whilst many more followed the proceedings through radio, television and web broadcast. Mnangagwa begun by reminding Zimbabweans of his government’s major thrust. “Fellow Zimbabweans, at my inauguration l underscored the need to pursue rapid economic growth; in this endeavour my administration’s pursuit is enhanced investment and job creation.”
He said there was need for an unyielding spirit of togetherness to deal with the challenges facing the nation: “For the challenges we face, we need to focus on the pursuit of economic recovery, poverty reduction, rehabilitation of social services and respect for rule of law. We need to protect and encourage private sector enterprises. We need to fight corruption. We will not achieve our goals overnight. But through discipline, we will realize our goals. Zimbabwe will rise again and be great,” he said.
He continued: “The renewed spirit of hope and determination by our people is encouraging. The goodwill we continue to receive is positive. We have positive changes in the mining, agriculture and tourism sectors. Government is ensuring food sufficiency through Command Agriculture.”
“We have availed money to beef up and sustain Command Agriculture. We also need to protect the forestry industry. We are strongest when work together. We are confident our efforts will improve the livelihoods and incomes of our community. We are also trying to minimize adverse effects of climate change by constructing dams,” Mnangagwa added.
The speech showed a president who has grown increasingly convinced that Zimbabweans had to face up to the socio-economic and political crisis, but they only could do this if they faced up to the crisis in their own actions. He tried to push the shortage of cash on a kind of moral and civic duty, and the speech was used to unify around sense of civic sacrifice. It seems Mnangagwa did some soul searching before giving the speech, and he hoped to entice Zimbabweans to do the same. He wanted the country to become much more self-inquisitive. “Let us think big of our country. Nothing is impossible. We shall rise,” he said as he concluded his speech.
The reception to Mnangagwa’s speech maybe overwhelming positive because he touched on bread and butter issues but however, the goodwill maybe short lived if talk does not translate to action which has been one of the major habit of the “old dispensation” which Mnangagwa and most of his cabinet were part of for the past 38 years. Mnangagwa should also be reminded that mega deals from China and Russia are not new. During former president Mugabe era numerous pledges and deals were facilitated with the state media coming up with screaming headlines which gave false hope. The Chinese, Russians and Belarus “are no Father Christmas” as one local private media recently pointed out and should not be entirely relied upon. Rather we should mainly focus on fully exploiting the rich mineral resources to get money to finance agriculture and retooling industry to increase export earnings.
If, Mnangangwa fails to at least show some elements of a rebounding economy, then he will have a difficult time bouncing back after harmonised elections and be seen on the part of Zimbabweans as a strong and significant leader, especially a leader that could take Zimbabwe through solving the cash shortages, unemployment and social services like the paralysed health and education sector which require urgent attention. For now we will wait to see how Mnangagwa’s Independence Day speech will be turned into action that Zimbabweans are yearning for to better their lives.