PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday presented a joint speech encompassing the state of the nation address (Sona) and the official opening of the third session of the ninth parliament of Zimbabwe.
Apart from the format, the speech was also a departure from the norm as it was delivered virtually. In terms of substance, Mnangagwa outlined government’s legislative agenda, which was about the only useful thing he had to say.
Predictably, he also took the opportunity to publicly recognise MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe as the “leader of the opposition”.
As Mnangagwa’s speeches usually go, there were no flashes of brilliance and leadership. No ideological, philosophical or policy substance. Even at the level of rudimentary economics, there was nothing to write home about. He stuck to a dry and soporific script, leaving citizens reeling from a sea of troubles underwhelmed.
The issues that needed urgent attention were clear.
Mnangagwa should have dealt with the struggling economy and outlined a practical recovery plan like other presidents around the world are doing. He should have also come up with plans to address social services; education,
health, water supply, roads and electricity.
Unemployment remains a national disaster. People have even given up talking about new investment and job opportunities. That’s the level lack of confidence in his government.
Mnangagwa simply did not have a plan for economic recovery and job creation, not that anyone seriously expected him to. Nothing to revive education, health and production. Nothing to ensure basic services. Nothing to tackle inflation, the second highest in the world.
When a leader presents the Sona—which should be a compelling appraisal of the economic, political and social realities the citizenry finds itself in — the public does not expect miracles, but pragmatic solutions.
Doctors, teachers, and many other professionals are up in arms against government over salaries and working conditions. Mnangagwa provided no answers. Instead of addressing those issues, Mnangagwa’s regime focuses on retaining power for its own sake, hence arrests, detentions and abductions. That’s the only area where Mnangagwa seems to be efficient; repression.
Aid agencies say 60% of the population faces starvation. Government does not seem to have a credible plan to address that urgent matter. That on its own is a calamity. There is a humanitarian emergency out there that demands serious attention.
After correctly describing children as Zimbabwe’s “rich future human resource endowment”, he failed to provide
a solution for the ongoing teachers’ strike. Following years of neglect and under-funding, the public education system has fallen apart. This is damaging the future.
At the University of Zimbabwe, chaotic changes of degree programmes shot down by education experts were allowed to go through, further battering the reputation of the institution already lowly-rated in Africa due to poor academic
leadership, low funding and lack of research; diminishing quality of scholarship.
While Mnangagwa’s uninspiring Sona had nothing to offer at the level of pragmatic solutions. When a country is faced with a plethora of complex problems: hunger, poverty, a decaying health sector, a broken education system, chronic high inflation and shattered livelihoods, that’s when true leadership must emerge. All of the great leaders have had one thing in common: rising to the challenge in times of adversity.