Thursday, July 5, 2018

Beyond the rhetoric, what does Mnangagwa offer?

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When President Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured)came to power, I was one of the sceptical ones, as he has been in government since independence and I believed he was as much to blame for the economic, political and social mess in the country as his predecessor, Robert Mugabe.
By Nqaba Matshazi
He was clearly not a new broom and I did not expect him to sweep any cleaner than his predecessor.
A few weeks in power, Mnangagwa started saying what I thought were the right things, his team worked very hard to rebrand him.
The “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra started and I thought hold on, maybe this man is on to something.
The country had long been isolated and there was need for a counter-narrative to show that Zimbabwe was on a different trajectory.
The scarf — in the first few days at least — was a brilliant branding idea, but I think it is past its sell by date and is now the object of ridicule.
Mnangagwa spoke about an amnesty for people who externalised money, he went to Davos, Switzerland and for a moment at least he seemed to have an idea what needed to be done.
And for the sake of populism, he even threatened to join cash queues in banks to show that he was like one of us and is also said to have refused to receive his salary in cash, preferring that it is banked like for the rest of us.
You can downplay this at your own peril, for the masses, these were masterstrokes and Mnangagwa was differentiating himself from Mugabe in a brilliant way — he was presenting himself as one of us.
But as time went on, the gloss began to wear off and now the question is: beyond the rhetoric, what does Mnangagwa offer?
The President was asked in a BBC interview on his achievements and I was gobsmacked to hear him mention the removal of roadblocks as one of them.
In a country with as many problems as ours, the removal of roadblocks cannot be seen as an achievement and if he was hard-pressed to mention this, he should have mentioned it as the last one.
Given, the police were a menace on the roads, but the main problem was not the cops, but rather the endemic corruption that had blighted the force.
If the police had done their jobs without their extortionate behaviour, nobody would have worried about the number of roadblocks and, hence, an achievement, for example, would have been on clamping down on corruption in the force.
In the absence of police, particularly in Harare, the roads are a nightmarish, lawless jungle that needs to be tamed sooner rather than later.
Mnangagwa published a list of alleged companies and individuals that externalised money and the consensus was that this was a damp squib.
Months later, nobody has any idea what happened to those who were found on the wrong side of the law.
The mantra is that thousands of jobs have been created, but for those that are unemployed and have been looking for work for the past several years, this sounds like empty rhetoric.
The tragedy is that Mnangagwa is seen to be overpromising and under delivering.
Mnangagwa also set himself a 100-day target, a wholly American milestone meant to gauge a new President’s legislative agenda.
I was wary when the President almost promised manna in his first 100 days because there was no way he was going to achieve some if not most of his goals and he and his ministers fell far too short.
The 100-days target has all been but forgotten and no one is mentioning it.
Had there been any achievement, then this could have been a good platform for Zanu PF to campaign on, but instead, they are campaigning like they are in the opposition, telling Zimbabweans what they will offer rather than what they achieved.
The less said about the cash situation the better.
State media headlines have been telling us how the cash situation is set to improve and how much money has been imported, but everyone knows that the situation has only become worse.
Like his predecessor, Mnangagwa has fallen into the trap of hyping “mega deals”, but the pitfall is that if the ordinary Zimbabwean does not see an immediate improvement in their lives, they will certainly believe they are being taken for a ride.
Mnangagwa has offered an improved economy, but now that looks like a chimera — a thing that is hoped for, but is illusory or impossible to achieve.
Zimbabweans will be happy to see delegations of Western businesses coming into the country or an uptick in the number of tourists, but it means absolutely nothing to them if they cannot access cash or get jobs, instead, they see the rate of the US dollar accelerating on the parallel market, meaning goods and services are becoming costlier.
On international platforms, Mnangagwa has said the right things, but locally there is ambivalence on his delivery record.