By Helen Kadirire
President Robert Mugabe yesterday skirted addressing the shortages of cash and policy inconsistencies within his government when he delivered a dour independence speech to spark fierce criticism from opposition parties who say he is now acting like “a lost soul”.
Addressing thousands of long-suffering Zimbabweans at the giant National Sports Stadium, Mugabe dwelt on improved electricity supplies and housing delivery which he said had been met under the much-touted by failed government-backed economic blueprint —ZimAsset.
“We all should be pleased that since January 2016, the country achieved a 15-month period without load-shedding. To further increase and stabilise electricity generation, several other projects are being pursued in the short to medium term.
“In pursuit of providing decent housing for all, government has fully serviced 52 000 stands and also completed housing units thereby surpassing the ZimAsset target of delivering 25 000 stands or completed housing units,” Mugabe said.
This year’s independence celebrations were held under the theme: creating the ease of doing business, but curiously, Mugabe did not address corporate governance issues, corruption and policy inconsistencies especially on the indigenisation law, all which are blamed for keeping away international investors from Zimbabwe.
Mugabe also spoke as Zimbabwe is currently deep in the throes of a ginormous economic crisis which has seen tens of thousands of desperate ordinary citizens besieging banks on a daily basis seeking to withdraw their money.
The shortages of cash have since forced the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to set the maximum limit for cash-back facilities by retailers and wholesalers at $20, as authorities desperately try to mitigate the worsening crisis.
At the same time, economists have told the Daily News that poverty levels in the country are skyrocketing, with average incomes now at their lowest levels in more than 60 years — and with more than 76 percent of the country’s families now having to make do with pitiful incomes that are well below the poverty datum line of more than $500.
Mugabe’s uninspiring speech drew criticism from opposition parties who said the nonagenarian was now out of touch with issues affecting the country.
Former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC said Mugabe had nothing more to tell suffering masses as he should have retired long ago.
“This is typical of Mugabe. He is never really focused on pertinent issues that affect the majority of the people of Zimbabwe. He knows that there is a grinding cash shortage in the country but his Independence Day speech was conveniently silent on such a topical issue.
“The old man is completely clueless, he is out of sorts. He is living in yesterday’s world. Zimbabwe is in trouble as long as Mugabe remains in charge as president. We need a brand new government that is people-centred, resolute, focused and competent,’ said MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu.
“We need to stop as a nation pretending that a 93-year-old is running this nation. We have surrendered our independence to fear and oppression. He (Mugabe) clearly does not understand that the nation is bigger than the efficiency of his motorcade,” weighed in opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), spokesperson, Jacob Mafume.
The Welshman Ncube-led MDC said Mugabe’s failure to address critical issues was indicative of the rot his Zanu PF government had caused.
“This is adequate evidence to explain his lack of capacity to arrest the Zanu PF-created crisis. The Zanu PF leader has lost control of his party and the country. We have a person who is detached from reality and surrounded by architects of his political demise.
“Robert Mugabe must step down. The evasion of critical issues points to dismal failure and loss of control.
“The man is now an executive prisoner being used by his colleagues as a political shield. This has endorsed our uncontrollable crisis created by the party in turmoil,” said MDC spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi. Daily News