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Hopewell Chin’ono: Words alone are not enough Mr President: Citizens are tired of unfulfilled promises

By Hopewell Chin’ono

President Emmerson Mnangagwa arrived last night from his East European tour after pulling out of the World Economic Forum engagement to attend to the deepening economic crisis back home and the wanton acts of violence by his military.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Dr Constantino Chiwenga during a press conference at State House last night. Picture by John Manzongo
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Dr Constantino Chiwenga during a press conference at State House where he announced the doubling of fuel prices. Picture by John Manzongo

On arrival back home the President issued a statement that I have attached below.

Three days ago I argued that the President needs to sit down with all stake holders including civil society, all opposition leaders and the church otherwise the economic turn around aspirations will not be fulfilled.

I am happy that he has also realized he needs to do that immediately, and I hope that those around him that are opposed to progress won’t block this all important initiative.

He also acknowledged the role of his military in maiming and killing citizens, which now begs the question, why was the futile and comical press conference by the military and police held on Saturday?

His spokesperson George Charamba threatened us two days ago saying that the military violence was a taste of things to come.

The President called that military violence “… unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe.”

He went on to say that “…chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated.”

This explains and also confirms what I wrote about yesterday that we have a divided government with one side happy with remaining in the Robert Mugabe era and some progressives wanting to shape a new Zimbabwe away from the current Zimbabwean State riddled with corruption, incompetence and nepotism.

There is a section in the Zimbabwean government that wants chaos to prevail and to disconnect from reforms and international reengagement because they hinder the looting and embezzlement.
Reforms also require government to professionalize state owned enterprises popularly known as parastatals, which have been feeding troughs for the corrupt in government through patronage.

This side does not want to see competent and professional folks in government and parastatals because they will stop the rot and demand transparency and the state to have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayer and the citizen.

However the President’s acknowledgement of this reality is not enough, the President must remove these stumbling blocks and we hope as he said last night, heads will roll.

I have been warning about the dangers of incubating corruption, incompetence and nepotistic elements in our government, if anyone was ever in doubt, last week was your answer.

This tragic crisis was triggered by a 150% fuel increase and therefore it is important to remind each other that this fuel increase is only a manifestation of a terribly mismanaged economy.

Arresting people will not change the fact that John Mangudya is still at the central bank as its unqualified governor only there to serve factional group interests.

The corrupt and incapable Jorum Gumbo is still the Energy minister responsible for managing this fuel crisis and without attending to that, the President will be window dressing his crisis and it can only get worse.

ZANUPF and the President stand a better chance of winning a clean election if they clean up government and the parastatals, so why would anyone block that except for wanting corruption to prevail?

Why would anyone want the perpetuation of violence against citizens when they know very well that it will damage the government and the country’s standing internationally?

Why would someone stand in the way of reforms that are meant to help the country’s economy turn around except for individual and group interests?

As I said yesterday in my article, as citizens we have a role not to fall for these tactics, we must keep on demanding the change that will make our country a decent place to live in once more.

If we do not support the hand of the progressives in ZANUPF, we will be strengthening the hand of the chaos faction that is why it is important to have Mthuli Ncube at Davos because influence comes from engagement.

Non-engagement entrenches positions and as we all know, we have a reality of being under a ZANUPF government for the next 5 years, there is no other option but to assist those progressive voices inside government to help extricate the country from the economic mess it finds itself in.

I have spoken to many ZANUPF MPs who are equally worried by these acts of sabotage, they also know that a failed ZANUPF government will result in a disastrous 2023 for them at the polls.

Let us wait and see what the President will do, action and not words alone will make his statement credible.

He has issued many statements and unfulfilled promises before, so he should realize that his word alone will not be enough for many.

Immediate action is what will make the citizen and international investors take him seriously for a change.

At the moment his ratings are so low that many compatriots are now talking about the Mugabe era, the very era that we are yet to move away from.

Now that is a very strong indictment because Mugabe lowered the bar so low, let us see what the President will do, the ball is in his court and he has a very short space of time to turn things around.

The President needs to walk away from the business of blaming the opposition for anything and everything, it insults the thinking capabilities of the citizens and it reflects an incorrigible desire to remain in the past.

Government must take ownership of the past, the President was part of every Mugabe government and we know that those governments created our miseries.

The least he can do is ask his government not to insult the intellect of the citizen by saying the things said at the joint military and police press conference on Saturday.

It becomes very difficult for any sane Zimbabwean to take seriously a government that allows such gross incompetence and stupidity to be put on show, it is an embarrassment to the country.

Until such tragic acts of incompetence and violence are resolved, the citizen will have every right to remain skeptical.

I say so because just after the President had issued his statement, 28 injured people who were receiving medical treatment at a local medical facility were raided and taken into police custody during early hours of today.

The 28 injured citizens are currently detained at Harare Central Police Station and they are being denied access to their lawyers.

So how many governments do we have at the moment because whilst the president is saying the right things, his enforcers are acting otherwise?

Until the citizens who are being denied bail and languishing in jail are treated fairly by the compromised judiciary and law enforcement authorities, citizens and the rest of the world will have a right to be skeptical or even dismissive.

The President needs to get on top of this pretty quickly otherwise there won’t be any changing of attitudes, the citizens will remain disillusioned and the investors won’t be falling for the deceptive open for business mantra that has been total discredited by the events of last week.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Statement

One week ago, I announced measures to stabilise our nation’s crucial fuel supply.

I was aware that these measures may not be popular, and this was not a decision we took lightly. But it was the right thing to do. What followed was regrettable and tragic.

Everyone has the right to protest, but this was not a peaceful protest.
Wanton violence and cynical destruction; looting police stations, stealing guns and uniforms; incitement and threats of violence.

This is not the Zimbabwean way.
Likewise, violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe. Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated.

Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll.
I invite leaders of all political parties as well as religious and civil leaders to set aside our differences and come together.

What unites us is stronger than what could ever divide us. Let’s begin a national dialogue. Let’s put the economy first.
Let’s put the people first.

Likewise, violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe. Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated.

Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll.
I invite leaders of all political parties as well as religious and civil leaders to set aside our differences and come together.

What unites us is stronger than what could ever divide us. Let’s begin a national dialogue. Let’s put the economy first. Let’s put the people first.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.

He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.

Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.

It was recently nominated for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France. You can watch the documentary trailer below.

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