Mnangagwa who was supposed to be an upgrade on Mugabe has been a huge disappointment, to say the least. Anger and cursing is never too far wherever his name is mentioned on the streets of Zimbabwe, especially among urbanites who bear the full brunt of the comatose economy. When the military effectively enthroned Mnangagwa, there was so much goodwill for him and his 'new dispensation' both domestically and abroad. Even some within the opposition ranks spoke about giving him a chance. As earlier alluded to Mugabe had taken the country into the abyss and any successor would find it very difficult to match Mugabe's very low standards. Thus, the bar was lowered for Mnangagwa. Any slight departure from Mugabe's disastrous policies would be seen as a huge success. 'Anything but Mugabe' was good for Zimbabwe's economic revival. Despite the economic difficulties, cash could be accessed with relative ease under Mugabe regime. Now access of money is at an all-time premium. The people have lost virtually all confidence in the banking sector. Just this week, Robert Mugabe himself had US$150 000 stolen from his home. This is so telling that even the elites have also lost confidence in the banking sector and are keeping money in their homes. Meanwhile, the Mnangagwa regime continues to encourage Zimbabweans to put money in the bank while they themselves stash cash in their homes and probably in offshore accounts. The Mnangagwa government is reported to have accumulated a debt of $4 billion in a few months. One wonders what this astronomical sum of money was used for. No traceable development of infrastructure or service delivery is apparent. It is not rocket science to deduce that this money was channelled towards the massive fleet of campaign vehicles, regalia, food and farm implements that were used in vote-buying particularly in rural areas. Mnangagwa prioritises his party at the expense of the nation and has in this way mortgaged Zimbabwe's future on the altar of power consolidation.
Mugabe's intolerant strong-arm politics drew so much criticism at home and abroad. The opposition was always on the receiving end. When Mnangagwa took over, there was a glimmer of hope that he was going to end the animosity by extending an olive branch to the opposition that has had its supporters killed, maimed and traumatised. If anything, Zimbabwe is more divided than ever. The rhetoric of unity that Mnangagwa spews in foreign capitals is just lip service. What he says is at odds with what his regime does. Robert Mugabe was ruthless but no pretender. You knew what you were getting from him. Mnangagwa is sly and cunning. He says all the right things and does the opposite. Claims that Mnangagwa has always been the hardliner dating back to Mugabe's rule cannot be more substantiated. In the face of economic collapse he has stubbornly rebuffed efforts to come to the table with the opposition, insisting that they have to recognise him as the legitimate president before any talks can be entertained. Even the difficult Robert Mugabe made some concessions that gave birth to a unity government but Mnangagwa is sticking to his guns, frustrating any chance at dialogue. Mnangagwa himself publicly said he is the one that denied Tsvangirai ascendancy to power in 2008 when Mugabe had conceded electoral defeat. The way he went about rigging the 2018 election was too brazen, more brazen than any of Mugabe's stolen 'victories'.
One of the resolutions passed at the ruling party's just ended Congress is the re-introduction of the 'National Youth Service', a euphemism for the party's youth militia that terrorised opposition in past elections. With such resolutions how can Zimbabwe be 'open' to investors?Zanu PF is intoxicated and obsessed with power retention at all costs. Everything else falters at the altar of remaining in power.
Six people were gunned down in full view of cameras in Harare. Actually, independent reports claim that the number of those who were killed in cold blood is more than six. Under Mugabe, such a thing was unheard of. Mugabe would harass and arrest opposition members but never did he at any time unleash the army to go about killing unarmed civilians in the streets. It was a first, a sad first. One hopes it will not happen again. The country was plunged into fear at the realisation that a more blood-thirsty monster had been born in the shape of Mnangagwa, more vicious than Robert Mugabe. After succumbing to pressure Mnangagwa appointed a Commission of Enquiry to look into the killings. The terms of reference for the commission left a lot to be desired as it lacked serious commitment to finding justice for the victims and their families. Moreover, the findings of the commission are being kept under wraps, suggesting that the public is kept away from uncomfortable truths for the regime. The continued involvement of military elements ruling party activities is a cause for concern. Service chiefs are still attending Zanu PF meetings which is a violation of the country's constitution which stipulates that service chiefs must be apolitical.
Instead of extinguishing the very obvious elephant in the room which is corruption, Mnangagwa has simply chosen to turn a blind eye on it. It is sad but not too surprising that the corruption perpetrators are within his government and he cannot touch them for political reasons. When he assumed office, one of Mnangagwa's promises was to expose and deal with the scourge of corruption. The now infamous 'naming and shaming' of individuals and companies who are involved in externalising forex comes to mind. To date, nobody has been arrested. We were told that 'criminals surrounding' Mugabe would be brought to book. Up to now, nobody has been arrested save for cosmetic and very brief 'arrests and court cases' of small fish. Mnangagwa seems to be determined to maintain the status quo as it is and this has seen an exacerbation of corruption due to impunity of senior officials at his feeding trough.
The cost of living is escalating at an alarming rate. Prices are increasing almost on a daily basis.As a result Zimbabweans are failing to keep pace as salaries are not commensurate with prices of basics. What we are seeing is unprecedented and the government is not doing anything to ameliorate the crisis. No word from Mnangagwa! The president seems to espouse the ostrich philosophy of burying its head in sand when faced with adversity. Recently, he sent his wife to engage striking doctors instead of personally handling the challenges. We have a president who remains silent and is unresponsive to pressing national issues.
There is gnashing of teeth among the poor majority. Snake-like fuel queues have become the order of the day and there seems to be no solution in sight. A lot of productive time is being lost as people spend days on the queues just to access fuel. Some service stations are openly selling fuel in US$ while salaries remain in the form of the much discredited surrogate currency (bond note). Commuters continue to receive the shorter end of the stick as commuter operators charge according to their whims. Transport fares shot up this week. Chitungwiza commuters now have to fork out $5 for a single trip to town. In a country where the majority cannot afford cars, the use of commuters is ubiquitous. Even those with cars are forced to commute as they cannot easily access fuel for their own vehicles. The whole situation has fallen into the hands of unscrupulous commuter operators who have seized the opportunity to fleece the public of hard earned money. Mnangagwa's government has no answer to these problems.
Back to school
Schools opened this week, kick-starting a nightmare season for the beleaguered parents. It is well documented that uniform prices have spiralled to prohibitive levels, school fees have been raised as schools attempt to stay afloat in this hostile economic environment. Many families heavily depend on diaspora remittance for fees, textbooks, uniforms and groceries. This situation is too dire and unsustainable especially for those who are without relatives abroad.
In the Mugabe regime, the then Minister of Higher Education introduced STEM project that funded science students from high school and students benefitted. The new dispensation dissolved the program and didn't proffer alternatives.
Right now the most popular dream for young Zimbabweans is to leave the country. There is no hope whatsoever, the present and the future look bleak. To make it under these conditions is a long shot. Emmerson Mnangagwa is a monumental failure. He has dismally failed to stop the economic haemorrhage. Efforts to find a common ground with civil servants have so far failed. Doctors in their statement have 'begrudgingly' gone back to work as negotiations continue. The 10% increment offer has been rejected by unions as they dig in to be paid in forex to which the government has said it is unable to do. At this rate an uprising is on the cards, tougher times are coming for Zimbabweans.
Grace Kwinjeh is The MDC Alliance Representative to the EU
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