PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s Tuesday state of the nation address — which left many further worried about the direction of the country — was ultimately a shallow exercise in denial and deception. The drab speech displayed Mugabe’s chronic poverty of ideas and leadership, while also showing the country is on auto-pilot; edging towards a tipping point.
If listening to Mugabe throughout the delivery was a test of endurance, then reading through the speech was a nightmare. For a state of the nation address amid an economic meltdown, it was not only a damp squib but a fiasco. It sought to capitalise on his largely non-existent achievements, while downplay his appalling failures.
The reality is Mugabe’s early achievements now pale into insignificance in comparison with his disastrous failures. For him and his blind supporters to claim otherwise is simply deceitful.
Right from the start, chicanery was written all over it. Mugabe spoke about an environment of “peace and stability, sustained since Independence”. The political violence and human rights abuses under his 35-year rule don’t matter to him. The killings since the 1980s through the decade after 2000 and incidents like Itai Dzamara’s abduction and disappearance are just a footnote on a page of history. In proposing his ridiculous 10-point economic plan, Mugabe incredibly spoke about the need to “maintain growth” and “creation of jobs for our people”.
How on earth do you maintain growth amid a deep economic recession? The economic rebound experienced after the end of hyperinflation in 2009 has long ended. After averaging 10% between from 2009–2012, economic growth fell to an estimated 3,2% after his re-election in 2013 and has been going down since then in successive quarters — meaning the economy is now technically in a recession. This reflects serious underlying problems that need urgent attention. Now growth is expected to be just above or below 1%. From a sustained average of 10% growth rate for three years to 1% now, is that “modest growth”? No. It’s a nosedive. Mugabe also spoke of maintaining job creation when he is dismally failing to provide the two million jobs he promised during the 2013 elections. In any case, how do you create jobs amid such massive company closures and retrenchments? On which planet does he live?
Then you go through his 10-point plan, you find it’s just a dud proposal. It has no substance or implementation matrix. The whole thing is just a list of incoherent points which are not properly conceptualised and well-thought-out. In fact, it’s not even a plan, let alone an econometrics model. Mugabe also briefly touched on grain imports, company closures, retrenchments and collapsing parastatals, issues which speak to his failed rule, but disingenuously made it appear as if he is now fixing the problems. The proposed remedies amount to tinkering with symptoms of a problem, not addressing its root causes.
At the end of the day, his address did not deal with fundamental political, economic and policy issues like indigenisation. That is why many people think it was worthless and hopeless. What is really needed in Zimbabwe are comprehensive and systematic reforms, and change to avoid looming upheavals and catastrophic consequences.