THE State of the Nation address (Sona) by President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday once again provided ample evidence that the nonagenarian leader is divorced from the multifaceted crisis engulfing the country.
Editor’s Memo,Faith Zaba
Initially scheduled for last Thursday, the Sona had to be postponed to this week after Mugabe had travelled to Cuba to attend the funeral of that country’s former president Fidel Castro. The speech turned out to be damp squib.
Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans watched the live coverage of the address hoping his speech would profer solutions to the economic crisis engulfing the country.
The 31-minute speech completely omitted major national concerns such as the prolonged acute cash shortage that has seen desperate Zimbabweans sleeping in queues overnight to access their cash and the introduction of bond notes, on which some aspects of the surrogate currency remain as clear as mud. It was as if Mugabe was just going through the motions in fulfilling a constitutional obligation to address the nation.
Zimbabweans, who were looking for guidance and assurance from Mugabe’s State of the Nation address, were sorely disappointed by the presentation which was shocking in its shallowness and total lack of substance.
Mugabe’s address, easily his worst speech since he regurgitated the State of the Nation address at the opening of Parliament last year, shows that the doddering leader is clueless on how to solve the deepening economic crisis and also suggests he does not really care about the suffering endured by the majority of Zimbabweans.
It is no exaggeration to say that Mugabe’s speech was a betrayal to Zimbabweans to whom he should provide leadership as the nonplussed populace was left poorer after his vague presentation.
One could be forgiven for thinking that Mugabe was talking about the state of another country, definitely not Zimbabwe, as it was far removed from the state of the country, which is grappling an economic meltdown characterised by a severe liquidity crunch, capacity utilisation of less than 50%, company closures and massive job losses. Just in November, nearly 30 companies in various sectors of the economy closed shop, bringing the total of company closures in 2016 to about 262 companies, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs.
Instead of proffering solutions for socio-economic challenges facing our beloved country, all Mugabe could do was thank Zimbabweans for being resilient since 2000 for the untold suffering brought about mainly by his calamitous, inept and ruinous policies.
Mugabe did not speak on corruption, despite interjections from opposition legislators, who were shouting “Zimdef, Zimdef” (the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund) in an effort to force Mugabe to speak on the issue and make a commitment to curb corruption — the cancerous scourge which has become a way of life in Zimbabwe. The interjections were in reference to a recent scandal involving Higher Education minster Jonathan Moyo, his deputy Godfrey Gandawa and senior officials in that ministry who are accused of defrauding Zimdef of more than US$500 000.
Failing to proffer tangible solutions portrays a leader at his wits’ end. It also shows how detached Mugabe is from reality.
He, of course, did not mention that Zimbabweans including social movements, who have protested against the desperate lack of leadership by Mugabe have been intimidated, abducted and beaten up to quell any dissent. Only recently soldiers were on the rampage under the cover of darkness, beating up innocent revellers in high-density suburbs in a bid to force them to accept bond notes. This hardly constitutes the resilience Mugabe mentioned on Tuesday and exposes his gratitude for the farce that it is.
The weak address by Mugabe to the nation on Tuesday only reinforces the need for the 92- year-old leader to step down not only for the country’s benefit but for his own good as well. As we have repeatedly said, if Mugabe cannot do his job he must just retire.