Sona skirted critical issues

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first State of the Nation address, delivered before a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate yesterday, ticked all the correct boxes although, in the final analysis, it failed to proffer pragmatic remedies to pressing issues that assail the nation.

In a speech dominated by the “what” rather than the “how”, he said his government would introduce an array of measures to boost the country’s dwindling exports, fight corruption and cushion the local manufacturing sector to set Zimbabwe’s fragile economy on a firm recovery trajectory.

Mnangagwa said the government would also ensure the country’s general elections next year would be free and fair. The whole world is watching. Should he resort to repression, there will be no shortage of people who will remind him of this important pledge.

It is difficult to fault the new leader’s sense of focus — especially on economic matters — because, unlike his hopeless predecessor, he seems to know what the Zimbabwean crisis requires. Whether he will walk the talk is a story for another day. What we know for sure is that in 2018 the long-suffering electorate will hold him accountable — there are no free rides to heaven.

“My government is very conscious of the challenges facing the economy. It will focus on drastically reducing budget deficit and increase forex generation among others. The goal of my government is to build a new government on the crown of honesty, accountability and transparency,” Mnangagwa said.

He said his government will be based “on crown values of honesty, transparency and hard work”.

From a policy perspective, it is refreshing to hear the President raising the right issues. But talk is cheap; the nation has been duped by smooth-talking political leaders in the past.

In that connection, Mnangagwa’s announcement that he will tackle the devastating scourge of corruption is commendable. But, again, this new government will be judged on the basis of its performance record and not on carefully structured soundbites.
“Every corruption case must be investigated and punished accordingly. No sacred cows. It has already begun,” Mnangagwa said.

His declaration that there will be “no sacred cows” could turn out to be the tonic needed to salvage Zimbabwe from the scrapyard of failed states. However, there is a credibility deficit in Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption rhetoric. Are we to believe that Operation Restore Legacy has accounted for only less than five “criminals”? More importantly, is he suggesting that there are no “criminals” in his inner circle?

Experience worldwide has shown that when it comes to the anti-corruption fight, the easiest way for the authorities to lose credibility is through the selective application of the law. In civilised societies, everyone is equal before the law — at least on paper.

The President sounded insincere when he spoke about the need to plug the illicit trafficking of minerals. Not necessarily because he cannot be trusted, but due to the fact that, for 37 long years, he was part of a ruling cabal that presided over the looting of vast mineral wealth. Where are the diamonds of Chiadzwa? Who is smuggling gold?

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