By Sij Ncube
HARARE, AUGUST 26 – AFTER digesting President Robert Mugabe’s so-called State of the Nation Address (SONA) Tuesday, one prominent journalist remarked: A President’s speech is measured by how it affects the market and I am afraid Zimbabwe Stock Exchange is behaving as if nothing happened yesterday (Tuesday). It signals the reality of effect of the speech – lot of hot air.
Mugabe outlined a 10-point plan for economic growth, pinning the country’s revival to deals his Zanu (PF) administration signed with China. The plan includes revitalising agriculture and the agro-processing value chain, advance beneficiation, and value addition to agriculture, and mining resource endowment.
While as expected Mugabe’s sycophants have hailed his envisaged economic revival plan, critics maintain the Zanu PF leader has ignored key pillars to rejuvenate the economic, among them, respect for human rights and restoration of rule of law.
Dewa Mavhinga, a human rights expert, says at the core of Zimbabwe’s political and economic challenges that have resulted in a mass exodus of millions, a collapsed and comatose economy characterised by companies shutting down daily – is failure to uphold the rule of law, to respect human rights and comply with good governance principles.
“For those seeking solutions to Zimbabwe’s problems, it is essential to address these issues in a frank and open way, otherwise, like Mugabe did with his SONA, it will be shooting in the dark. It leaves one wondering whether for Mugabe SONA was just about complying with section 140 of the Constitution which requires the president to address Parliament at least once a year,” said Mavhinga.
“But, on the other hand Mugabe’s SONA is revealing, it confirms that it is now unreasonable for Zimbabweans to expect anything new from Mugabe. In fact, the only decisive thing that Mugabe can now do to spur economic recovery is to set his succession in motion and signal that a new team is taking over with fresh legs and fresh ideas to take the country forward,” he said.
Gladys Hlatywayo, another human rights activist, said Mugabe ignored the Itai Dzamara issue despite receiving a petition on the same issue.
“He chose to build castles in the air through painting a picture of a “peaceful Zimbabwe”. The truth of the matter is that there is negative peace in Zimbabwe, the kind of peace that is unsustainable and based on fear. I expected the President to speak to the implementation of the constitution including operationalization of key commissions supporting democracy such as the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC),” said Hlatywayo.
She said Zimbabwe’s economic predicament is intrinsically intertwined with the politics of the country and hence addressing the economic quagmire requires political reforms including electoral reforms.
“We have the basis already in the new constitution and we must move with speed to implement it. The work of the NPRC is crucial within the electoral infrastructure because it assures citizens that never again will such magnitude of human rights abuses occur and we know that human rights violations surge during elections. Establishing the Commission therefore promotes citizen participation in electoral processes.”
Tawanda Chimhini, the director of Elections Resources Centre, says while the economy is key in developing the nation, it is important that addressing the economy in isolation will be a process in futility.
“Our political culture is at the core of some of the challenges we face and elections as a vehicle to political power can be the starting point in terms of getting the nation moving again. Yes some will argue that elections already happened and people chose, elections are not just about them happening, it is about how citizens use them to find expression of their aspirations.
“The inclusion of government’s position on electoral reform would have given indication that our leadership is well aware of the integrity issues around our democracy and elections which is key to gaining and sustaining international acceptance necessary for our economic growth,” said Chimhini.
Rashweat Mukundu, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, rubbished Mugabe’s assertions the economy is not improving, point out it was getting worse.
“Mugabe failed to initiate a discussion on economic policy reviews that would stop the bleeding. Zimbabwe is a mess right now and there was no mention of the Comptroller General’s report which clearly shows that high level governmentt officials are in a looting frenzy,” he said.
MDC Renewal Team Jacob Mafume chipped in, saying the basis of any economic recovery is based on predictability in terms of the law and policies and an impartial judiciary to deal with disputes that might arise.
“Zimbabwe has been afflicted by laws that change regularly and over- night without much discussion. Too many authorities have law making powers,” said Mafume.