PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured) will today present his inaugural State of the Nation Address (SONA) amid high expectations that he would tackle the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities and bring to an end the current cash crisis ahead of the festive season.
BY VENERANDA LANGA/XOLISANI NCUBE
Mnangagwa — who took over as State President last month after long-time ruler ex-President Robert Mugabe stepped down following military intervention — would be under pressure to urgently introduce a raft of measures to stabilise the economy currently on a tailspin and restore public confidence in his administration.
Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda yesterday said the President’s address would be held at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC).
“President Mnangagwa will address a joint sitting of Parliament and issue out a SONA at the HICC,” Chokuda confirmed to NewsDay.
“The sitting at the HICC is in compliance with section 150 of the Constitution which allows Parliament to sit at different venues other than Parliament.”
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said Mnangagwa’s statement should address the current economic meltdown and the liquidity crunch before things get out of hand.
“In fact, the situation is now worse than it was during the Mugabe regime. Life is getting very tough for the majority of Zimbabweans and the government appears at sixes and sevens regarding what to do in order to arrest the economic implosion,” Gutu said.
He also implored Mnangagwa to de-militarise State organs and revert back to civilian rule as provided for in the Constitution.
“The State apparatuses are becoming increasingly militarised as we see more and more members of the armed forces being appointed to influential positions in government. The MDC would like the President to address what measures his government is taking to stop the creation of a de facto military junta running the affairs of government,” Gutu said.
The opposition added that Mnangagwa should spell out the roadmap to free and fair polls and indicate when he would appoint the new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson following Justice Rita Makarau’s recent
“The Zec chairperson recently resigned and we don’t know when exactly her replacement will be announced,” the MDC-T said.
The Morgan Tsvangirai-led party also urged Mnangagwa to rein in his special adviser, Chris Mutsvangwa, and stop him from making inflammatory statements that could cause alarm and despondency ahead of next year’s crunch polls.
“We are still being denied access to the State-controlled print and electronic media and we are concerned that senior members of Mnangagwa’s administration have publicly announced that the army and traditional leaders will be campaigning for Zanu PF in next year’s elections. This is a very serious cause for concern because such a move flagrantly violates the basic tenets of our Constitution,” Gutu added.
Mutsvangwa has, however, disowned the alleged remarks, saying he was quoted out of context.
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume also said Mnangagwa should arrest the cash crisis and “skyrocketing of prices, to mention but a few”.
“He needs to atone for the disaster of the Cabinet he has appointed. We need clear strategies and roadmaps on how he will deal with the crisis of political illegitimacy and economic crisis,” Mafume said.
“For political legitimacy the army has to go back to the barracks, but not just changing uniforms and coming back as civilians in suits. We need a roadmap to free and credible elections and a transitional management which is inclusive.”
The country’s economy has been on a free-fall with prices of basic commodities rising while foreign currency shortages have not eased.
Political analyst Blessing Vava said Mnangagwa should “highlight the roadmap to elections. (It is fundamental) how this government is going to ensure and guarantee a free and fair election”.
“Will there be a shift in terms of the playing field, equal access to the media and campaign zones etc? There might just be pledges, but is there the will to ensure that the reforms are addressed?” Vava said.
University of Zimbabwe media lecturer Wellington Gadzikwa said today’s address would give Mnangagwa an opportunity to unveil his economic vision to instil investor confidence as well as end partisan politics in State matters.
“He has to tackle the cash crisis, elections, stability in government and remove partisan politics in State resources,” Gadzikwa said.
Welshman Ncube’s MDC said since the rise of Mnangagwa to the throne, “there has been a lot of paperwork and fictitious stories”, but no tangible results to accompany the publicity he had received so far.
“We are expecting the same old lyrics, too sweet to hear, but not achievable. Mnangagwa is more of a Hollywood actor than a State President,” MDC spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said.
“The MDC is not expecting miracles from the same Zanu PF comedians. They still need cartons of cosmetics to convince us that they are beautiful, not the cheap bar-talk.”
MDC-T vice-president and Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa requested Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda to allow MPs to ask Mnangagwa questions after the SONA presentation.
“We know that section 140 (1) of the Constitution and Standing Rules and Orders section 167 and 168 give that right since the President is still new so that we are allowed to do a question-and-answer session with Mnangagwa so that we present to him the issues troubling the nation, especially after reports that some senior security officers have been retired,” Chamisa said.
But, Mudenda ruled Chamisa offside saying although section 140 (3) of the Constitution allowed for the President to attend Parliament to answer questions in Parliament, the Head of State was not obliged to respond to questions from his SONA presentation.
He urged Chamisa to raise SONA-related questions at a different forum.