PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday pledged to urgently address the cash crisis and improve civil servants’ working conditions, but remained mum on government’s stand-off with striking nurses at public hospitals.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA / OBEY MANAYITI
Addressing thousands of people gathered at the National Sports Stadium during the country’s 38th Independence Day celebrations, Mnangagwa insinuated that most of the problems being faced by his government were inherited from his predecessor, Robert Mugabe’s regime.
“We are well aware of the great hardships caused by the lack of availability of cash. This is painful and poignant issue for so many individuals and families across the country and a problem we are working tirelessly to solve,” he said.
“To this end, we are accelerating the implementation of measures to resolve the shortage of cash within the economy, by mobilising foreign finance from regional and international financial institutions, increasing cash importation, opening up the economy to investment and enhancing exports to increase supply of foreign currency.”
Mnangagwa skirted the issue of striking nurses who were summarily fired by his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, on Tuesday.
Instead, he just mentioned in passing that his government had increased the Health ministry’s budget allocation to spruce up infrastructure and improve drug supply.
“We increased the Ministry of Health and Child Care operational budget by 62% in 2018 and we will continue to facilitate the construction of more hospitals, ensure the availability of drugs and the presence of qualified and dedicated health service personnel,” he said.
Mnangagwa, who took over from Mugabe last November, proposed a litany of policy changes, which he said were aimed at jump-starting the economy.
These include rejuvenating the agro-value chain industry, command agriculture, resuscitation of the forestry industry and plugging holes in the mining sector.
Meanwhile, MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa received a standing ovation as he arrived at the event, stealing the thunder from Chiwenga, whose reception was rather lukewarm, suggesting public anger at the way he has handled the nurses’ issue.
Chamisa said he attended the event in preparation for his takeover of government business after this year’s general elections.
“This is a national event, we are here to pay tribute to the departed heroes of our liberation. Next year, Mnangagwa will be in the opposition and we would like him to attend this event. For us, this was a rehearsal because we are forming the next government,” he said.
The MDC Alliance candidate said Mnangagwa’s speech failed to address fundamental issues affecting the nation, particularly the ongoing nurses’ strike.
“He omitted a critical issue which the nation is eager to have addressed and also interested in knowing the plans of government, that was missing too,” he said.
Other opposition parties dismissed Mnangagwa’s speech as hollow.
“Honestly, we have had this talk for a long time in the country. We have had economic policies, but none of that has changed the economic challenges,” Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume said.
Progressive and Innovation Movement of Zimbabwe leader Tendai Munyanduri dismissed Mnangagwa’s pledge to reform the electoral roadmap as “the usual empty Zanu PF rhetoric”.
But former Zanu PF stalwart, Rugare Gumbo, said: “The speech was very good and, as far as we are concerned, what is critical is implementation of those policies. There is hope now and we cannot expect things to change in five months. He has good policies and what we want is implementation, which is key and he should walk the talk.”