Editorial Comment: A leadership void at the top costing Zimbabwe dearly

Editorial Comment

THE Zimbabwe government’s lackadaisical response to Cyclone Idai, which hit the districts of Chimanimani, Chipinge, Buhera, Nyanga, Makoni, Mutare Rural, Bikita, Masvingo and parts of Midlands between March 15 and 17, has brought into sharp focus the national response to natural disasters.

Although President Mnangagwa cut short his trip to Abu Dhabi, ostensibly to be with the people, his continued jaunts in private jets hired with the taxpayers’ money paints a picture of a leader oblivious to the suffering the people he is supposed to be shepherding are going through.

In the 2019 National Budget, Mnangagwa and his Finance minister Mthuli Ncube touted “austerity for prosperity” to justify some of their insensitive economic interventions. The country needed to live within its means, they argued, while condemning the populace to a life of penury wiping out the value of savings, pensions and earnings in one stroke by introducing a new weak currency, while denying them requisite increases to compensate.

Clearly, the enunciated austerity measures meant that taxpayers and the rest of the public are lumped with the increasing public debt — US$18 billion is the latest figure according to a report by our sister paper, The Zimbabwe Independent — while the President himself continues to enjoy all the trappings of the rich by hiring luxury jets from the United Arab Emirates to fly him to Bulawayo, Angola and South Africa at considerable cost in scarce foreign currency, while victims of Cyclone Idai and those in drought-stricken areas are queuing for food donated by well-wishers.

The Airbus A318-112(CJ) Elite he hired from Dubai came at an estimated cost of USD200 000 based on the owners’ USD12 500 hourly rate, a fortune for a country living on scraps. The Zambian President, meanwhile, travels in military aircraft, including the Chinese-made MA60, a much-derided aircraft in this country.

Meanwhile, other leaders of countries affected by Cyclone Idai — Mozambique and Malawi — have stood with their people, leading rescue efforts and the countries’ response, while Mnangagwa is flying around in the comfort of expensive and luxury private jets. The lack of leadership in this administration is evidenced in the looting of the donations meant for the cyclone victims by members of his own Zanu PF party.

We do not expect that anything will happen to the looters.

Zimbabwe is a country desperate for exemplary leadership, and this becomes starkly clear during times of great crises. It is for this reason that many in Chimanimani feel abandoned and in many instances relied upon each other to rescue their fellow villagers, who had been stranded, marooned or buried in mudslides. The national response by this administration appears an after-thought.

After such experiences, it becomes important to have a national disaster fund to help in times of such crises. The meteorological department gave ample warnings for government to take action and prevent much of the catastrophic loss of life. So it’s not that the government was caught unawares, it just does not care and this is so much evidenced in the actions of its leadership.

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