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Roads to impress Sadc and prisons to suppress citizens

Opinion & Analysis
THE current disruptive roadworks in Harare to impress visiting Sadc delegates in August and the arrest and detention of 78 opposition activists are emblematic of the acute contradictions tripping President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration.

THE current disruptive roadworks in Harare to impress visiting Sadc delegates in August and the arrest and detention of 78 opposition activists are emblematic of the acute contradictions tripping President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration.

High on the list of these contradictions are the desperate desire for international legitimacy on one side and the alienation of well-wishers through poor governance, repression and corruption on the other.

The Mnangagwa administration is Janus-faced because despite being self-serving, it craves to be taken seriously on the world stage.

This schizophrenic behaviour stems from the absence of any foundational and consistent values and principles in policy formulation, apart from the regime’s self-aggrandisement.

The haste with which Mnangagwa’s government embarks on self-serving projects is breathtaking.

This haste contrasts sharply with the nonchalance displayed in dealing with the public good and where there is no profit for the politically connected.

Consider the foot-dragging and leadership paralysis around the current flu outbreak.

It has taken at least a month for the government to realise something needs to be done to deal with the outbreak.

Even then, it is too little too late.

We have known about the crumbling roads even before the government declared a state of disaster for all roads in 2021.

The government is suddenly springing into disruptive action to impress the visiting Sadc delegates.

In typical fashion, the government fails to carry the people with it by explaining the full details of this project, including how road construction and rehabilitation are being funded.

Imagine what our economy and society would be like if this government was as invested and proactive in improving the circumstances of the common person.

Crippling water shortages, power outages and the frequent outbreaks of cholera would all be a thing of the past.

Poverty, substance abuse and crime would not be at current levels if the government acted promptly to deal with the ills of our society.

But alas, whenever you see anything that works or where problems are speedily resolved, you can be guaranteed it serves the regimes interests or someone politically connected has benefited hugely.

What conference will it take for the government to show a sense of the same measure of urgency it has displayed in impressing Sadc?

Communication, water reticulation, refuse collection, sewage and health infrastructure all require urgent attention.

I suspect we will be back to normal settings when the Sadc summit is done. A compassionate and empathetic government might perhaps have looked at ways to avoid the costs of hosting this shindig.

The government recently announced that it needs a staggering US$3,3 billion to feed 7,7 million people affected by the El Niño-induced drought.

How about a virtual Sadc meeting and then deploying resources towards the drought? Nobody will die if the Sadc junket is cancelled.

The summit will, of course, proceed with much pomp and ceremony not because it is about the common good, but because its primary purpose is to rehabilitate Mnangagwa’s image.

His legitimacy has not recovered from the damning Sadc 2023 election observer mission report, which was eventually endorsed by the heads of States.

Consistent with its schizophrenic behaviour, Mnangagwa’s government shot itself in the foot by arresting and detaining Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) interim leader, Jameson Timba, and 77 other activists for merely gathering at his home.

This is the same kind of repression and duplicitousness that led to the strong censure from Sadc following last year’s elections.

It is a tragic reflection on Sadc, that a tainted Mnangagwa will soon assume the leadership of the organisation, for a whole year.

Those around Mnangagwa are more concerned about squashing any perceived threats to his power and authority than being seen to be tolerant democrats.

It is lost on them that good governance and tolerance could open more re-engagement doors and burnish the regime’s tainted image.

It is an African custom to welcome visitors and to be hospitable.

But charity begins at home.

The head of a family, who abuses and neglects the family while pampering visitors, is frowned upon.

The strategy of impressing visitors and the international community must be grounded in good governance, tolerance and accountability.

Citizens become ambassadors to the world if their government respects human rights and implements policies that result in economic growth, social justice and ensure public welfare.

Sadly, Mnangagwa’s government will not get the legitimacy and international respect it craves as long as it evinces repression, greed and corruption.

  • Trevor Ncube is chairman of Alpha Media Holdings and host of ICWT

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