ON Monday, Zimbabwe celebrated its 42nd Independence Day in Bulawayo, itself a first since 1980 to have the national celebrations outside Harare.
However, President Emmerson Mnangagwa spoke a long wish list like an opposition leader despite having a two-thirds majority in Parliament. For the first time, most opposition parties were represented, including MDC in its many manifestations.
Everyone came out to reclaim the national event from being a Zanu PF function. Credit to Mnangagwa that he, unlike his predecessor Robert Mugabe, did not use the speech to malign and chastise his opponents at such a grand stage.
Independence and Heroes days are two important national days that will outlive everyone.
They are to be celebrated by all Zimbabweans, whether the weather is good or bad. These are days that show who we are.
In his speech, Mnangagwa proved how far he is distanced from the reality or the power bestowed on him as the President.
He spoke to workers’ welfare, health and education as if he was an opposition leader.
On workers Mnangagwa said: “As we modernise, industrialise and develop our economy, no worker will be left behind. We are, therefore, scaling up and strengthening modalities and legislative instruments to protect all workers, including those engaged in domestic service.”
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He spoke as if he did not know the infamous 2015 Zuva Supreme Court judgment.
For the uninitiated, this is a judgment that stripped employees of job security.
It reduced the working environment to zero-hour contracts. An employee can be retrenched despite the number of years of sterling work they would have put in the company.
Mnangagwa’s government has done nothing to redress this situation despite having a two-thirds majority in Parliament since the 2018 general elections.
It has done nothing to introduce minimum wages or offer pensions that can sustain pensioners.
Definitely, workers have been left behind.
On healthcare Mnangagwa said: “The national response strategy to the COVID-19 pandemic is but a small testament of the value my administration places on the life of each and every Zimbabwean. Hence, the delivery of universal health coverage remains a priority area for this government.”
Universal health coverage has been spoken about ad nauseum since 2010. Over a decade later, the majority do not have access or ability to afford healthcare.
Many are dying from preventable diseases and the VIPs still fly out for medical treatment using the scarce forex reserves.
After almost five years in office, the Mnangagwa administration has failed to adequately fund the public health system nor has it introduced any new polices or legal reforms in that crucial sector.
It can be safely argued that these emotive and basic issues are wheeled out at appropriate time, towards general elections, it is an election gimmick.
If it were not, Zanu PF has the numbers to implement the changes and we don’t know why they are afraid to use that power.
On education, Mnangagwa has each and every year of his leadership promised free primary education. It is yet to materialise. And seems like it will not materialise anytime soon, except if it will be haphazardly implemented next year just before the general elections to hoodwink the electorate.
The President also did not miss to nail his true colours to the mast. He is about power consolidation and extended his hand to youth and women.
Mnangagwa said: “The proportional representation women’s quota in the National Assembly was extended, while a 30% women’s quota has been effected in our local authorities. Similarly, 10 seats have been reserved for the youth in the National Assembly.”
Mnangagwa has curry-favoured women and youths — a majority among the electorate.
He wants to have more people who are tied to the party line because of how they are elected, a people who will see him at their constituency and for all this, no thought was put into the impact on the national budget.
With the latest numbers, Zimbabwe next year will have a Parliament nearly as big as South Africa’s, yet our population is three times smaller than that of our southern neighbour.
It would be unfair to say Zimbabwe, with a national budget equivalent to the City of Johannesburg, can afford to have such a bloated Parliament.
The fact being raised here is not trying to block youths from entering Parliament.
Zimbabwe can have a 150-member National Assembly all elected via proportional representation.
The law would then say how the party list is drawn skewed towards gender equality. This is less costly and will do away with by-elections in future.
Mnangagwa and his party have the numbers to make this constitutional and electoral amendments, but they are sacred to implement it.
This fear of losing control informs the decisions they take and not because they do not know what is good for the country.
Interestingly on the question of elections, Mnangagwa asked the diaspora to invest in Zimbabwe, but was mum on giving them the vote.
“In the meantime, I urge our citizens in the diaspora to remain resolute, in spite of the many challenging circumstances they may face in their host countries,” Mnangagwa said, “As your President, rest assured that our arms as your fellow countrymen and women remain out-stretched to welcome you back to our free, independent land of opportunities and sovereign home, Zimbabwe.”
It is not rocket science to know why the diaspora vote is not top priority. Zanu PF thinks they are angry with the party and they would overwhelmingly vote for the opposition. Zanu PF does not countenance being out of power. It thinks it has a messianic role to lead Zimbabwe.