By Nobleman Runyanga
President Mnangagwa’s five-day State visit to the People’s Republic of China has made headlines and his detractors and the opposition are unhappy. They have begun to commit acres of media space to criticising the visit mainly based on non-issues and minutiae rather than its substance and objectives. This is because no person in his or her right senses would criticise efforts to revive the country’s economy after nearly two decades of stagnation.
Since President Mnangagwa took office in November last year, the country has realised over US$7 billion in investment deals. The fact that the economy has been on a downward spiral for years has created a crisis of expectations as people wanted an overnight turnaround but any sensible person would know that it will take much more than the four months that the President has been in office.
The opposition, which has neither meaningful achievements to point to ahead of this year’s poll nor credible policies to offer the electorate, has pounced on the fact that the investment deals are yet to be consummated to cast aspersions on the President’s noble efforts to re-connect with the international community and revive the country’s economy in order to improve Zimbabweans’ lives.
The opposition’s Harare Central aspiring independent legislator, Linda Masarira, this week tweeted: “(Chinese President) Xi (Jinping) and ED (President Mnangagwa) should tell Zimbabweans what happened to the so-called mega deals done with Zimbabwe in 2015 before our people are seized with more fictitious paperwork whereas there are still unanswered questions. Who is benefiting from these so-called mega deals?”
This tweet exposed Masarira’s dangerously limited knowledge of what goes on in the economic world. She and other opposition elements think that business deals of this nature are consummated overnight as one would when buying a loaf of bread from a neighbourhood tuckshop. Another error on the part of the critics of President Mnangagwa is comparing him to his predecessor. This is a new dispensation and economic order under the stewardship and captaincy of a totally different vision for the country’s prosperity. He is different from former president Robert Mugabe, who desired economic prosperity but could not provide the necessary investor-friendly policies to help make this happen. Where the former leader prioritised politics, the incumbent President is calling for more economics than politics. While the two are ZANU-PF members, they are totally different individuals and it would be unfair to ask President Mnangagwa about the Mugabe-era mega deals.
This week it also became evident that some of the criticism which is being thrown at President Mnangagwa and Government is mere pettiness. When the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) website reported that two Zimbabwean companies – Platinum Agriculture and Princewood Enterprises – had sealed three deals to the tune of US$520 million and some print media rounded the figure down to US$500 million, the internet was awash with jokes to the effect that US$20 million from the deals had already been salted away. Although this was a mere joke, it shows how petty some Zimbabweans can be. It demonstrates how some people stand ready to leap on any inconsequential detail to discredit the President and Government for political mileage or pleasure.
The President’s detractors have also latched onto the costs of his travel to different destinations on Government business with tabloid private dailies, the NewsDay and the Daily News, running screaming front page stories headlines on Tuesday about the trips. While citizens are within their rights to have concerns for Government spending, they should understand that in order for President Mnangagwa to turn the economy around, which deteriorated over two decades, he needs to travel, meet and interact with potential investors and leaders. He needs to sell the message that Zimbabwe has turned over a new leaf, is ready to re-engage with the international community and is open for business.
This requires financing. They should give him time to achieve his objective of making Zimbabwe a country which every citizen would be proud to belong to. Even those in the opposition, who normally gloat about the “success” of the 2009-2013 unity Government, should be honest enough to admit that the economy did not improve abracadabra style. It was only until around 2012 that meaningful improvement in the economy began to be perceivable, and that because of the multi-currency system not any special performance by them.
All the negative criticism seems to be born of a frustrated opposition, which has no grounding from which to base its campaign message since the “Mugabe must go” mantra suddenly fell out of reason and season on November 24, 2017. The opposition camp is also miffed by the fact that since his inauguration, President Mnangagwa has hit the ground running and struck the right chords by addressing all the issues which they were hoping to use to present themselves as better than ZANU-PF during the election campaign period.
Given that the opposition has neither a plan, policy, project nor a programme to earn the electorate’s support, it has resorted to badmouthing anything to do with President Mnangagwa to spite him and ZANU-PF. In view of this, the electorate needs to carefully assess the electoral promises, candidates, campaign messages and track records before voting for destructive people instead of those who have the country’s best interests at heart.