Mugabe's Sona a huge yarn

HARARE - Thank you, Mr President, for delivering the much-anticipated State of the Nation Address (Sona) about 25 days before the close of 2016.

I wish to dwell on three broad issues.

Process and procedure, content and the person of the president.

Your Excellency, you are turning 93 in slightly over two months and I take this opportunity to wish you in advance a happy 93rd birthday and thank the Lord for a life as long as it was eventful.

Your long life is a rare blessing to your family and to the nation and it is for this reason that people of advanced age are generally held in very high esteem and you are no exception.

If my mother were alive, she would be turning 88 on January 29, 2017 and if I had my way like musician Soul Jah Love says in his song, “Dai hupenyu hwaitengwa ndainotenga hwamai vangu ndigare ndinavo.(If life could be bought, I would buy my mother’s so that I will forever be with her).”

Your age, just like that of my departed mother, demands that you occupy a space less demanding than that of the office of Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the defence forces.

As you delivered your speech on December 6, I realised that both your speech and vision are compromised and impaired — even with prescription glasses, you still had reading challenges. The font size of your speech was quite big and yet you still struggled to read.

You were obviously not going through the speech for the first time and yet still you had to go over some words a few times before you got the pronunciation right.

You are one man renowned for aptitude and eloquence and even Queen Elizabeth said so in the early 80s after you delivered a captivating and enchanting speech at a Commonwealth Summit meeting.

As you staggered out of the Speaker’s Chair, I kept asking myself why your party cruelly put you up for ridicule and contempt.

These are the same people who are endorsing you as their sole presidential candidate for 2018 and it is again characters of the ilk endeavouring to ingratiate themselves by proposing that Harare International Airport be named after you. How cruel!! American rock musician Bob Dylan did a song in which he says, “they smile in your face and behind your back they hiss what’s a sweetheart like you doing in a town like this.”

They endorse you in public and yet exchange social media messages in which you are the butt of some pretty sick jokes.

For some time now, I have relished the thought that there is a broader conspiracy somewhere within your rank and file to expose you for your visible physical and mental frailties with the ultimate objective to prove to the wider world that you have long gone beyond your sell-by date and as such the weakest link between Zimbabwe and political transformation as well as socio-economic restoration.

Mr President, anyone suggesting even in their wildest dream that you still have the wherewithal to continue in your current position is simply dishonest. You have seen more illustrious days and it is time for a well-deserved rest.

You unyieldingly participated in the prosecution of our country’s treacherous nationalist politics and liberation war and yet for your failure to know when to leave, the same revolution you so relentlessly led is devouring you in the glare of all and sundry.

American country music exponent Kenny Rodgers did a song in 1978 entitled The Gambler. He says, “You have got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them. Know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when sitting at the table. There will be time enough for counting when the deal is done.”

Your time to fold them and walk away came and went. It is now time to run. Unfortunately, you seem to remain glued at the table and counting your money.

That is not how to do it. Rodgers goes on to say, “Every gambler knows, the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep because every hand is a loser and every hand is a winner and the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep.” Need I say more? Take heed.

I wonder if you should be burdening yourself by officially opening Parliament and setting out the legislative agenda.

Shouldn’t this be the exclusive duty of Parliament to set out its own agenda in the same manner that the Judiciary open their own judicial year and set out their own agenda?

The Executive, of which you are the head, should only submit bills and business they wish Parliament to transact in the ensuing year.

This will cut out the expense of the elaborate British style ceremony which comes complete with a drive-by in a vintage Rolls Royce imported for that purpose back in the 70s or earlier and accompanied by two dozen thoroughbred horses in choreographed gait, looking better fed than the riders themselves.

A parade of representatives of all the branches of the country’s security establishment in their most shining armour.

A cluster of hostile hangers-on masquerading as security, some good-for-nothing book-lickers et al posing as political analysts and social commentators.

The last group is the most dangerous. They will say the most flowery superlatives about you today but will pour scorn as soon as you are no longer a source of their frenzied feeding.

This unnecessary pomp and fanfare gobbles the country’s meagre and fast-dwindling resources and one is left wondering why it seems hard for us to understand the not-so-complex concept of cutting our clothes in accordance to the available cloth.

Expenditure should necessarily be a function of income or better still available resources. We cannot spend what we don’t have and this is not economics, it is simple logic.

One cannot eat lunch for 10 Zimbabwean bonds when there are only three bonds to his poverty.

Apart from the big-brother syndrome, you have absolutely no business opening Parliament just like you have no reason to open the judicial year. Stay with the Executive and allow the principle of separation of powers to endure and flourish.

If you must come to Parliament outside of Sona, it must be to assist your ministers to answer questions from the legislators.

Quite a chunk of them are not the most savvy and visibly lack in ministerial sophistication exhibited sumptuously by the likes of Herbert Ushewokunze, Eddison Zvobgo, Dzingai Mtumbuka, Bernard Chidzero, Simba Makoni, Simbi Mubako and Simon Mazorodze to name but a few.

What can one expect from Cabinet ministers who believe that diesel can ooze out of a rock in Chinhoyi? It is akin to believing that Cerevita cereal can be plucked off some Mupfuti tree in Mberengwa North. This for me Mr President takes the biscuit. It is simply a winner and I can’t get over it. I will take it with me to my final resting place.

However, it is entirely your prerogative who you appoint minister and section 104 gives you authority carte blanche. We can only make do with what you avail to us. Only section 104 (6) refers to “a person appointed minister or deputy minister.” If it were not for that provision, you could even appoint a baboon if you chose to and still be well within your rights. I doubt that even baboons could buy the Chinhoyi diesel story.

The Constitution requires that the president comes to Parliament, not to officially open but to deliver Sona.

The last time Your Excellency came to deliver was after members of the opposition had raised their disquiet with the Leader of Government Business in Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa over this dereliction which we felt was quickly becoming an abrogation of your constitutional mandate to do the same.

What then followed is forgettable and as such will not constitute part of this instalment but suffice it to say that, the elaborate ceremony and the large number of human bodies involved as referred to elsewhere in this composition notwithstanding, you read a wrong speech for close to 31 minutes.

Dutifully, the 200 odd members of your party (who included Cabinet ministers) clapped and ululated even though a good number of them knew you were gobbling through archaic text.

For good measure, one of them moved a motion to “Respectfully offer our thanks . . .  for the wonderful speech he has been pleased to deliver.” What hypocrisy!!!! Offer thanks for a wrong speech? Come on now. I am digressing and I apologise.

Your Excellency I sat very close to you and listened attentively and was horrified beyond measure when you said, “And in conclusion.”

I have never been more disappointed and dejected by things over which I have little control. It is for the reason of lack of control that I take occasion to pour my heart out in black and white. Your speech lacked both depth and substance. It failed to capture the state of the nation as its title suggests.

You obviously do not compose your own speeches. My assumption was that your office comes up with thematic areas that you intend to cover as dictated by events on the ground and confirmed by the daily intelligence reports you receive.

Different ministries then make submissions based on the thematic areas. Zimbabwe being essentially HIPIC (highly impoverished and indebted country), food security, health delivery, economic development, infrastructure development and maintenance, human resource development and research and development should be over-arching.

Command agriculture and its projected outcomes (how much tonnage will be harvested) and impact (how hunger will be averted and how the economy stands to benefit) should have been addressed elaborately.

This should have been in figures with comparatives from previous and not thumb-suck where a man rides in a helicopter, sees some greenery, predicts a bumper harvest and passes that as government information to an anticipating, hungry and anxious citizenry.

I expected you to dwell at length on the economy, especially the cash crunch and the bond notes as a viable solution. As you were delivering your speech, snaking queues characterised banks across the country.

Someone should have been kind enough to tell you that the issue of tourist arrivals is not as important at the moment as the issue of cash shortages and bond notes.

Even when you talked about the increase in tourist arrivals, you neglected to mention that tourism is impacted negatively by our unfriendly tax regime which is one of the highest in Africa and this is a fact.

While tourism is arguably one of the last hanging fruits, our annual national budget allocates next to nothing to the sector.

You chose to sound like a record stuck in a grove talking about the tired ease of doing business. This is not what you tell a starving nation. You talked about Statutory Instrument 64 and its benefit to the plastic industry. You should have in the same breath have talked about the challenges imposed by the same SI to other sectors of the economy. To suggest as you did that SI 64 is the panacea to import substitution is too simplistic for a Sona.

Mr President, our purchasing price parity remains very high because of our production cost structure. A starving nation hardly pays attention to gains in the plastic industry.

They would rather know the prices and availability of seed, fertiliser, diesel, electricity and water.

These are the key determinants for a passage out of hunger and starvation. Farmers need pesticides and herbicides for a better yield and civil servants need their bonuses.

If civil servants do not get their 13th cheque this year, it will be the first time since 1924, when Coghlan formed “a government” to preside over the land mass between the Zambezi and the Limpopo that civil servants would have gone without their bonus.

It will be such a shame and will form part of the Mugabe legacy.

You did not give leadership to your people. You were a huge yarn and disappointment. You should have talked about the leadership wrangle in your party because what happens in Zanu PF affects all of us because you are the ruling party. The succession battle in your party is now a sickening open warfare and a pathetic free for all.

There is run-away corruption and you seem oblivious. We expected you to say with deliberate certainty the succession plan and mechanics for transition. We hoped against hope that you would do it for our sake and for the sake of those who will come after us. Chaos is beckoning Mr President.

In conclusion, I wish and your family a merry Christmas.

I rest it here for now.

*Maridadi is MDC legislator for Mabvuku-Tafara constituency. He writes here in his personal capacity.

Comments (1)

Very touching and honest...

toni - 19 December 2016

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