PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last week delivered yet another uninspiring State of the Nation Address (Sona), drawing criticism from the opposition, which feels the 92-year-old ruler is now past his sale by date.
the big interview BY OBEY MANAYITI
Mugabe skirted the cash crisis that has forced the government to introduce the so-called bond notes amid resistance from Zimbabweans, as well as the bonuses for civil servants issue. He also did not say anything new about the economy.
As if the below-par performance in the National Assembly was not enough, Africa’s oldest leader struggled to leave the podium. The video of the embarrassing episode has now gone viral on social media.
Our reporter Obey Manayiti (OM) spoke to Information minister Christopher Mushohwe (CM) about Mugabe’s performance on Tuesday, his health and the growing fissures in the ruling party.
However, the government spokesperson did not seem to have the answers as he avoided answering some questions and became hostile. He also resorted to interviewing the reporter. Below are excerpts of the interview.
OM: Critics feel that Mugabe’s Sona did not live up to expectations as he avoided critical issues such as the bond notes, the imploding economy and civil servants’ bonuses.
CM: If you were the president, what would you have said which would be considered to have substance?
OM: Zimbabweans expected to hear the president speak about the currency reforms such as the introduction of bond notes that have not brought relief concerning cash shortages as expected.
CM: What about the bond notes? Who was saying that?
OM: Zimbabweans. Some of them are analysts and people from the opposition.
CM: Let me help you. You are a very respected journalist and that is why I accommodated you. If you hear a person from the opposition praising the president of a ruling party, don’t you think that person would be expelled?
Would you expect [MDC-T vice-president Nelson] Chamisa to stand up and say what the president is saying is true and the nation should respect that yet they also want power. Is that possible?
Opposition language shouldn’t be taken seriously and taken as factual. People who are in the opposition are in the business of opposing. Whatever good thing you do, a person in the opposition will not praise you.
It is their constitutional right to say what they want, but the fact remains that those in the opposition will always oppose and that’s why they are called opposition and that word is not synonymous with praise.
If it were farmers complaining or the financial sector, then it would become an issue, not the opposition.
That is also why you saw the president of ZimPF [Zimbabwe People First, Joice Mujuru] making an effort to go to court [over the introduction of bond notes] when for the past 50 years she was part of the system.
Because she was fired from Zanu PF she suddenly became wiser and began to see things that she didn’t see in the past 50 years.
No one will take her seriously. What she is doing is out of vendetta, malice and is not what she believes in. If she was not dismissed from Zanu PF and still in her position, the question is would she be doing what she is doing?
To be honest with you, men and women of integrity would know that the president gave a factual and relevant speech to the situation on the ground.
OM: Why was the issue of civil servants’ bonuses not mentioned in the Sona or Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s budget speech last Thursday?
CM: All the years during the state of nation address, do we talk about the bonus issue? Who said the bonus issue is part of the state of the nation?
The president made a clear statement and he announced it through my ministry, that there will be a 13th cheque and that no civil servant will be retrenched. Why do you want him to repeat himself as if Zimbabweans didn’t hear what he said?
OM: After presenting the Sona, the president appeared to struggle as he left the podium. What was the problem?
CM: Struggled to do what? What do you mean?
OM: He was struggling to walk.
CM: It is absolute defamation of character. You are trying to make me and my sector avoid you. You mean it’s only you who had eyes to see that and the rest of us couldn’t see? Bring the script.
Why are you people from the private media so negative? With all the effort I am making so that we are one, you just want to see things with negative eyes and create your own images, why? It’s you alone who saw that.
What do you mean? In the media, I know you want to please whoever you want to please, but the truth is that you are a Zimbabwean and you can’t begin to manufacture things and say the president had a problem walking, what do you mean? Did you carry him?
I will put your phone on blacklist. I respect you but there are useless things that you say just to try and mock the head of state. Give me the clip and I will answer that. I was there.
OM: What is Mugabe’s position on the increasingly public disputes in his Cabinet over his succession?
CM: Those are political issues and not government issues. If they are talking about succession issues, is that government or political issues?
OM: Discord among government ministers affects the implementation of policies in a negative way.
CM: What are you referring to? I haven’t seen it, maybe I was away. You must understand that I am the government spokesperson and I only talk on issues of policy.
There is a party spokesperson who should answer on that. Why don’t you talk to the party spokesperson on that. But certainly, by all definitions, issues to do with succession are political matters.
OM: Turning to your ministry, what steps have you taken to ensure the liberalisation of the broadcasting sector as per your previous undertakings?
CM: On that one, you should know that we have an exercise to migrate from analogue to digital and I have repeatedly said at the end of this process, we should yield 12 broadcasting channels and six of them will be taken by the state and the other six will be taken by the public.
I have made it clear, but what is slowing us is that we have not been able to complete the project in time because of financial constraints, otherwise we would have done it already.
If you want to be a broadcaster, start thinking about it because there will be six channels available for the public.