President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday made a mockery of people’s grievances against deepening poverty and a plea for restoration of livelihoods.
People gathered for the national clean-up campaign at Kuwadzana in Harare, raised issues of hunger and poverty with the president and in response, Mnangagwa suggested in what sounded like a cold joke, that they should stop eating meat and turn to affordable vegetables because it is healthier after all.
It has become the tendency of President Mnangagwa to make fun of and laugh at people’s genuine concerns, including even attacks by state security agents and issues to do with hunger and other social problems.
It may be his views and personal way of responding to people’s problems, but such insensitivity does not put him in good standing as a national leader.
The people that Mnangagwa was addressing must have been shocked by this level of arrogance given the loud boos and shouts of disapproval coming from the crowd.
Mnangagwa proceeded to make claims that schools had not hiked fees for the coming term because government had not approved any such moves. Government has, however, approved, in writing, school fees hikes for many institutions of learning — private and public.
Mnangagwa then promised that no local authority would increase their rates because he would not approve them — even though it is known that almost all urban and even rural councils are set to raise their rates — if they have not done so already.
That the president would go out to make such brazenly arrogant and untruthful statements that affect the people’s lives at a time citizens look up to him for solutions, is both puzzling and worrying. The socio-economic state of affairs in Zimbabwe at the moment is frightful and is hardly anything to make jokes about.
Even Mnangagwa knows prices of goods and services must and are inevitably going up in Zimbabwe because of the hyperinflation that is wrecking the economy under his watch. Giving people untrue pledges, promising them that school fees will not go up and that local authorities will not increase rates is the height of insensitivity on his part as a president. And advising people to eat vegetables because they can’t afford meat is unbelievable.
This lack of seriousness in addressing people’s problems is what has sunk this country to this level of misery. Such basic food items like bread and the staple maize meal have been priced beyond the people’s reach while the president laughs.
The majority of Zimbabweans have long stopped eating bread and the staple sadza is fast becoming a luxury because the country has run out of maize.
Elsewhere in this paper we carry a sad story of how hunger and poverty are stalking the countryside and indeed urban areas with no sign that there could be solutions in sight.