PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday admitted that Zimbabwe was in a terrible economic situation and deserved better, but blamed COVID-19 and other natural disasters for militating against his efforts to implement economic and political reforms.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Mnangagwa made the remarks when he reviewed conditions of his indefinite national lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19.
He relaxed further the operating conditions of companies, saying there was urgent need to open up the economy.
“I want to thank my Executive team which continues to steer this economic ship through the roughest waters Zimbabwe has ever seen in the recent past, the droughts, cyclones and a global economic downturn in addition to a pandemic which the world had not witnessed in a century,” Mnangagwa said.
“These are hard conditions in which we implement tough spending cuts and deep structural economic reforms, but we have no choice, if we do not reform now, we will continue to drown in debt or paddle along with mediocrity. Zimbabwe deserves better.”
Mnangagwa has been under pressure to resuscitate the free falling economy, with fears that the deteriorating conditions could spark a coup.
On Wednesday, Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe held a Press conference to debunk rumours of the coup, but immediately accused former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, unnamed security officials, senior government officials, MDC Alliance deputy national chairperson Job Sikhala, western embassies, churches and civic organisations of plotting to oust Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa said he had begun various reform processes that include economic, political and media as promised by the new dispensation before the lockdown, but his efforts had been slowed.
“As we continue to return to work, we must once again refocus, recalibrate and revamp. Let us recall that Zimbabwe was in the mid of deep and broad reforms,” Mnangagwa said.
“We were reforming distortions that had bedevilled our economy for decades. We were reforming the old, creating the new, building stronger foundations for a more prosperous Zimbabwe.”
Ironically, Mnangagwa has been accused of using the lockdown to entrench tyranny after several opposition members and lawyers linked to Nelson Chamisa’s MDC Alliance have been arrested. Three MDC Alliance activists, including Harare West MP, Joanah Mamombe, were abducted and allegedly tortured by State security agents as the onslaught on the opposition continued during the lockdown.
“We began to reform our economic landscape as well as our political space and media space by removing antiquated laws and opening up new channels for dialogue and debate,” Mnangagwa said.
“Unfortunately, just as Zimbabwe was opening up both internally and externally, we were forced like much of the world to close societies, to close markets, to close borders.”
Mnangagwa added: “Zimbabwe must once again be opened, the freedoms we promised at the outset of the new dispensation must once again be felt across the whole of our society, the freedom of assembly, freedoms of speech and religion, freedom to vote in free and open elections, freedom to flourish.
“As your President, I commit that we will work twice as hard, with the purpose to improve your lives and give your children a better future. It is time to accelerate our development.”
Mnangagwa said people should brace for a new normal following drastic changes caused by COVID-19 on how people used to live.
He said Zimbabwe remained in lockdown Level Two, adding that a moratorium on rent had been lifted with immediate effect and that those in rental arrears would settle them over a six month period.
Mnangagwa said, because of the spike in COVID-19 cases, there was a need for a more cautious approach that includes the mandatory wearing of face masks.
On the opening up of the informal sector, he said they should register before they start operating.
Zimbabwe has more than 95% of its working population in the informal sector according to estimates.
Mnangagwa said congregating for purposes of worship should be allowed for less than 50 people adhering to regulations.
Travelling was only for “necessary cases”.