The silly season is here

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

THE season is upon us. A season of wild promises and deceptive liking of the electorate. A season when the mighty humble themselves ready to prey on their vote. It will be a gruelling six months from now on, but the voter should be discerning.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has lined up his ducks in a row. He has been all over the country launching one project after another, a sly way of proving that he is a hardworking President — a President with his heart in the right place.

On Thursday, he launched a lithium mining project in Buhera. A few weeks ago, he launched the Manhize steel project in Chivhu. In the meanwhile, his second in command, Retired General Constantino Chiwenga, officially opened health centres in Matabeleland. They are on a roll.

These feel good stories have filled the public media on a daily basis. An impression has been created, Zimbabwe is open for business. Many this and that for ED groups have sprouted. ED is the man — the subtle message loudly proclaims.

It is important to acknowledge what he has done well. He has done extremely well in infrastructure projects — mainly roads. Clinics and schools, even colleges, have been built or refurbished. This can’t be denied, because the buildings are there for everyone to see.

Mnangagwa has also hastened to complete or work on former President Robert Mugabe projects. These include dams, airports and other public buildings across the country and the Hwange 7 and 8 power station expansion project.

He has not shied away from taking the plaudits, soaking in the adulation, but the truth should be spoken — Mugabe in all his wickedness knew something.

I’m tempted to draw a scorecard for ED. On his five major campaign platforms in 2018, he has largely failed to deliver. It is important to revisit them.

Mnangagwa ran on the platform of zero tolerance to corruption, affordable and quality healthcare, affordable electricity, real jobs and promoting international trade via world-class borders.

Corruption, especially in the public service, has festered. COVID-19 resources were looted and no sanctions were handed to the offenders.

They are actually in their offices or have been promoted. So much for zero tolerance to corruption. It’s all bark with no bite.

On health, while some new buildings have been put up, service is poor with no medication and support staff. Many die in hospitals from preventable diseases.

It goes without saying, it is health for the rich as most services are paid for in greenbacks in a country where the majority still survive on less than US$2 a day.

Mnangagwa has always tried to spin the shortage of electricity by saying more economic activities are taking place, hence the energy deficit. Reality has come to bite him.

Currently, the country is enduring a 22-hour load-shedding schedule. Zimbabwe is a dark city. Interestingly, all thermal power stations are operating at below 10% capacity despite that coal is in abundance in this country.

The only logistical company that can haul this load is the National Railways of Zimbabwe and your guess is as good as mine, it has been run down despite being a monopoly.

On jobs, Mnangagwa has failed dismally. Companies are retrenching. Salaries and wages are suppressed. Did he mean more vendors? — the same vendors who are chased around town on a daily basis.

Probably, Mnangagwa needs to be reminded what real jobs are. These are secure jobs, paying market rates, with defined working hours and where employees have access to medical aid and pension. Anything else which does not fit into this description is not a real job, it is slavery.

On international trade via world-class borders — this is a sick joke. International trade is about producing goods and providing services that are needed in other markets. It is not having a beautiful border post.

One does not trade the border post, it is just a place to facilitate exports and imports. Mnangagwa got away with it because as a country, we just clap even for crappy. Am I being hard on him? No! Remember, ED was among the MPs and ministers who clapped hands for Mugabe while he was reading a wrong speech in Parliament.

The silly season is not helped any better by the performance of the opposition. It has largely remained silent in communities and remains highly vocal on social media. Statistics from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe show that very few people are on social media — active users.

Secondly, they miss what James Ball wrote in Post Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World.

Ball writes about echo-chambers and how they are replicated. This argument is also raised by Owen Jones in The Establishment.

Soshana Zuboff also touches on this aspect in her book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.

Social media on its own without foot soldiers will not get traction. People have to wage their battle both online and offline.

Offline battles need organisation, structures, mobilisers and volunteers, but most importantly, a clear message they want to convey. Anything short of this is a recipe for disaster.

The electorate will be bombarded and bamboozled with information during the silly season. Dreams will be sold, some too lofty to be achieved. This is where the electorate has to be discerning — separating grain from chaff.

The electorate has to constantly keep the eye on the ball on things that matter — the economy, health, education, housing, water, energy and public transport.

Let the most competent win and the loudmouths retire from politics. Politics should be substance henceforth.

Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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