Response to SONA: Crisis Coalition Concerned over President Mnangagwa’s Grandstanding, Govt’s Dtermination to Close the Democratic Space

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has noted with huge concern the failure by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to face the reality of the situation prevailing in Zimbabwe during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered on October 7, 2021.

It is unfortunate that instead of appreciating the fact that corruption and the plunder of national resources by political elites are responsible for the economic turmoil in Zimbabwe, the President took the SONA as an opportunity for political grandstanding.

The President in his address said his government was buoyed by an upward growth trajectory of the economy yet events on the ground prove that the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, which has been worsened by corruption has relegated the majority of ordinary Zimbabweans into abject poverty at a time unemployment continues to rise.

We are concerned that the President deliberately chose to ignore the fact that prices of basic commodities in Zimbabwe continue to soar while RTGS salaries for workers continue to be eroded by inflation.

In September 2021 the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe announced that a low-income urban family of six requires about $41 235,93 to sustain their monetary needs per month. The money amounts to around US$490 per month.

The effect of this announcement is that civil servants, most of whom are earning below US$300 have been relegated into abject poverty. What is more worrying is the fact that the government has responded with brutality to genuine calls by trade unionists advocating for a living wage.

We urge the President to ensure the government walks the talk in addressing the plight of workers and tackling corruption.

The nation continues to witness a catch and release scenario whereby bigwigs arrested on corruption charges will eventually walk scot-free while pronouncements on improving the welfare of civil servants have not yielded positive results.

On another note, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is concerned over the determination by the government to muzzle operations of civil society organisations and further shrink the democratic space.

During his address, President Mnangagwa highlighted that Parliament will speed amendments to the Private Voluntary Organisations Act as part of efforts to regulate operations of non-governmental organisations.

Amendments to the PVO Act will give the government powers to monitor registration and activities of Private Voluntary Organisations as well as to punish the organisations for “non compliance”.

We reiterate that amendments to the PVO Act are part of efforts to entrench authoritarian rule and weaponise the law and this has far reaching implications on democracy in Zimbabwe especially as we head towards the 2023 elections.

The introduction of draconian legislation (through abuse of the ruling party, Zanu PF’s Parliamentary majority) is part of attempts to close the democratic space hence the concerted efforts to amend the constitution before its full implementation.

We implore the state to desist from persecution of pro-democracy forces and live up to its pledge of a new dispensation.

The closure of the democratic space and persecution of pro-democracy forces puts a huge dent on the country’s image and ultimately works against efforts to re-engage with the international community.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition also notes with concern the current constitutional crisis in the country as well as capture and weaponization of the judiciary to clampdown on dissent.

As Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, we shall continue to use our convening role to mobilize CSOs in the country to challenge clampdowns on rights defenders and the continued closure of the democratic space by the government.

Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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