President Mnangagwa yesterday made good of his billing as a “listening President” when he fielded a wide range of questions from Zimbabweans on his maiden live radio programme. The programme was broadcast by Harare-based Capitalk 100.4FM and was carried across multiple platforms on social and the new media for a global audience.
The Head of State and Government touched on a number of subjects, carefully bringing the people into his governing philosophy and what his Second Republic is all about, with the dominant themes of reform and accountability anchoring his presentation.
And he addressed the many things that Zimbabweans are losing sleep over, amid changing — for the better — economic, social and political dynamics.
The President said he was concerned about the sky-rocketing prices of goods and services, but said Government has no appetite to introduce price controls as they retard economic growth.
The country is in the grip of massive price distortions as producers, retailers and wholesalers, keep pace with the fluctuating foreign currency parallel market rate.
This has seen different prices of the same product depending on the shop one is buying.
“. . . what we wish, for the economy to grow, we must not prescribe prices to say ‘you have grown your orange, it shall sell at $2; coming up with a law in Parliament that it shall be $2 or this cup (which was in the Capitalk studio) shall be this much,” said President Mnangagwa.
“No, we don’t do that. The forces of the market must determine the price. There must be competition.
“We need more people in our commerce and industry so that there is competition but to do that again, as a result of part history of 20 years or so, our machines are old; they are almost obsolete so we need to retool our manufacturing sector so that we become competitive.”
President Mnangagwa said once modern manufacturing sector equipment was installed, the country can also earn more revenue and see the lives of citizens being uplifted.
However, he said there are some unscrupulous businesspeople in the country who unjustifiably raise prices every day, and in some cases, in the morning, afternoon and in the evening.
The president said such dealers should be punished at some point in the life of their businesses.
“I was being told today (yesterday) that a person gets into a shop at 8am and finds a bottle of cooking oil or Mazoe going for $2 or $3, but when you go in the afternoon, it’s at $5; if you go in the evening it’s at $7. What has happened? Nothing.
“But above all, that shop owner increasing these prices, do they increase the salaries for employees? They don’t,” he said.
He added that some businesspeople are selling in forex yet employees were getting salaries in RTGS dollar.
“That is bad. The time shall come when we make the life of their businesses difficult,” he said.
President Mnangagwa reiterated that the nation should tighten its belts for economic transformation to be attained.
He said the journey is long but citizens’ living standards would be achieved on the back of reforms being implemented.
President Mnangagwa, while noting with satisfaction the performance of ministers, said there was need for improvement and said he was empowered to change his team.
“I am happy with my team but I need a lot of improvement from some of them,” he said.
He also said he would exercise his authority by firing non-performing ministers.
“I have that power to dismiss and appoint others. I have the power to do so and I will exercise that,” President Mnangagwa added.
He said he when he chose his Cabinet, he was convinced the people could do their jobs as required but added that he could make changes any time.
“It is only in the process of work that you discover one is good and one is not good, and one is average. Then in future you change but if you wish you can also change during the course of the five-year term. I have the power to do so,” he said.
He explained that Cabinet was comprised of different people of varying backgrounds on the bases of age, gender and regions.
According to the President, former First Lady Grace Mugabe owns more than 16 farms.
This is according to the interim report of the Land Audit that the Head of State has read.
It has also emerged that several high ranking officials owned multiple farms.
“The interim report I have is that, I think, about eight provinces have been done they are left with some two or so provinces that have not been completed but the majority of inconsistencies relate to multiple ownership of farms,” he said.
“We have some farm owners especially of higher rank in society having more than one farm, some having as many as nine. I know of a particular lady, Stop It (Mrs Grace Mugabe) who has over 16 farms and the law says one family one farm. Once the audit is over we should be able to implement that policy.”
Asked on the measures to improve passport issuances, President Mnangagwa said Government had found a local solution in Fidelity Printers.
“Yes, we have a company which introduced new technology in the production of passports. However, I am informed that this company has decided to take the department to ransom by demanding certain payments which in the past they would allow and give the department time to pay. As a result of that some of the consumables got expired when they were dealing with the legacy debt, and yet there was a payment plan which was agreed on.
“So suddenly they said they would not print anymore passports. Then I moved and gave the money to the department so that they could print passports. When the department paid that money it was then used to pay legacy debts not consumables for present production of passports. That was not fair. However, we discovered that when this new department was created in the past Fidelity Printers were producing passports and we have just discovered now not that Fidelity Printers has enough material which may last another four years in printing passports all what is required is to procure certain consumables compatible with Fidelity. It was only yesterday when I was informed about that and I gave authority that those consumables must be procured,” the President said.
And a promise
President Mnangagwa vowed to fight for reform leading to equal opportunities, a mission that is rooted in his liberation pedigree.
“In my youth, as a soldier, I had a clear mission. To establish an independent Zimbabwe. I fought for this mission with all my heart, whatever the consequences.
“Now, as your President, I have a new mission, no less important. To reform Zimbabwe so that we build a country in which all have the opportunity to prosper. I will fight for this goal with all my heart and all my soul, whatever it takes.
“The process is tough, but I promise you it is worth it. We will reform Zimbabwe together. We will fulfil our potential. We will build our new Zimbabwe for all,” he said.***