President Mnangagwa is continuing to break with tradition in a very positive way.
The tradition in our country was a political leadership that is feared, nay worshipped, not respected. We were used to a leadership that is “special” and inaccessible; a leadership that is a mystery of sorts. We were used to a leadership that craved entitlement. Also, politicians would come to us once every five years begging for our votes and when we gave them, they would use those votes to boss us around as if they were punishing us for favouring them with our support.
Indeed, many associated Zanu-PF with these not-so-positive traits. It can only be Zanu-PF that was associated with these because it is the only party that has governed the country since Independence.
We were used to it all so everything became normal — leaders must be feared, leaders were more special than us, leaders must be inaccessible and must be entitled to everything good. As such many may have found it improbable that it is the leadership of the same political party that is now so accessible, serving the people without bossing them around and so deeply respected, not feared.
President Mnangagwa on Friday night was on Capitalk 100.4FM radio, fielding questions from listeners on a live programme unlike in the past when a president only spoke to us and strict measures were put in place to ensure that we were unable to speak back to him. On Friday, listeners asked just about everything and anything they wanted the President to clarify.
Since he came to power in November 2017, President Mnangagwa has opened up the Government to public scrutiny. Cabinet proceedings were a mystery. The people knew that Cabinet met every Tuesday but often had no idea what was discussed in those meetings and the decisions made therein.
Now, every Tuesday afternoon, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa briefs the media on what Cabinet would have discussed earlier in the day and the decisions that would have been taken. She is always accompanied by relevant ministers who would expand on the key issues that would have been discussed on that specific Cabinet meeting. They also field questions from journalists.
Opposition supporters and other activists are now free to express themselves, including through demonstrations, of course, as long as the exercise of the freedoms is conducted within the precepts of the law. Various laws to create a more open democracy are being crafted and implemented. In May, the President launched a dialogue with political leaders who took part in last year’s elections, an effort to create greater national unity in tackling key questions to move the country forward.
In June last year, the President surprised many when he queued in a fast food outlet in Chegutu to buy food. In March this year; he was spotted in a major supermarket in Kwekwe trying to buy. He was however, unable to finish the task after an enthusiastic crowd gathered to see him.
Gukurahundi was a taboo subject in the country. It was a subject of discussion by the opposition and their hangers-on when they sought to attack Zanu-PF, especially towards election time. Everyone else spoke about it in hushed tones, fearful that the Government might hear their discussions and be angered by people trying to “open old wounds.” President Mnangagwa has challenged the people to openly discuss the episode and come up with measures to address any anger that might be lingering among some of us.
The President has, from time to time, made himself available for selfies with many people. He freely interacts with them, in some cases sitting in meetings to just listen to his compatriots expressing themselves. Those under him – ministers and senior government officials – are conducting themselves in this manner too.
These and more clearly highlight a new, open democracy in the making. His Friday live radio debut was yet a demonstration of the same.
We are delighted with the President’s approach to doing business. The approach makes us all see that the President is one of us; he does not place himself above all of us. It removes tensions among the people and any anger that may have been bottled up. When there is no tension among the people, they tend to free-up their minds and be happier. A happy, tension-free population tends to be more productive than one that is tense, each one of them plotting quietly. A people who speak to each other are better able to unleash their potential to develop themselves, their communities and their country.
We are convinced that the conciliatory environment that the President is building and his approachability will indeed play a big part in creating a harmonious society that dialogues with its leadership and works in unison, in a free environment for national development.