President Emmerson Mnangagwa has come under criticism for seemingly mocking the country’s currency, real time gross settlement dollars (RTGS$) at an event where he said the Cyclone Idai-induced floods that wreaked havoc in the Eastern Highlands, killing 268 and displacing over 16 000 others, were a blessing in disguise for opening the country’s lines with hostile Western countries.
Addressing the victims in Chimanimani on Thursday where he took presidential candidates in last year’s elections on a tour to assess the damage caused by the floods, Mnangagwa waxed lyrical at the US$2,5 million relief fund from United States President Donald Trump.
“But the most exciting one is about Trump. Do you know him, the President of America; the one who slapped us with sanctions?” Mnangagwa said excitedly.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), he sent his ambassador. He brought US$2,5 million. Two and a half million dollars; the real US dollars; their own money and not our RTGS$! Trump said if we still wanted some help, we can approach their South African office. Things change. To ask us what we want and this coming from Trump. This (the disaster) is a blessing in disguise.”
Mnangagwa revealed that he had received three letters from Britain’s royal family after the disaster, something that otherwise may never have happened. He also revealed that the country could benefit a lot from the Unites Arab Emirates.
“The queen, Queen Elizabeth herself wrote a letter to us, saying she has heard of our disaster and asking what form of help she can give us. It didn’t end there. Her son, who will take over from her, Prince Charles, the (former) husband to the late Princes Dianna. The one who, when we had our independence, came to take back the British flag while we hoisted ours, also wrote his letter.
“Prince Charles’ son, William, also wrote. Three letters coming from Britain, this has never happened before. They (the Royal Family) said the relationship between Zimbabwe and Britain has come a long way and this should continue. We appreciate what the Royal Family has done.”
Yesterday, people took to social media to attack Mnangagwa, describing him as insensitive for seemingly mocking the country’s currency, which he forced on Zimbabweans. Others claimed Mnangagwa did not know the implications of his statements and excitement of aid money.
MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said it was sad for a President to say the misfortune of his people brought him luck.
“It’s bizarre for the President to say he is now able to talk to Trump because many people died. He is disconnected from the people. If a President is mocking his own currency, it means he is not earning in that currency,” Mafume said.
National Patriotic Front spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire accused Mnangagwa of celebrating the political opportunities opened for him by the calamity that befell his citizens. He also castigated him for forcing bond notes on people, yet he was levitating at the prospect of receiving US dollars.
“He seemed very happy about the US$2,5 million because he has at his disposal real money to hire more private jets. At the same time, he has the RTGS to give to Cyclone Idai victims, instead of the donated real money,” he said.
Mawarire said it was sad that Mnangagwa seemed excited about a funeral assistance fund coming from a country his lieutenant (Victor-the War Veterans deputy minister) Matemadanda had been castigating and accusing of fronting a regime change agenda.
Build Zimbabwe Alliance leader Noah Manyika said it was unfortunate that Mnangagwa was celebrating the catastrophe at a time victims were still looking for their missing relatives.
“When hundreds of people have lost their lives and thousands made homeless due to a catastrophic event like Cyclone Idai, that is hardly the time for a government whose incompetent response resulted in more lives being lost to celebrate the aid brought by the disaster,” Manyika said.
“According to the President in recorded remarks yesterday, he was delighted that the Americans had donated real money, not RTGS$ which clearly to him is not real money. These are astonishing remarks at a time his Finance minister (Mthuli Ncube) is accusing businesses of profiteering by essentially setting their prices according to the value of real money and not the phantom currency the president himself has just confirmed RTGS$ to be.”
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said people were reading too much into Mnangagwa’s statements and in the process giving them unnecessary attention.
“We ought to be able to distinguish between Mnangagwa’s institutional role as President and also his status as a political actor. Mnangagwa’s utterances at a rally where he is posturing about his efforts and ability to fundraise cannot be rebuked neither should they get attention or noise that they are receiving. Put simply, Mnangagwa was addressing villagers and tried to the best of his capabilities to be a President with a simplistic view of economy and economics. That surely doesn’t warrant criticism. Sadly, ED isn’t the best orator whose speeches do not move crowds.”