Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday gave his first State of the Nation speech since winning a full term in office in July. Opposition lawmakers from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party heckled Mnangagwa’s speech and then walked out in protest.
The MDC is the party of Nelson Chamisa, Mnangagwa’s rival in the first election held after longtime dictator Robert Mugabe was removed in a soft coup. Chamisa has complained of various election irregularities and believes Mnangagwa stole the presidency. Mnangagwa called for national unity in his address, saying, “The election period is decisively behind us. It is now time for us as members of parliament and political leaders to exert our efforts toward delivering promises we made to the electorate.”
The MDC rejected that call by singing a song that lambasted Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party and portrayed Zimbabweans as lying awake at night agonizing about their stolen votes. Opposition lawmakers then walked out of parliament during the president’s speech.
“As the MDC we cannot sit there and be addressed by a person who does not even respect the rule of law,” party chair Tabitha Khumalo explained.
MDC Vice President Morgan Komichi dismissed Mnangagwa as an “illegitimate” leader.
“Mnangagwa is not the President of Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe did not vote for him but he was voted by the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) and the ConCourt only. The will of the people was not respected,” Komichi declared.
“Look at the economy. Things are getting worse, people are dying and Mnangagwa and his government do not seem to care,” he continued. “All this is happening because no one voted for him. Even the international committee is ignoring the situation because everyone knows he is not the President of Zimbabwe, but Nelson Chamisa is.”
The spectacle the MDC created was noisy enough to drown out part of Mnangagwa’s speech, but state television did not show any of that to its viewers, beginning live coverage of the presidential address only after the opposition lawmakers departed.
The MDC hinted that its efforts to humiliate Mnangagwa and other ZANU-PF officials are just getting started. Party representatives jeered Chief Justice Luke Malaba and called him an election “thief” last week when he swore in returning House Speaker Jacob Mudenda and other officials, notably including the chief of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Priscilla Chigumba.
As for the substance of Mnangagwa’s State of the Nation address, he promised to cut red tape and battle government corruption. He announced $500 million in foreign stimulus loans to Zimbabwean companies and said he was not yet ready to reintroduce Zimbabwe’s notoriously worthless currency, which was printed in $100 trillion bills by the end of Mugabe’s reign.
“There should be fiscal discipline, while a culture hard work and transparency should be entrenched in all our people. No one is above the law and no one will be allowed to steal from the people of Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said.