By Idah Mhetu
IN a ground-breaking move, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has agreed to a live radio interview in which ordinary citizens will be allowed to phone-in and ask questions.
The interview, set for this Friday, on a State controlled radio station, could expose Mnangagwa to brickbats from an angry public given the country’s dire economic situation.
However the Zanu PF leader has already had to deal with ridicule, anger and support in equal measure from social media followers after he joined Twitter and Facebook last year.
In an announcement on its Twitter handle on Wednesday, the State controlled station said the interview will give Zimbabweans a chance to interact with the President.
“We are proud to present President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first Live radio interview on Friday the 14th of June at 1900hrs.
“This will be Zimbabwe’s chance to ask His Excellency anything,” read the announcement.
The interview will give weary Zimbabweans a chance to grill the President and hold him to account for his government’s apparent failure to deal with country’s economic meltdown. Mnangagwa campaigned on a promise to turn around the country’s economic fortunes, re-engage the West and widen the country’s democracy among a litany of pre-election undertakings last year.
While his re-engagement efforts seem to be moving in the right direction, the Zanu PF leader’s human rights record has been less than impressive and the austerity measures undertaken by his administration have pushed the country to the edge of social upheaval.
Since wrestling power from his predecessor Robert Mugabe after a military coup in November 2017, Mnangagwa has sought to project himself as a reformer and democrat.
From policy reversals, allowing discussion on the emotive Gukurahundi issue as well as burial of victims as well as indirect overtures to the opposition.
Mnangagwa just after his assumption of power announced he would pay then MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s medical bills and immediately settle the outstanding issue of the now late former Prime Minister’s Highlands home as well as a much publicised visit to the then ailing opposition president.
Mugabe on the other hand, never exposed himself to the public and only had pre-recorded interviews with State television. Mnangagwa’s government has also opened itself to the local media by holding religious post-Cabinet media briefings to give the country an update of what his administration is doing.
The private media has also found it easier to deal with Mnangagwa’s government than it ever did with Mugabe in terms of access to information but harassment of journalists remains a major concern among practitioners.
Mnangagwa has shown a scary willingness to use the military’s brute force to devastating effect with over 20 people having already been killed after use of live ammunition to deal with protests twice in less than a year.
Since taking charge and announcing his government would embark on austerity measures to resuscitate the economy, Mnangagwa has watched helplessly as prices of basic commodities shoot through the roof. His decision to personally announce a 150% fuel price hike in January triggered violent demonstration that resulted in the death of 17 people.