Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Residents of Kuwadzana in Harare yesterday had a rare opportunity to interact with President Mnangagwa, where they posed questions to him highlighting their daily challenges.
The President proved his reputation as a “listening President” when he gave time to the residents to voice their concerns and answered their questions.
Held in a relaxed atmosphere and without prior planning, the interactive session lasted about 15 minutes, with residents seizing the opportunity to directly present their concerns to the Head of State and Government.
Issues raised included high council rates, school fees, the high cost of food (particularly meat) and the rejection of smaller denominations of coins by some retailers and transporters.
The interaction took place after the President led the 13th monthly National Environment Cleaning Day at Kuwadzana 2 Shopping Centre.
He delivered his speech and allowed residents to ask questions, which he answered, occasionally cracking jokes.
In answering the residents’ concerns, President Mnangagwa highlighted measures that Government was taking to improve the welfare of the people such as the introduction of subsidies on basic commodities.
“We have reintroduced a subsidy on roller meal so it means if the price had risen to $100 it would cost you $50 and we will pay the other $50,” he said.
But some of the residents indicated that the price of roller meal had not yet gone down.
“If there are unscrupulous businesses that are still overcharging, we will revoke their licences,” said the President.
“We have seven products that we have identified and will also be subsidised and these include cooking oil, salt, sugar, rice, maize meal, bread and soap. We will soon be rolling out these under the Silo brand.”
On school fees, he said the Government would crack the whip on schools that had increased fees without approval.
“From what I understand, the minister said the fees had not been increased, but we will soon send out inspectors to schools to investigate the matter, but in Government schools, we have not increased fees,” he said.
Acting Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Kirsty Coventry last month told Parliament that schools were not allowed to increase their fees by more than 20 percent without Government approval.
However, some schools, especially boarding schools, have reportedly increased their fees to between $10 000 and $12 000 for Form Ones, while some elite schools are demanding foreign currency.
On council rates, President Mnangagwa said he would block proposals to increase them.
“Council had asked that rates be increased, but in that case I will not approve the proposed increases,” he said. Harare City Council presented a $4,6 billion budget that will see rates rise by about 400 percent.
On high meat prices, the President said there was little he could do.
He advised the residents to substitute meat with vegetables.
“On that one (meat), there is little I can do, but you can substitute meat with vegetables, even the doctors say the vegetables are healthier,” said President Mnangagwa.
“They are rich in vitamins, I also
take a lot of vegetables.”
President Mnangagwa concluded his remarks by encouraging residents to shun violence.
“As we return home, let’s be united because we want peace, if you have differences, discuss them peacefully,” he said.
“We don’t want violence, we don’t want destruction of property; that includes household and national property.
“Violence affects the image of the country and there is no way we can attract investors if we destroy property because no one wants to invest where there is violence.”
President Mnangagwa urged the residents to follow proper channels to air the grievances, but reiterated that he would act on all the issues they raised.