The excitement and furore of the ‘kutonga kwaro’ administration is sweeping across Zimbabwe like a whirlwind. There are visible changes across the political, economic and social spectrum. At the political level we are seeing changes in the way things are being done within the ruling party Zanu PF.
By Lloyd Msipa
The sloganeering putting opponents down ‘pasi newe’ culture is being outlawed at public political rallies as witnessed at a youth rally recently. This is a good thing. The new culture will go a long way in reducing violence during elections later on this year, hence making the prospects of a free and fair election even more real. At the economic level, the president has made it clear that Zimbabwe is open for business and therefore investors appear to be falling over themselves to get to Zimbabwe and get a piece of the action. At government level, the new administration is doing away with dead wood and introducing technocrats to lead key institutions to aid quick economic recovery. This is evidenced by the recent appointment of a qualified new Commissioner General at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) These are good indicators that seem to suggest Zimbabwe is on the mend.
Dinosaur ministers struggling
However, the new work culture introduced by the new president doesn’t seem to have rubbed off on all of the members of government, including those in the presidency. It is no secret with elections around the corner ministers have been given targets to meet. The current government dissolves in less than five months, marking the end of the five-year people’s mandate given to Robert Mugabe and finished off by Emmerson Mnangagwa. After this, Zanu PF goes back to the people to seek a new mandate. Now, I struggle to understand why would a vice president be throwing a celebration party for a position he holds for the next couple of months. Is he guaranteed that he will be appointed in the next government. Am I missing something, this is the sort of culture that needs to be outlawed. Zimbabwe can ill afford to have a vice president throwing a celebration party for a position he is appointed to for four months whilst the rest of government is working to meeting targets ahead of elections that are meant to give him and his principal legitimacy.
The Zimbabwe president has been quoted saying, “he has given his ministers targets to work towards and the possible implications of not meeting these targets is dismissal”. The question is, what are these targets. How do citizens police these targets and the outcome? I think it is imperative in the spirit of transparency to have clear and definitive goals visible to the court of public opinion. If the Zimbabwean people are to judge fairly the efforts made by the president’s administration in the first one hundred days, it is then important citizens have an idea what these targets are. The danger of making such statements positive as they may seem, without providing content is, that with time people will question and start passing verdicts to the detriment of the bigger picture. In other words, the reforms must be visible and inspire confidence and not appear to be empty rhetoric.
Fears of the Indigenous business person
One of the fundamental tenets of the indigenisation act was to try and empower the Zimbabwean farmer or business person by enacting the law that required would be investors to come into Zimbabwe and go into a statutory partnership with a Zimbabwean. This approach required the investor to hold only up to forty nine percent of any shareholding in the business with the fifty-one percent reserved for locals. This approach has worked in other African countries including Botswana. Not so much in Zimbabwe. They may have been several reasons for this, but that is a topic for another day. Having amended the indigenisation act, investors coming into Zimbabwe now have the freedom to do business without the previous restrictions. The restriction is only applicable to the two extractive minerals, diamond and platinum. Whilst this can be a good thing, it is important that we get the right balance. There is a growing concern that indigenous players may fail to compete. In fact, with big money arriving in Zimbabwe, the danger of indigenous players being muscled out of business completely is very high. Let us be mindful that the majority of business people who were operating in Zimbabwe maintained some sort of subsistence existence without being big business. This is particularly true in the extractive industry. It is important that there be some degree of protection and assistance in terms of capital in order for them to compete with the new arrivals as equals. It will be a sad day if the indigenous business person fails to raise their head above water in the new investor saturated environment.
Civil service reforms or purges
In the last week, the new administration has retired in excess of thirty-five senior police men and women, hundreds lower down the ranks. The reasons for this is explained as reforms and curbing the corruption that had become endemic in this sector. The fact that the president reversed most of the senior police dismissals raises suspicion as to the motives behind the dismissals. It is important to be fair and transparent in this process if the purges are being driven by administrative considerations. Accusations and counter accusations based on traditional factional fights may in the long run derail everything the president is trying to do. It is also my understanding that the purges have extended into the intelligence departments with those deemed to be aligned to the previous president and first lady removed from key positions. I generally have no problem with putting trusted people in key places, but the danger of firing on the basis of innuendos without proper investigation and analysis is that we end up with patronage being the basis for employment. In such cases, professionality will generally be compromised.
Let bygones be bygones
The president is on record on having said that despite the injustice metered on him before and after his expulsion from party and government, the poisoning saga and the attempted assassination, He speaks of only three people he has not forgiven. We all know who the three people are. The other arrests that have been taking place appear to be based on malice. If we are to truly operate on the new policy of bygones be bygones there is a need to approach the current wave of arrests with caution. It is one thing to fight corruption, in fact all Zimbabweans would want the scourge of corruption brought under control. However, what is important is that justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done. Several members of parliament have been arrested recently on allegations of abuse of office and other corruption related offences. The same members of parliament were swiftly expelled from both the party and parliament whilst their cases are pending. This on its own does not help in the image building exercise that the president’s administration is seeking to portray. Let us say ‘bygones be bygones’ and mean it.
The charm offensive being carried out by the president of Zimbabwe is being lauded as a class act. The tragedy is that what is happening in his government contradicts this. The unilateral arrests of ministers and purges in the civil service my actual derail the ‘kutonga kwaro’ initiative. What the president is saying at public platforms is not necessarily what is happening at the ground level. If bygones are indeed bygones, there is a need for people to see evidence of this. Let us see a left turn as a left turn, a right turn as a right turn. The world is watching and perception is very important.