HARARE, (Xinhua) — He is a man on a mission, one of transforming Zimbabwe into a prosperous nation where citizens thrive and enjoy a better life.
by Gretinah Machingura
To achieve that, the new President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to resuscitate the comatose economy through stamping out corruption, open the country to foreign investment and inculcate a new culture of hard work among Zimbabweans.
He has also promised to be frugal with public finances, ensuring that more money is channeled into production as opposed to consumption.
In the one month he has been in office, he has already taken some corrective measures to position the economy for a quick takeoff.
Mnangagwa, 75, took over last month from former President Robert Mugabe who resigned after military and public pressure.
Mugabe’s departure after a 37-year reign ushered in Mnangagwa’s administration which has raised the hopes of many Zimbabweans who had endured two decades of economic hardships under Mugabe’s rule.
“We are hoping for a better life under Mnangagwa’s leadership. He must remove all polices that scared away foreign investors. He must prioritize revamping the agriculture sector because our economy is agriculture-based. Once this sector booms, the economy will also boom,” said Harare vendor Cleopas Chirumuuta.
In his inaugural address on Nov. 24, Mnangagwa exhorted the nation to put differences aside and expend energies towards national building.
He said his government would strive to create a conducive environment for investors and ensure economic growth.
“Our economic policy will be predicated on our agriculture which is the mainstay, and on creating conditions for an investment-led economic recovery that puts premium on job creation,” the president said in his inaugural speech.
Economic revival and job creation have become his mantra, as the president reckons the mammoth task his government faces, including jobs for the unemployed youths, housing, better health and education services.
Economist Takunda Mugaga of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce said Mnangagwa had the enormous task of rising above factional party politics and steering the nation out of its present quagmire to growth and prosperity.
“The president must rise above factional politics. We expect him to deliver and put Zimbabwe first. He must tackle economic challenges and the liquidity crisis head on, fight corruption even in his inner circle and create jobs. Unemployment is a big challenge in this country and he must address it,” Mugaga said.
Through the 2018 national budget presented early this month, Mnangagwa scrapped the controversial indigenization and economic empowerment law which had alienated investors.
The 2008 law, which limited foreign shareholding to 49 percent, now only applies to two minerals: diamond and platinum.
“The 51/49 threshold will not apply to the rest of the extractive sector, nor will it apply to the other sectors of the economy, which will be open to any investor regardless of nationality,” finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said in the 2018 budget statement.
The bold move by Mnangagwa’s administration to amend the legislation has been applauded by Zimbabweans who feel it is the right move to help the country build public confidence and lure foreign investment.
Political commentator Godfrey Kanyenze said the president needed to build confidence among all stakeholders in the country given the polarization in the country.
“The president needs to deal with the issue of confidence among all stakeholders given a lot of disagreements, suspicion and lack of trust in terms of what he can deliver.
“The president needs to reach out to all stakeholders including business, labor and civil society. He must bring all these stakeholders to a discussion table, a national dialogue so that they come to a consensus on the need to subordinate sectoral interests to greater national interest.” Kanyenze said.
As a country that has had a bad record in terms of respect for private property rights, Mnangagwa in his inaugural speech has promised to compensate former white farmers whose land was taken by government during the land reform program for redistribution to the landless blacks.
“My government is committed to compensating those white farmers from whom land was taken, in terms of the laws of the land,” Mnangagwa said, even though he said the principle of land repossession was irreversible.
Mnangagwa’s administration has made it clear that it will not countenance illegal occupation of farms and has ordered illegal settlers to vacate.
Lands Minister Perence Shiri last week issued a warning to illegal settlers, emphasizing the need for stability on farms to ensure the success of agriculture.
One white farmer who had been evicted from his farm in June returned to his farm last Thursday in jubilant scenes after his case was initially taken up by Mnangagwa when he was still the Vice President of Zimbabwe.
The president has also talked tough on fighting corruption, and has vowed that “there will be no sacred cows” in the fight against the vice.
Several high ranking officials have been arrested on corruption charges, including ex-government ministers Ignatius Chombo, Walter Chidhakwa, Joseph Made and Jason Machaya. It is reported that many more public and private officials will be brought to book over their involvement in corrupt activities.
The country’s police that had become unpopular for its corrupt tendencies, especially asking for bribes from motorists, have also been ordered to reform to regain public trust and confidence.
Godwin Matanga, acting commissioner general of Zimbabwe Republic Police, said the police will reform their policing including reducing the number of road blocks and work to become people centered.
“Indeed, we are going to roll out a battery of measures to improve our ways of doing business in order to connect with the people. As a disciplined police service, we know our limits and the need to strictly abide by the police code of conduct,” Matanga said recently.
The president is also intent on implementing vast reforms in government including cutting government expenditure to address the issue of unsustainable budget deficits.
His administration has already fired some 4,000 redundant youths and will from 2018 retire all civil servants above the age of 65 and maintain a freeze on recruitment of non-critical staff.
The government said these and other cost cutting measures would reduce its wage bill from the current 86 percent of total revenue to 70 percent in 2018.
Some of the austerity measures announced in the 2018 budget include a slash on official foreign travel, ban on first class travel for officials except the presidium, reduction of benefits to senior government officials, among them fuel allocation.
The new president is also introducing a new work ethic in government with the hallmarks of diligence, honesty and discipline.
He has been exemplary so far, reporting for duty earlier than usual and even working during weekends and holidays. This is contrary to his predecessor Mugabe who had slowed down in his later years of the presidency due to advanced age.
Mnangagwa has so far undertaken a single foreign trip to neighboring South Africa to woo investors and many Zimbabweans are hoping he will not have a penchant for excessive travel like his predecessor.
With a full cabinet now assembled, Zimbabweans have high expectations that the government will address the cash crisis gripping the nation as a matter of urgency.
“One of the most critical issues that the president must address is the cash crisis. We have struggled for too long with this challenge and he must resolve this problem urgently,” said Amos Shumba, an office cleaner.
Shylet Mukonyo, a 70-year-old grandmother in rural Mahusekwa, said she wanted the president to fix the economy and create jobs.
“It has been sad for me watching my grandchildren loaf around in the village without anything to do. The president must create jobs for the young people so they can have their own lives,” she said.