As the powers-that-be realise that the governing hat is too bulky and heavy to wear, Zimbabweans wrapped up 2018 on a dismal note. So dismal the sentiments were written on people’s faces in fuel queues from Tshabezi, Gweru, Harare all the way to Mutare.
The Sunday maverick with GLORia NDORO-MKOMBACHOTO
The general sentiment among citizens is that of despair, dejection and desperation. Many are justifiably angry, feeling an acute sense of hopelessness because of unfulfilled promises by the new establishment.
If Zimbabwe is going to have a chance at all, a chance to chart its own path towards prosperity for its citizens, the following fundamental issues need to be resolved during the first half of 2019.
- Leadership certainty — At his swearing in ceremony, in November 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said that “the country’s domestic politics had become poisoned, rancorous and polarising,” referring to the factional fighting inside the governing party, Zanu PF. “We should never remain hostages of our past,” Mnangagwa continued, emphasising that “his compatriots should let bygones be bygones, readily embracing each other in defining a new destiny in our beloved Zimbabwe.”
These words were constructive, forward-thinking and abundant with hope. But expectations have been different from the reality on the ground. There is general fear and quiet alarm. Tribalism is rearing its ugly head again. There are regionalists close to or around the president believing that because he is from Masvingo, their time has come, to benefit from the establishment because in the previous dispensation, they lacked entry points.
As the leader of the nation, Mnangagwa needs to be decisive and astute. He needs to tell compelling messages in his unification of the nation. The president should walk the talk. Indeed “we should never remain hostages of our past.” The same generosity given to former president Robert Mugabe should be extended to all who worked closely with him. That way, we will know that as a leader he does not hold any personal vendettas against anyone and he is certainly “letting bygones be bygones.”
Those of my generation, in their mid-fifties, were failed by our pre-independence leadership and further compromised by our post-independence leadership. Many expected real change after “operation restore legacy”. Fourteen months later, it would appear that the tyrant left, but tyranny still remains very much within the Zimbabwe body politic.
All facets of life: political, economic and social look bleak and in dire straits. It seems no one within the leadership has got a grasp of how things work and are relying on trial and error. The citizens await with bated breath for the current leadership to lead from the front and rise do what is necessary to unlock a rich Zimbabwe alive with possibilities.
- Genuinely open Zimbabwe for business — When this sound bite was coined during the first 100 days of the president in power, it was a great and convincing payoff line.
Nowadays, “Zimbabwe Is Open For Business” sounds hollow because of the many complains and reports to the contrary. There are widespread allegations of many a deal that have been thwarted by senior government officials and ministers when they fail to get a stake on certain deals. This culture of delayed decision-making, for no stake, is a burden that was carried over from the previous dispensation.
Eddie Cross, in his nehandaradio.com article entitled “The outlook for 2019 is dismal – unless?” talks about “projects that have collapsed because of delays — ESSAR and Zisco, Hwange rehabilitation, new power stations — Sengwa and Lusulu, the railways. Look at the list of projects that have been delayed — the new regional fuel pipeline, the Zimcoke investment in Zisco, new mining activities all over the country.”
Until the One Stop Investment Centre being set up by Dr Petina Gappah is operationalised, Zimbabwe will continue to lose billions of dollars in new investment, gross domestic product (GDP) including exports.
- Deal decisively with corruption — the cancer to all that is besieging Zimbabwe is rampant corruption. Convictions and jail time remains a key indicator that there is a serious commitment to curb corruption. Like China, Zimbabwe must consider the imposition of a death penalty for those convicted of corruption.
When this happens, the citizens will be convinced that no one is above the law. The haphazard and sporadic jailing of former Cabinet ministers continue to be viewed as mere victimisations until the state wins the corruption trials. There are convictions of specific corruption charges and the perpetrators sent to jail. Without that, the political rhetoric will remain just that, pretentious and smoke and mirrors. As we venture into 2019, the issue of corruption and how to curb it remains elusive, is damaging and disabling to both Zimbabweans and foreign investors.
- Abandon the exchange control regime — The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is playing judge, jury and executioner in the control of foreign exchange in Zimbabwe. It continues to fail dismally. As the government continues with the use of the multicurrency regime without addressing the economic fundamentals that need to be met, such as, production for exports, curbing government expenditure, privatisation of fiscus supping parastatals, etcetera, consumer and business confidence will remain depleted and the black market will prevail as there will be no sustainable fiscal and foreign currency reserves. Without public confidence in the financial system in Zimbabwe, even well-conceived and intentioned laws will not curb trading on parallel markets.
- Restore the rule of law — The concept of the rule of law underpins all activities in all facets of life for a country. It affects the quality of life for the citizens, how they perceive government and how they respond to regulations, how they work and the choices they make in complying with the rule of law and respecting the institutions in the country.
When a government has got a strong rule of law, it gives the people, the institutions operating in that country, in particular business, the confidence and knowledge that all the laws of the country are respected, honoured and bind everyone without excluding a select few.
In situations where the rule of law is weak, society and the institutions operating within that society are weakened and therefore malfunction. When the rule of law is selectively applied, confidence in the government diminishes, the citizens make up their own rules, as they go along, certainty is eroded, planning is difficult and responsible business finds it harder to function because the enforcement of their legal rights is at risk as it is not protected.
In Zimbabwe, the judiciary is compromised because it has been politicised. It is high time we move towards respecting the rule of law and away from respecting powerful political figures in order to get ahead. When political beings are the only ones with the power to control who does what and where and for whom, a country descents into kleptocracy.
No one is above the law nor the primary law of the land, the constitution of Zimbabwe. For as long as there is an entitled group of powerful political elites that are allowed to continue looting with impunity, the pipedream for a new dispensation that allows Zimbabweans to be masters and mistresses of their own destinies will not be realised. For Zimbabwe to thrive and grow, every citizen must adhere to the rule of law.
As we venture into 2019, the transformation and revitalisation of the judiciary must be prioritised.
- Embark on the privatisation of non-strategic loss-making state-owned-enterprises (SOEs) — The details of the looting of SOEs are documented in the Auditor-General’s reports of the past years. For the longest, several ministers and their board appointees have for ages been using SOEs as their little fiefdoms where their personal business is funded. This continues unabated. The financial losses are unsustainable. The sale and privatisation of loss-making parastatals will save the fiscus at least $2 billion dollars per annum.
- Functional infrastructure and utilities — The infrastructure situation for Zimbabwe is dire. Looking ahead, Zimbabwe faces a number of important infrastructure challenges. An Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic Report, entitled Zimbabwe’s Infrastructure: A Continental Perspective by Nataliya Pushak and Cecilia M Briceño-Garmendia, advises that, Zimbabwe’s most pressing challenges lie in the power and water sectors. Inefficient and unreliable power supply poses major risks to the economy, while the maintenance and upgrading of existing power infrastructure no longer looks to be affordable. At the same time, overhauling the water and sewerage system is imperative for curbing the public health crisis.
Pushak and Briceño-Garmendia further report that, with respect to regional integration, Zimbabwe must improve the condition of the international road corridors that pass through its territory, along with reducing transit costs and transit time, to gain the most from its strategic location in the heart of the southern Africa region and its proximity to the region’s largest economy and trading partner, South Africa.
The country report further warns that, addressing Zimbabwe’s infrastructure challenges will require sustained expenditure of almost
$2 billion per year over the next decade, with heavy emphasis on rehabilitation, while more than half will be needed for the power sector. This overall level of spending would represent 46% of GDP, one of the largest infrastructure burdens for any African country. Investment alone would absorb 31% of GDP, roughly twice the unprecedented infrastructure investment effort made by China during the 2000s. Even if measured in terms of average pre-crisis GDP, the overall infrastructure spending needs would absorb some 30% of GDP.
The point is as Zimbabwe invests in refurbishing its infrastructure and utilities, there will be job creation absorbing the backlog of unemployed youths that has been accumulating from the school system for many years.
But for all this to happen, there has to be political will and commitment. It has to all start and end with Mnangagwa. The arrival of 2019 presents a new opportunity for this government to be innovative and creative, chart new paths and deliver Zimbabwe from the clutches of poverty.
λ Gloria Ndoro-Mkombachoto is an entrepreneur and regional enterprise development consultant. Her experience spans a period of over 25 years. She can be contacted at email@example.com