LOSING presidential candidate and Alliance for the People’s Agenda (APA) leader Nkosana Moyo (NM) says President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Cabinet have shown that they have no idea how to run the country. He told our senior report Obey Manayiti (OM) last week that the socio-economic problems facing the country would serve as a warning for people to vote wisely in future. Below are excerpts.
The big interview BY OBEY MANAYITI
OM: Zimbabwe is in a crisis at the moment. There is a crackdown against opposition figures, their supporters and ordinary citizens. What is your take on the situation prevailing in the country?
NM: To some extent the crisis is not new. it has been with us since Zanu PF has been running this country. I think what we need to interrogate a bit more is what has happened since the coup in November of 2017. What was presented to the world at that point is a then a united Zimbabwe which was given space to express itself as a population. There was incredible unity demonstrated internally by all sectors of society, to demonstrate against what has been going on, but we need now to take a pause and ask ourselves: So what has happened since 12 months ago? At that time we saw the demonstration where virtually there was no police around, but nobody, not one person reported either an injury, violence or looting. Fast-forward to today, people go out there and attempt to communicate with their government to say we are suffering and we want to express ourselves as happened in November so that you can do something about it, and the response that the population receives is brutality. We need to pause and take stock of this. These are the same people who said it’s a new dispensation.
Like I said, the crisis has been in the making for a long time, way beyond the past 12 months, but what people were expecting is that this last period since November 2017, in this new dispensation, people expected something being done about this crisis and clearly nothing has been done.
OM: President Emmerson Mnangagwa came into power first in November 2017 and then in September 2018 after being declared the winner of the July 30 presidential poll by the Constitutional Court. Do you think he has the capacity? Is he the right man for the job?
NM: On the basis of the evidence in front of us and in front of the population, the answer must be no. I am not making a statement about President Mnangagwa as a human being. I am making it as an assessment of what you and I see on the street. Life has not improved, but not only that, the more worrisome thing is that nothing is being done that makes sense. And nothing that is being done has been done in a manner that seeks firstly to mobilise the support of Zimbabweans so that they understand what the game plan is. Things are being imposed on them whereas what we expected from a leadership that understands how to make people tighten their belts is that you make them see the plan and explain it. What we are seeing is an imposition of something that has not been presented or debated to the people and what does that mean? You cannot execute a turnaround plan and not explain to the people for them to understand the nature of the plan and the time frames involved to withstand this pain before things get better.
OM: Transitional Stabilisation Programme, a raft of austerity measures being implemented by the government. Do you think this is going to work? Is this the right prescription for our problems?
NM: Let’s say I am going to build a house and the components of building a house include a foundation and a roof but you and I would intuitively understand that the sequencing of this plan is important for the project to be successful. That is not what is happening here. It’s not enough to identify the components of what needs to be done, it is also incredibly important to understand the sequencing in order for a successful project to be executed.
Zimbabweans have suffered a deteriorating economy over the past four decades. The outcomes of that as we know are that there is very high unemployment level well above 80%. This means Zimbabweans have no means of making a livelihood at any level that can be considered to be satisfactory. On the one side you have a population whose purchasing power has been severely undercut. On the other side you have an economy whose factories have closed down because of the conditions in the country and we have said we want to revive the economy, attract investment in the country. When you revive an economy, the basis on which you make an investment in a particular geography is based on a demand for the goods that you are going to sell. If there is no demand you cannot invest and make money, you will invest and lose all your money. If you are going to invest in an economy where the people already have a diminished ability to buy, you need to make sure that you don’t make it worse by increasing taxes. When Mthuli Ncube took over, we have seen them further undermining Zimbabweans’ ability to buy. So it follows therefore that when an investor looks at a business case for investing in Zimbabwe, the observation is that there are no people who are going to buy, therefore, there is no need to build a factory in Zimbabwe.
OM: So the government is taking a wrong path?
NM: They are not sequencing in the right order and what that leads to logically is that you begin to doubt if they understands or whether they are being honest in terms of their intentions. Mthuli Ncube is a professor and he is not stupid, so the question has to be asked on why he is doing this. Why is someone like Mthuli participating in something that is irrational?
OM: What is your assessment of Mthuli Ncube as a Finance minister so far?
NM: I don’t want to judge people on the basis of who they are. I am saying to you let’s understand the evidence. I have explained that if one needs to invest, they look at the capacity of people to buy. We have a government which wants investors to come but they are starting off by depriving this market of the ability to buy which means investors cannot come to Zimbabwe.
OM: So the question remains, is he the right man for the job?
NM: The evidence will seem to imply that both the President and his Cabinet, broadly speaking, do not know what they are doing.
OM: What would you have done differently, suppose you had the chance?
NM: What are the problems that have brought us to where we are? I think answering that question requires us to go a little bit back. Close to 40 years we have been fed that Zimbabwe has been destroyed by sanctions. Firstly, the sanctions were put because we took over our farms but the manner in which we did that, of killing people is the one that called for sanctions. We need to understand that sanctions were applied to Zimbabwe but we need to understand why they were applied. When you take an action you must assess how other people are going to react. If you are not strong enough don’t do things that are going to make you killed unless if you believe in martyrdom. A leader has a right to decide on martyrdom on behalf of the whole population. So we need to understand that President Mugabe’s methodology of implementing land redistribution was not smartly thought-out and that is why sanctions were applied.
Secondly, in my opinion what has destroyed Zimbabwe is not sanctions even as I concede that sanctions by their nature are meant to hurt but we need to understand they were applied in aptitude of our lack of strategic thinking. More importantly this country has been destroyed by us as Zimbabweans and not by sanctions and two elements in particular — corruption which is at the top of this administration and assembling the best brains in Cabinet. We don’t believe for whatever reason that we must assemble our best team. We don’t have the best team yet we think we can still go to compete and win, something is wrong in our thinking. That is what I call meritocracy, which means you form a team that is based on the talent and experience available to you but we seem to do the opposite.
OM: You spoke about sanctions not being the problem. This comes at a time when there is a crusade campaigning against the sanctions. Don’t you risk going against the grain on this one?
NM: I never said sanctions must not be removed. I said the reason why this country is on its knees has nothing to do with the sanctions primarily.
Secondly, a lot of the reasons which have been given for the renewal of sanctions have got a lot to do with human rights. Why can’t we remove that? It doesn’t need money. We want re-engagement with the world, we want sanctions to be removed and we have been told the conditions like human rights and freedom of association, but yet we still kill people on the streets.
OM: On the crackdown, what do you think about the picture that we have portrayed to the outside world? Are people going to take Zimbabwe seriously?
NM: The fact is we used an army to go and kill people and this is a fact, therefore, the world has seen the reality. There are all sorts of images circulating of people who have been shot and brutalised. This is fact and that is what the investors have seen. If you are an investor and coming to invest in a space like this, the likelihood of you investing in an environment where the government does not respect its people is high. Again we are shooting ourselves in the foot.
OM: And the idea of shutting down the internet, what is your take on that?
NM: Everywhere in the world there are people who abuse the internet. You have to find ways of regulating these things in a more acceptable way in this day and age and not shutting it down. This country’s communication infrastructure is very patchy and a number of people who were inconvenienced are not the ones who were abusing the internet.
OM: President Mnangagwa has expressed willingness to work with other stakeholders. Are you willing to work with him?
NM: Why does he want to do that? It is only in September that was he inaugurated and he has a majority in Parliament. What exactly is stopping him from running the country? We need to understand his agenda?
OM: Do you have a role to play in the country to ease the situation in the country?
NM: No, again you are going against what democracy is. The people chose a particular individual, party and a particular programme and elections are supposed to come after every five years. When the five years comes, hopefully the population will have experienced success or failure and then act accordingly. When you say do you have a role, you are now mudding the waters, you are confusing the process. The focus is to continuously hold them to account on the basis of the promises they made. The debate now should be President Mnangagwa you promised such and such things and why is that not happening? Now he is denying that there is violence and yet people are dying. People must go and ask him. There is a framework of how democracy works?
OM: Given everything that you have explained, what is the possible way forward for Zimbabwe?
NM: Between now and 2023, people should continue expressing their discomfort to the government of the day which they chose. As a citizen I will tell you that the government is doing the wrong things. They have no clue on what they are doing. On the engagement with the rest of the world, if you promise that we are going to be different, the other countries will then ask you to demonstrate the difference. The government now needs to be clear and demonstrate that what they are saying and what they are doing is one thing. If you say Zimbabwe is open for business but you haven’t dealt with corruption and hiring competent people, there is violence everyday then the world will ask if you are the new dispensation.