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Mnangagwa's reform programme steams ahead

28 Apr 2019 at 07:31hrs | Views
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), this writer was asked what reforms President Mnangagwa had undertaken.

The journalist asking the question was reminded that her mere presence in the Ministry of Information (Publicity and Broadcasting Services) offices in Munhumutapa whenever she wanted an interview with authorities in Government was evidence that since the Second Republic, Zimbabwe has turned for the better and was on a progressive trajectory.

Things that used to be anathema in this country are so normal now that most people don't even notice.he journalist asking the question was reminded that her mere presence in the Ministry of Information (Publicity and Broadcasting Services) offices in Munhumutapa whenever she wanted an interview with authorities in Government was evidence that since the Second Republic, Zimbabwe has turned for the better and was on a progressive trajectory.

Neither do they remember.

For a very long time, certain foreign media could not operate in Zimbabwe.

They could only shout from across the Limpopo. Now they have bureaus in this country and still strangely tell the world that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Robert Mugabe's administration are the same, when clearly they are as different as night and day.

Those who were shocked by the width and depth of these reforms initially cried that their policies were being "stolen", but now they have changed their strategy.

They now make shrills purporting that President Emmerson Mnangagwa's reform agenda is a pie in the sky.

They shout on platforms they used to be scared to shout from in the Old Dispensation that nothing has been done to show that we are truly in a New Dispensation!

Surely, there is no poverty of irony in this world.  Some have even gone to the extent of claiming, inexplicably, that the First Republic was better, while the most absurd has been the suggestion that the colonial regime was best.

William Shakespeare in his book "Julius Caesar" lamented the fickleness of the "hoi polloi," (the masses), when it comes to matters political.

However, as President Mnangagwa promised in his first inauguration speech at the National Sports Stadium that afternoon in November 2017, he has hit the ground running on the reform front.

The most poignant point he said in that speech was to acknowledge that Zimbabwe had endured a period of turmoil, which derailed the aspirations of the liberation struggle, either by omission or commission.

He said that "for close to two decades now, this country went through many developments. While we cannot change the past, there is a lot we can do in the present and future to give our nation a different, positive direction."

In that speech, the President declared that "today the Republic of Zimbabwe renews itself. My Government will work towards ensuring that the pillars of the State assuring democracy in our land are strengthened and respected."

All that is being done, whilst some is already done.

New Direction

What was clear then, and clearer today, is that there was need for a departure from the previous administration.

A break with the past.

The need to forge ahead in a new, positive trajectory.

This was the birth of the reform agenda – an agenda to undo and correct past mistakes in the country's socio-economic and political fabric.

An agenda to strengthen past successes, which provide a plinth upon which the New Dispensation is being built.

True to his word, President Mnangagwa, a trained bricklayer, has been laying his reform agenda brick-by-brick.

The manner in which the Second Republic has gone about its reform process has an uncanny resemblance to similar initiatives being undertaken in Ethiopia, where Abiy Ahmed was elected Prime Minister five months after President Mnangagwa.

The Ethiopian premier has opened up the airwaves, privatised under-performing State enterprises, reached out to erstwhile foes internally and externally, reformed the civil service, embraced devolution and retired long-serving securocrats.

The reform process in Ethiopia is a mirror image of what has been happening in Zimbabwe under the New Dispensation.

Zimbabwe is Open for Business.

The only difference between the two states is that one is under debilitating sanctions and the other is not.

The other difference is that in Zimbabwe those who clamour for reforms are the same people that throw their all to take the shine from the lustre of those reforms.

Reframing Relations

Zimbabwe was an international undesirable, a pariah. Our country had become a State living in isolation. President Mnangagwa knew that a country cannot thrive on being hated whilst those who are cheer-leading are fully integrated in the global family of nations.

This was the birth of the engagement and re-engagement policies.

This policy includes re-engaging those countries whose relations with Zimbabwe had gone sideways through tactfully embarking on a charm offensive to re-integrate Zimbabwe into the community of nations under the auspices of the "Zimbabwe is Open for Business" mantra.

This policy maintained relationships with the East and other hitherto friendly nations.

The President ensured that it was communicated that Zimbabwean people had no quarrel with the American or the British people.

There were policy differences between the administrations of the two countries with Zimbabwe, and it was this that had now been internationalised.

Now the approach was no longer about drawing pleasure from being a thorn in the flesh for the geopolitical powers. Zimbabwe was now all about serving its national interests and improving the livelihood of its people.

Populism was shunted out of the door.

The thrust became about Zimbabwe leapfrogging to catch up with its contemporaries and even better them and usher in national prosperity.

Our message and tone on the international front changed. Zimbabwe was now saying it is going to succeed in spite of the sanctions, and not that Zimbabwe was not going to succeed because of the sanctions.

The same countries imposing sanctions against us would rather we talk about something else and never mention this S-word.

This we would very much like to do.

We are just waiting for them to remove them and we will stop mentioning them.


Let's focus a bit on the domestic front.

The political environment is changing, with tolerance being the underpinning motto.

Sadly, in frustration of the President's efforts since assuming leadership of the country, we remain a highly polarised people, especially on social media.

We are in a zone where one side can never do right whilst the other side can never do wrong.

This polarisation is killing our country.

But this is not for want of leadership effort.

Ahead of the 31 July 2018 elections, the President acceded to a host of electoral reforms by the opposition, and even went a step further to allow them to be part of the pre-electoral process, from selection of ballot printers to witnessing the printing of same.

It was unprecedented that the opposition campaigned freely without hindrance in Zanu-PF's rural strongholds.

Biometric Voter Registry (BVR) was fully supported in order to have a clean and assuring election.

Events of 1 August 2018 were quite tragic and unfortunate.

Regardless, President Mnangagwa appointed a true international commission of inquiry, allowed the whole inquiry to be televised, showing his pedigree for both accountability and transparency.

He did not end there.

He personally announced the outcome, published the whole report and put in place an Inter-ministerial Taskforce to drive the implementation agenda.

There is nothing to compare with in the First Republic.

If this is not a reformist leader, then who is?

In the post-election period, the President has been magnanimous in victory.

He initiated and implemented political party dialogue with his presidential rivals in the 31 July 2018 Presidential election, although some who are still caught up in yesteryear toxic politics and election-loss hangover have rebuffed the opportunity.

Tackling Past ills and Devolution

In Zimbabwe, issues don't come more controversial than Gukurahundi.

This vexatious issue and the thorny subject of allegations of marginalisation of the Matabeleland region has remained a touchy theme, threatening the unity of Zimbabweans.

In Zimbabwe, talking about Gukurahundi and Devolution was an abomination.

Zanu-PF had an aversion to devolution, but unbeknown to the rest, President Mnangagwa was a big proponent of this idea.

Zanu-PF turned itself on its head and Devolution was made one of its biggest Election Manifesto themes, and today, its pursuing it with fervour.

Now that's not only reforming one's party, but it's reforming the national mindsets and reforming the country as well.

The position of the First Republic and this position stand at tangents.

The President further showed his commitment to this when Government allocated $31 million per province in the 2019 National Budget to get the ball rolling.

Further, to celebrate this milestone, this year's Independence celebrations were held under the theme "Zimbabwe @39: Embracing Devolution for Vision 2030".

The other highly contentious issue of Gukurahundi was tackled head-on.

Pursuant to addressing the issue, the President has embarked on a two-pronged approach. The first Bill he ever assented to on assuming office was the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill.

This was immediately operationalised and the vacant position of chairperson to the National Healing and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) was filled straight away.

The NPRC was also immediately resourced and they started their independent public hearings.

These public hearings brought together victims and perpetrators alike with a view to mapping the appropriate way to bring closure to the Gukurahundi issue, and indeed other previous unresolved issues which continue to fester today. Secondly, President Mnangagwa has met over 60 civil society organisations (CSOs) under the banner of the Matabeleland Collective, mostly anti-Government, from the affected region, on the same issue.

To date, tangible results of those engagements are being felt with legal re-burials of victims of the Gukurahundi, as well as issuance of death certificates and identity documents for their offspring being issued.

This issue was demystified as public debate was no longer implicitly prohibited after his public proclamation that there was a need for public conversations on this.

The leader of the First Republic's hand is now being sought to make public reports from two previous commissions of inquiry on the subject.

Cabinet Reform

In a bid to modernise Zimbabwe's democracy and get rid of State and party conflation, which had become a cancer that was eating into Zimbabwe's progress, President Mnangagwa re-deployed experienced former ministers to party (Zanu-PF) headquarters, where they are fully employed.

Simultaneously, he appointed a new-look Cabinet made up of technocrats, among them Minister of Finance and Economic Development Prof Mthuli Ncube, Minister of Mines and Mining Development Winston Chitando, Minister of Youth, Sport and Arts Kirsty Coventry, and party cadres to steer the reform agenda.

Under the banner of not leaving anyone behind, for the first time Zimbabwe has both ministers and permanent secretaries appointed directly from the Diaspora. This is a first.

In the Old Dispensation, the Diaspora was viewed with suspicion. However, they are now embraced and asked to lead. This is reform in motion.

Private Sector Inclusion

Cognisant of the need to collectively forge ahead as a country and the need to be a listening leader, President Mnangagwa set up the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), which has in its ranks a cross-section of some of the best independent brains in the country to advise him on the best way to achieve Vision 2030.

This is despite the fact that he has a Politburo at party level, security services and Cabinet at his disposal.

Gender Sensitivity

President Mnangagwa has shown beyond reasonable doubt he is a man who is gender sensitive and is willing to let women take positions of authority.

He appointed Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, the first ever Minister of Defence in Zimbabwe, retained Justice Chigumba as Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson, appointed five Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs, retained Auditor and Comptroller General Mildred Chiri, and recently appointed Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo as Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) chairperson.

Civil Service and Parastatal Reform

The issue of a bloated civil service was one of the key issues that were being cited as one of the major issues that were haemorrhaging the country's fiscus.

Government has since retired redundant manpower, including youth officers, cut down salaries of senior civil servants, in the process of retiring those that have reached the mandatory age of retirement.

Following revelations that 38 out of 93 State-owned enterprises audited in 2016 incurred a combined loss of $270 million as weak corporate governance practices and ineffective control mechanisms took their toll, in November 2018, Government gave Zimpost, TelOne, Telecel, POSB and NetOne six to nine months to privatise.

A further six — including the six subsidiaries of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) — would also be privatised, while 11 (state owned) entities would be merged.

Security Sector Reform

Zimbabwe has done commendably well in this regard.

President Mnangagwa has redeployed those members of the security services who have served their country with distinction to other areas of the establishment to strengthen Zimbabwe's democracy.

These include General Constantino Chiwenga (Rtd), who is now Vice President, Major-General Sibusiso Moyo (Rtd), who is now Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and a host of other eminent sons who have been redeployed to the party and diplomatic service.

He has also permanently retired those members who perpetuated toxic politics of yesteryear, and appointed and elevated other patriotic cadres to replace them.

Political and Media Reform

The principles for the repeal of Aippa that would see the birth of three separate legislation — the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, Data/Information Protection Bill and Freedom of Information Bill — were approved by Cabinet.

The three Bills are a product of a broad-based inclusive consultative process that was done by the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, media players, citizens and the European Union (EU).

Further, the Broadcasting Services Act Amendment Bill is being crafted to align it with the Constitution.

Further, as part of efforts to issue more licences to private players, Government injected US$38 million to speed up the digitalisation process, which will free up more frequencies.

The issue of community radios is another taboo that has been debunked with the allocation of money from the fiscus to support the establishment of these community development drivers. Currently, the Ministry of Home Affairs has gazetted the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill, which is set to repeal the Public Order and Security Act (Posa).

All these efforts are aimed at enhancing Zimbabwe's democracy.

The benefits of this and the difference between the former Act and the proposed draft Bill needs to be done as a separate stand-alone piece.

From the foregoing, it is clear that President Mnangagwa's reform agenda is in full steam.

It is understandable that there will always be those that will peddle a contra narrative.

That is not only a part of democracy, it also part of their own enterprising.

Government bashing is a business that pays a good dividend and more so in this period when our employment has not fully picked up.

Let them eat.

Nick Mangwana is the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services. He wrote this article for The Sunday Mail

Source - sundaymail
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