MNANGAGWA'S FIRST SEVEN DAYS IN OFFICE
...Is Mnangagwa the Moses we have been waiting for?
THERE is a tradition that was started in America where a new President promises voters during the campaign trail on what he or she would do in the first 100 days of their presidency. When they win, their performance within those days is reviewed against the pledges they made for those 100 days. This tradition has spilt over to the rest of the world including in Zimbabwe. However, in our case, the inauguration of a new president last week following a 37-year-old Mugabe rule, a hundred days is too long for us, to review the progress of President Emerson Mnangagwa.
We cannot wait for 100 days because our expectation level will have gone down as we are a nation which thrives on expectation. The people had lost everything, including their own dignity, and now they are anxious just to see the direction of change, never mind the pace of that change. If only we can get the sense of promise and hope, even with as little action as possible, we are fine with that. For now.
After 37 years, we are a nation torn between two opposing forces, one is a force of doubt and another is a force of impatience. We doubt because of the institution that Mnangagwa represents (Zanu PF). The majority of Zimbabweans will agree with me that what we need to see in the country is a complete overhaul of Zanu PF from the government because of how they turned a once thriving economy to a breadbasket case but we are stuck with them and therefore need to make the most out of what we have. It is, therefore, no surprise that we doubt E.D can take us to Canaan because of the institution he represents.
Naturally, Zimbabweans are sceptical about what to expect from the president mainly because he was Mugabe's close confidant who was often referred to as his blue-eyed boy and heir apparent for over 50 years. This scepticism is made deeper by some of the statements and utterances that used to be made by the President when he was Vice President praising the failed policies and leadership of the now former president Mugabe.
It is then no surprise that Zimbabweans are watching his every move closely because, after Mugabe, the citizens will never tolerate another dictator.
In Mnangagwa, Zimbabweans have high expectations that whatever went wrong in the past 37 years will be rectified in this new dispensation. It is therefore important for Mnangagwa to be careful about what he is seen to be doing. He has an opportunity to reset the button of hope for the people of Zimbabwe. A big advantage he has is Mugabe had been so bad that there can’t be anything worse ED could do that the country has not seen before. Whatever his weaknesses, there are indications that he has attributes that were absent in Mugabe: He listens and wants to take action; he is focused on results; he is not attracted to grandstanding. He does not have to throw his weight around just to prove that he is the president.
Ngwena, as he is fondly referred to by his supporters has been presented with a Damascan opportunity to redeem himself of the tags associated with him such as the Gukurahundi genocide and politically motivated violence against the opposition. While we do have so many doubting Thomases on account of that past, there are so many people who are prepared to give the man a chance, and let him prove himself that he really wants the change he mentioned in his statement from exile directed at Mugabe just before the military takeover.
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
This old epic Western Clint Eastwood movie by this title was a favourite movie my father used to watch. I want to borrow its title for the sake of my analysis of Mnangagwa in the first seven days. I will attempt to analyze his first seven days according to the three categories
One of the most important things in politics is not just what you do, but what you are seen to be doing and in that regard, Ngwena has managed to tick some of the right boxes in the quest to revive the legacy of the country which president Julius Nyerere once referred to as a jewel of Africa.
Mnangagwa has not had time to start acting on policy implementation. But he has already signalled in his inaugural address his intention to open the doors for investment in Zimbabwe. He wants to revive the economy and to create, in his own words, jobs job, jobs. Already an instruction has been given to re-visit the indigenization policy that has been holding back foreign investors. ED realizes that in this day and age a country cannot prosper in isolation. Under Mugabe, we had become a pariah state like North Korea. We were out of the Commonwealth, shunned by the Bretton Woods institutions and our only friends were those with repressive regimes like ours. That is set to change. ED has signalled that Zimbabwe is open for business.
I give that a very big tick and put it in the Good category.
Managing for Performance:
In the first week in office, the President held a meeting with all the Permanent Secretaries of Ministries. This meeting is significant in the sense that, permanent secretaries are the Chief executive officers of their ministries and as such are the executors of policies on behalf of Government. This is no doubt a good move which will endear people to him as he is demonstrating a willingness to go beyond to policy into implementation and give a handshake between policy and implementation.
This reminds one of Magufuli, President of Tanzania, who started going around inspecting Government projects and establishments and rolling his sleeves to the point of even soiling his hands with mud soon after his inauguration. But then again this is not new for the hard working Ngwena. We all saw the manner in which he handled the Command Agriculture which however was denigrated by the likes of Jonathan Moyo. He would go down to the ground and meet some farmers involved in this project.
Another thing that makes this meeting symbolic is that it must have sent a message to the Permanent Secretaries that Government business is important for the change in fortunes of Zimbabwe as is the private sector. It also marks a change as Mugabe probably never did it in his 37 years of rule, preferring to shield his precious office with bodyguards and sirens to prove to all, including himself, that he was the President.
Financial frugality: the Zanu PF Congress
Mnangagwa is reported to have turned down an invitation to the inauguration of Uhuru Kenyatta in Kenya due to financial constraints. Mugabe would never have missed an opportunity to fly out, to the point of even shamelessly attending some low-level meetings at which he turned out to be the only Head of State.
There are some unconfirmed reports that the President is settling for a smaller ML as his official car instead of the fuel guzzler that Mugabe was using.
These small things may seem to mean little, but these are the things that endear leaders to their people.
Fight Against Corruption
It is obvious that Ngwena is determined to uproot out corruption in Zimbabwe. The fact that Ignatius Chombo is in jail is a step in the right direction. Whether Chombo often referred to as 'Whitehead' is in jail because he is G40 is neither here nor there. It is common knowledge the man is corrupt. It does appear like there are no sacred cows.
Secondly, the order to grant 3 months amnesty for the return of illegally externalized funds and assets is a clear expression of intent. He is signalling warning shots to the corrupt that," we will come after you".
However, while this falls into the category of the good, I want to qualify that it is a “good start”. More needs to be seen taking place in the fight against corruption. But unless and until another corrupt big fish fall, it will be easy to conclude that Whitehead is not suffering because he is corrupt, but because he is G40. There are a lot of corruption files linked to the collapse of the economy, as they relate to Ziscosteel, Power Utility ZESA, Hwange Colliery, Air Zimbabwe, with the mother of all of them being Chiadzwa and Marange as well as the missing 15 billion revenue realised from diamonds.
This could move from being the good into the bad category.
The trimming of the Cabinet from 42 to 33 is a step in the right direction. We now have 22 Cabinet ministers, 1 minister of State where we previously had 5, 10 provincial ministers and 6 deputy ministers. This will no doubt have a positive impact on the budget and on service delivery because the number of ministers has been reduced by 11 while deputy ministers have been reduced by 22.
Declaring a Mugabe Day
The kind of spirit which possessed ED when he gazetted the 22nd of February which happens to be Mugabe's birthday a national holiday is one which needs an urgent exorcism. How can one whom we have pinned all our hopes on expect us to be celebrating the dictator? This is nothing short of rubbing salt into the wounds of suffering Zimbabweans. Honestly! Who did he consult before embarking on such a decision? In my understanding, a national day should be one where people feel a sense of acknowledgement and can we honestly say that er would like to celebrate Mugabe after all is said and done? Perhaps there is something we don't see here but in the absence of an explanation, that's how we feel.
This is the dictatorship we are trying to shake off. Mnangagwa chooses to forget that if Mugabe had succeeded in arresting him after he was fired, we'd probably be talking about a different thing right now. Who is Ngwena trying to pacify? Is it his godfather Mugabe or the nation of Zimbabwe which he pledged allegiance to when he took the oath of office last week? This makes us doubt if things have really changed or they are just the same as in the Mugabe dictatorial era. It is enough that he has given Mugabe amnesty given his age and his contributions to the liberation struggle. What we have problems with is celebrating the man by declaring his birthday a national holiday. Pleeeeez! The 10 million golden handshake he got is enough, let's leave it there Mr President Sir!
Now we hear that ED has invited Mpoko back saying that nothing will happen to him upon his return in spite of all he has done. Really, Mr President? Is ED sending the message that he is going to be above the law like his predecessor who had a way of protecting criminals? Mpoko must face the full wrath of the law for all he has done including going to the police station ordering the release of his criminal comrades caught on the wrong side of the law. The parameters on which the president can protect politicians against the law should be looked into going forward. Otherwise, let’s see the same invitation is extended to Jonathan Moyo to come back home and tell him he will be safe.
Mind your language
If Ngwena is to succeed where his predecessor failed, he needs to adopt a different style of leadership from Mugabe and Zanu PF where they felt entitled to the people's support.
The tables have turned and so must the music and dance steps. The president needs to be gravitating in the trajectory of nationalism and inclusivity but the events surrounding his arrival in Harare on 22 November 2017, leaves a lot to be desired. Firstly upon his arrival, he headed for Zanu PF headquarters as if the party.
This move collaborated with the careless statements made by the Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa who described the uprising in the last few days prior to Mugabe's resignation as a Zanu PF thing an not a national issue. This was after the whole nation had come together in protests to bring Mugabe's rue to an end. The opposition and civil society also participated in these protests and rendered support to the 75-year-old president who chose his party headquarters for his maiden speech up his return from exile.
Secondly, his speech read like a script taken from Mugabe's manual of hate speech which is not only undemocratic but divisive. He proceeded to chant the popular Zanu PF slogans pasi ne mhandu! While this may be taken to mean general enemies, it does not foster an environment of inclusivity.
I put these events in the Bad category, for want of a word lying somewhere between good and bad. It’s a shade of grey.
I am just sticking to the title of the movie “The good, the Bad and the Ugly”, but in all fairness, I don’t have anything in this category. Depending on one’s perspective, some of the things in the Bad category could be in the Ugly category, but neither of these two boxes is desirable.
The Cabinet appointed on 30 November is nothing short of an anticlimax for Ngwena who seemed started off well. Other than being trimmed, it has some dead wood and some of the same people who presided over the demise of the country under the leadership of Mugabe.People expected to see new blood but Mnangagwa's cabinet does nothing to instil confidence in the nation. One would have loved to see the emergence of technocrats appointed on the basis of merit instead we saw the appointment of securocrats and recycled deadwood.
The appointments also go a long way in redressing some of the good things that seemed to be coming from Ngwena over the past seven days. For instance, he is seen to be taking a stance of corruption by arresting corrupt men like Chombo but with the other hand, he retains men like Obert Mpofu who was head of the mining ministry and is said to have benefitted from corrupt dealings during his time as the Minister at the expense of the country. It is highly disappointing that such a man has been made a Minister of home affairs.
The appointment of securocrats like Major General Sibusiso Moyo and Air Marshall Perrance Shiri to the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement respectively speak volumes. This can be seen as a militarization of the government which does not augur well with the tenets of democracy. It also sends conflicting messages out there. For instance what meaning can be derived from having a military man being in charge of Foreign Affairs. Is this something that can encourage foreign direct investment which the country so badly needs?
What message are we also putting across by appointing yet another military man to the Agriculture which we all know is the backbone of the economy? Probably he is trying to say the land will be protected by the military. After all, we all know that Zimbabwe will never be a colony again! Mugabe made sure that every Zimbabwean even those who are yet to be born understood this. Maybe ED is rewarding them for the role they played in his ascendancy to power. Only ED and his God know why.
The retention of the unpopular Lazarus Dokora to the education ministry is a slap in the face as the man is believed to have reversed the gains made by his predecessor David Coltart. This is a man who just recently said that school fees could now be paid using goats and that teachers should start wearing uniforms. This is also the guy responsible for sending circulars among poor teachers forcing them to contribute to Zanu PF activities like rallies and lavish birthday parties.
Just last year, he enforced rules forcing school pupils to recite a national pledge giving swearing allegiance to the national flag and the spirits of the dearly departed liberation heroes at the expense of their religious beliefs which are clearly provided for in the constitution. In short, Dokora has failed to provide any solutions to turn around the educational system. It really comes as a surprise that ED would be comfortable in seeing such a man continue to head such an important ministry.
So, I am resisting the temptation to put the cabinet appointments in the boxes above, as the cabinet announcements were made when this article was already finalized for release. I take the view that there may be a reasoning behind the President’s appointments that we are not privy to from where we stand. But is our business to tell the President how these appointments are interpreted and seen by the people. For something that was so anxiously awaited, it is an anticlimax.
Perhaps the fact that they are starting as underdogs is the very antidote this group needed to prove us wrong. Let’s watch them prove all of us wrong.
And, By the way
I see that Jonathan Moyo is back on Twitter, and tweeting from somewhere. He is still defiant as ever, challenging the President to start the clean up on corruption with himself and the Army. I wonder if that is being smart. I for one wouldn’t do it. My common sense would tell me it’s not wise.
Oh, I just heard that Ignatius Chombo is asking, through his lawyer, that he be released and he is willing to resign from politics and go farming and back to teaching. Well, all I can say is that I have faith in our Judiciary, and if he is not guilty of corruption, he has nothing to worry about, as he will soon be a free man to practice his newly acquired hobby in Farming. Just as soon as he explains how he acquired all that wealth that Miriam Chombo so graciously shared with the nation in her Divorce court applications.
Hats off to James Maridadi, MP for Mabvuku. He is indeed a breath of fresh air, not only is he articulate but he is a brave man who calls it as he sees it. When the news about Mugabe's possible impeachment reached fever pitch, he reminded us that he had moved a motion for Mugabe's impeachment way before his party had ditched him but was, however, the motion was shot down by Zanu PF stalwarts. Only for them to flip-flop and move an impeachment on the very same grounds.So what has changed now?Or is it a case of puppies not opening their eyes at the same time? Zimbabwe needs people who make decisions based on facts and principles.