A Winning Formula: The First 100 Days in Office

November 25th, 2017

Words by Tendai Murisa

9 min read

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Politics and Public Policy

Dear President Mnangagwa,

Congratulations on your elevation to the office of President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. With the country facing such serious economic, political and social challenges, we not only wish you well but hope you be open to new ideas and solutions.

While you probably have your own road map for turning around Zimbabwe, we want to propose ideas based on research that we have carried out and covered in our book aptly titled ‘Beyond the Crises: Prospects for Zimbabwe’s Transformation.  While we have not worked within government, our extensive experience working in Africa, has taught us one or two important lessons about how to deal with social and economic change.

We have divided our letter into two sections- the first section discusses the principles and values you will need to consider embracing and the second section focuses mainly on sector specific recommendations.

The Zimbabwean people have suffered enough over the last decade that they need sustainable evidence based solutions, not just short lived and opportunistic reform.

As you appreciate, your elevation to power could be a watershed moment for the country at large. There is an opportunity to re-engage with the international community and tap into “goodwill” that has come with this political transition. Whilst this is important, this goodwill alone cannot be the cornerstone for Zimbabwe’s restoration to a prosperous nation. The decisions you take from your inauguration day will determine both the duration of the goodwill but the extent to which any ‘goodwill partners’ will be prepared provide support recovery programme.

We hope you will take these suggestions on board as you move forward.

Your decisions must be undergirded by principles and values of:

Inclusiveness

The events that led to your ascendancy to power are unprecedented in the country, but one thing that emerged from last week’s event is that there are two undisputable power blocks; the army and the citizens watching over you. The citizens have tasted victory and will not need persuasion to exercise their democratic right of removing you from power. The army may look like your friends for now but they also need reassurance that the sacrifice they made was worth it.

Inclusiveness and unity of purpose was demonstrated by the Zimbabwean citizens in their contribution to the process of bringing about the change that has brought us to this potential dawn of a new era and it would not only be progressive but unifying for you to recognize this gesture as you go about setting your agenda for the nation.

Now is the time for a transitional government of national unity that is inclusive of all major political parties and even technocrats from the private sector and civil society. There is a zeitgeist around turning around the economy and creating a new set of political values and this will depend a lot on your choice of cabinet members. We recognize that you are probably already under immense pressure from your own party and maybe tempted to use your predecessor’s patronage tactics. While this may work in the short term, it could be your undoing in the long run. Zimbabwe needs a new kind of leadership that embraces differences as a sign of strength and allows for diversity of thought. You do not need “Yes men (or women)” but instead an inclusive structure that demonstrates the diversity of Zimbabwe.

If, however you and ZANU (PF) make the decision to go it alone as the ruling party then remember, the constitution dictates that elections must be held within seven months. This will mean you will have to juggle the pressures of rescuing an economy and political campaigning.  Instead, if you choose the transitional GNU route, the country can focus on rebuilding hope, and confidence in the economy of our country, ultimately paving the way for an environment that sets a better foundation for any future democratic electoral process.

Respect for Democratic Principles and Human Rights

Zimbabweans have tasted victory and will not allow you or anyone else to trample on their rights. The country belongs to all of us and your role is to ensure exactly that.  As a lawyer, you do not need reminding that power rests with the people and they have delegated authority to you to govern, but if at any point you violate that trust, they will withdraw their authority. You have one choice sir as expressed in your speech …to serve the people of Zimbabwe.

In your homecoming speech, you spoke of a new democratic order which we all applauded and hope is not political grandstanding. The country had sunk to new lows and the level of fear and paranoia is not constructive. Mr. President; people being arrested for booing the first lady or retweeting that Mugabe is old- that nonsense must end now.

Instead, Zimbabweans need the assurance from your office that they have a right to speak their minds, have the freedom of association and be allowed to raise some tough questions to office holders without the fear of reprisals. Whilst yours’ sir is the highest office in the land, it purpose is to serve every citizen.

High Levels of Accountability

The occupation of political office has since independence been associated with the accumulation of unexplainable riches to an extent that there is huge loathing of government elites amongst the citizens. Many citizens would like to see an end to corruption and this Mr. President could be your moment to shine. It is an unenviable task given the fact that you may have to arrest some of your colleagues in government but we urge that you find ways of increasing the cost of corruption and fast-tracking corruption related cases.  Corruption has been a cancer that is sucking life out of our country and the quicker you act, the more confident we will be of your leadership. The rest of the world is watching you Mr. President to see if you will indeed be tough on corruption. Why not borrow a leaf from the anti-corruption measures being implemented in Nigeria and in Tanzania?

Accessibility

Zimbabweans need a leader who is accessible and part of their everyday lives.  They have had enough of aloof elites that live behind layers of security and only seen on TV living a life of luxury.

Please consider joining social media platforms to better communicate with the younger generation as well as being prepared to engage them actively in live and face to face forums.  Let them know you are listening to their opinions, reassure them that their voice matters and there are public forum for them contribute to the debates and decision making process.

Live within your means

Mr. President we do not need to you remind that the country is broke. We urge that you keep a tight lead on government spending. No new cars please- use what your predecessor used. Keep cabinet small as well- do not buy them new cars even though portfolios have changed. Please limit foreign travel- we need you on the ground resolving issues.

Here are the sector specific recommendations for your first 100 days:

Cash Shortages

Please give Zimbabweans an early Christmas present. One of the most painful images about our country is of people sleeping in the cold in front of a bank waiting for a cash. Yes running a country maybe tough but this is a new low. As you already know we have three effective currencies; RTGS, Bond Notes and the real US dollar. The RTGS (just figures in the bank) is the weakest of the three and that’s what many have.  Your ascendancy into office has seen some realignment in terms of the rates and even activities on the ZSE, suggesting that maybe the market has some confidence in you.  Please don’t waste that confidence, put together some of our best minds around this issue and ensure its resolved by Christmas. Your ‘fellow Zimbabweans’ cannot continue like this. We cannot prescribe the solution but please make sure that whatever you prioritize this matter is resolved as soon as possible.

Creation of Jobs

Unemployment in our country is a big problem and will need some bold decisions. Infrastructure projects such as the building of roads tend to increase the number of jobs in the market. Industrialists have also for long been calling for a facility to help resuscitate industry. It is in this regard that we urge you to have the right people heading Finance and Economic Development, Industry and Foreign Affairs portfolios. We cannot just assume that direct foreign investment (FDI) is going to be the panacea for all our economic problems-that is such a 1980s framework which does not recognize the changing context of the global economy. You and your team will have to identify strategies of creating jobs and where possible promote Zimbabwe enterprises by ensuring that they have access to adequate financing and removing of the bureaucratic hurdles that hamper entrepreneurship, especially for young graduates.

Key Drivers of the Economy: Agriculture and Mining

We suppose that you do not need further convincing about the role of agriculture and mining in terms of driving economic growth but instead we identify some of the issues that need your urgent attention:

Agriculture: Resolve Land and Agrarian Reform Issues

Please carry out a public land audit (your predecessor had a penchant for sitting on reports that he was not comfortable with). We urge that you make a call for all those with multiple farms to voluntarily surrender them to government and retain one. The land audit should be done by an independent auditing firm.

Priority should be given to resolve the outstanding land tenure issues in fast track farms. We have not seen substantial investments by the private sector into agriculture mainly because of the lack of clarity on tenure. Government will have to finalize consultations with the financial services sector and reach consensus on the most viable form of tenue. Government must also consider deracializing land ownership, white and black Zimbabweans deserve the same economic opportunities and both should be able to apply for A2 farms. Finally, the government should continue the Agriculture Subsidy Program (please find another name for it- command sounds very Soviet Unionish)

Mining

Whilst Zimbabwe is richly endowed with high value minerals of all kinds the benefits thereof has not been widely shared. Your government will have to address the following

  • Agree on a financial model which ensures that the revenues accrued from mining are utilized in Zimbabwe. Why not explore Norway’s sovereign wealth fund as a potential model?
  • Aggressively pursue mineral beneficiation to unlock value from our mineral base and create jobs in the mining value chain. Admittedly the old ZANU had this as part of the plan but as you are aware there was slow pace on the implementation. Your task will be made easier if you created a unit within your office responsible for monitoring implementation.
  • Address illicit financial flows- the different studies that we have seen have shown that the current multinational dominated mining sector is designed in such a way to allow for the illicit movement of finances from the continent through trade mispricing, tax evasion and avoidance. We need an urgent commission to plug the holes of illicit financial flows.

Social Service Delivery

This is where we do not envy you Mr. President!

Zimbabwe, once a country with some of the best social indicators in Africa, has seen a sharp increase in child and maternal mortality.  Diseases like typhoid and cholera have become endemic, and poor water quality and sanitation remain looming public health crises. Our education standards, once the pride of the continent, have fallen drastically. Struggling parents have borne the burden of keeping their children in school and often failing to get them beyond primary education.

Our social service delivery regime has all but literally collapsed and ordinary people are paying the price.  That is why it is critical that the political arm of Government, especially Ministers and members of the Executive, “live within your means’.

By curtailing government overhead expenditure around new cars and avoiding unnecessary expenses, you could have some real money to plug the holes. We also urge you to personally champion dialogue between government, multi-lateral aid agencies (especially the UN family), bi-laterals and private philanthropy.

Local Government and Service Delivery

This is literally the lowest hanging fruit for your government. There is need for a radical change in the approach and attitude of both central government and local authorities to stop abusing their power. Issues related to local government space are being played out in a purely partisan grand standing way that represent the political divide between the ruling party (represented by the Minister) and the opposition who by and large control the local councils.

There is room for these authorities to improve on service delivery- their collection of rates improved significantly from 2009 but for too long, their priority was paying themselves. Some of the highest paid public officers are now in local authorities.

You need to read the riot act, even fire some incompetent officers and demand improvements in the following areas:

  • Annual Audits of Council Finances
  • Waste collection
  • Water supply
  • Maintenance of roads
  • Improving rolling out of serviced stands for those on the housing waiting list
Foreign Policy-Re: Engagement and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

The point has been made- Zimbabwe is a sovereign country and land has been redistributed. It’s time to move on. We would urge that your Presidency is characterized by re-engagement with former foes based on principles and one of them being that there will be no going back on land reform.  This is an important step that cannot be undone.

We would urge your government to consider compensation of former farm owners and where possible accommodate new farmers on the newly resized farms. There are already indications that some in the international community are ready to re-engage but they will need you to demonstrate leadership on the following:

  • A commitment to a road map on elections
  • Respect for human rights
  • Clarity on indigenization policies and property rights

While reengagement with international partners will be important, the road map ultimately must be determined by the best interests of the country and its people.

We hope you will listen to the many Zimbabweans, here and abroad, who are eager to re-engage in the country and solve the challenges we face.  As outlined, we believe that if you start by upholding the key values outlined above, and focus on the immediate priorities laid out, you will do a great service to the country in this period of transition.