Nick Mangwana View from the Diaspora
President Mnangagwa will soon complete his first 100 days in office. For the first time in Zimbabwe’s political history, that will be taken as a milestone. The first 100 days is a standard of excellence used by an executive to set out the right strategic priorities and stay focussed on them.
This is used in the corporate world as well as in the American presidency’s term. Maybe it could have been used in Zimbabwe a long time ago if Zimbabwe had been in the habit of changing its leaders. But if a country is recycling its leadership then what difference is a hundred days in this term compared to one in the last term?
President Mnangagwa has used the First 100 days as a benchmark for his presidency and those have just gone past. So this week, it makes sense to write a little bit about that concept as well as comment on the first 100 days of the new dispensation, achievements and where it could do things differently.
As a The iconic Boston Consulting Group (BCG) did a paper on the first 100 days in office and defined that period as very critical for any incoming leader to establish and cement their credibility and reputation. The new Zimbabwean leadership has used it to send the signals of what the new direction would look like.
The first 100 days is when a leader identifies the recipes and starts to gather the ingredients they need to prepare the nation’s menu. This means that they will use that to identify and set priorities, set an agenda, assemble a coherent team, identify where the resources for that agenda will come from and fuel the cooking that will follow. But there is always a problem if the 100 day message is not articulated well.
This is because the hungry family will be expecting that their hunger should go in those 100 days. So for you to turn around and say well the 100 days was for identifying what we are going to cook, what we need and how we are going to cook it would appear like you are running away from taking responsibility for failing to deliver as well as shifting goalposts.
So when these goalposts are set up it is important to manage people’s expectations. Credit should be given to Mr George Charamba who tried to do that by making it clear that there will be no economic turnaround in 100 days. He warned against generating “a crisis of expectation”.
He further said doing a copy and paste of American concepts into the Zimbabwean context is kind of foolhardy as what is applicable to the realities of an almighty US economy and moribund Zimbabwean economy cannot be the same. Regardless of Mr Charamba’s timely intervention expectations continued to run wild, but the beauty is that it was almost matched by performance.
ED’s 100 days to set a new culture of governance. It defined a new way of doing things, a new democracy and new ethos. He established the tone for the new dispensation by cleansing the nation of politics of hate of yesteryear and all the other toxic diatribes that were the order of the day. Instead of focussing on political survival the new priority became service delivery.
The very first day of inauguration, the opposition leadership were treated as major stakeholders in the nation’s affairs. They were invited and treated with dignity in line with their offices as people that commanded some following among the Zimbabwean population. That gesture alone though taken for granted by a lot of people was to a keen observer instructive.
It is that same tone that saw Mr Tsvangirai receiving a visit from President Mnangagwa at his house and promises being made to alleviate the family from financial challenges such as medical bills, which we later learnt ran into millions of South African rands.
The rest of the political detox gestures are well known, including the helping hand at the funeral. Zimbabwe’s political body had just been flushed of its poison and set on a footing of National Healing.
Straight from taking and signing an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, the President signed into law the Act that enabled the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission to start doing its job. Those who had waited for over three decades to get some closure from our past conflicts were set on the pathway to achieving that in less than 100 days of a new leader taking office. Before then just demonstrating about this subject would be met with wrath. Other things were also taking place on the international front.
Zimbabwe has been isolated for a long time. Part of the substantive agenda for the new Government was to end that isolation and bring the country into the fold of the community of nations.
Those that doubted the wisdom of appointing a former Army General to the post of top diplomat were soon confounded as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade proved that he was more than up to the task. He broke so many seemingly insurmountable barriers and built ostensibly impossible bridges.
Diplomats and emissaries are all now beating their paths in a rush to interface with the new administration, which has already established a good reputation and international goodwill.
Those who doubted its commitment to democratic ethos were shocked by the announcement that it has nothing to hide. Those who want to come and observe Zimbabwe’s elections are free to do so. Those that once questioned the bonafides of the new era were left reeling. It had set the modulation for its credibility and staked its reputation.
Failing to manage expectations is setting oneself to failure. Domestically the new leadership was not given a honeymoon. Stakeholders wanted a baby straight away. People wanted to feel the impact of the new era by accessing money in their banks.
And as long as prices continued to run riot and money was not easily accessible in banks all these success stories would mean nothing to Zimbabweans as they don’t directly feel them. People might get jobs in Mashava or even Kadoma and Chegutu with the production that has started at David Whitehead and all the other jobs created by the mines opening all over the country.
But those in Harare townships are not getting these jobs, therefore, these positive developments are far removed from them. So, as long as the two measures of money in the bank and low consumer price index are not directly impacting on people’s challenging livelihoods all the success stories will count for little because perception always trumps substance, for some strange reason.
Sending people to prison was achievable in 100 days. In that vein one might suggest that ideally someone with a high profile should have been arrested, arraigned before the courts, convicted and imprisoned from corruption. As of now the feeling and perception is that Anti-Corruption crusade is a smart political tool to spite political rivals.
But like mentioned before the 100 days are not meant to be the success story, but a roadmap to success. It involved a lot of policy rethinking and reframing. It also laid a clear foundation that the leadership style has changed from an insular and inaccessible leadership to an open and accessible style that is almost flat in structure.
If this columnist was to criticise the 100 days of President Mnangagwa’s Government, it is its failure to harmonise a lot of the outstanding unaligned laws. That also should have included new legislation that clearly defines the distinct difference between the New Dispensation and the old one. There is well documented repressive legislation which remains on our statutes. It would have done the First 100 days a lot of boost if these had been repealed or at the least amended.
As it stands people are within their rights to question things if trying to change a culture without the shifting of the legislation that allowed for that repression to be in place is the way to go. The Constitution is the embodiment of the new dispensation. Implementing it is in itself the simplest way of ushering a new dispensation.
So ushering in a new Constitutional order by aligning the remaining laws should be a priority. This cannot go on ad infinitum. Maybe it’s time to put in place a Statute Aligning Committee, whose job is to review and align laws to the Constitution. So while we celebrate this positive major milestone and a new trajectory, we cannot fail to raise this suggestion.
The most important thing about the 100 days was a creation of a culture that embodies the values of the new dispensation, which on its own was no mean achievement. This is considering that what was in place had been moulded and established in the image of the former leadership for a very long time and, therefore, so its value system is entrenched. So changing that in 100 days should not be taken for granted.
In 100 days Zimbabweans adjusted to the fact that they could express themselves without fear. When President Mnangagwa said that he was ushering in a new democracy, this is probably what he was alluding to over and above elections whose outcome would not be contested by sane people.
The first 100 days is not a magic wand. It is a window of opportunity to effect a positive change when everyone is still receptive to change.
It is a period of building a vision, an implementation team, consistency and stability for the attainment of the main objectives and more importantly, it is a time to build critical momentum. Now, momentum is not a destination, it is a means to get to the destination.
So if people want to judge the 100 days, they should judge on whether the vision has been articulated, a direction has been charted and critical momentum has been built. The 100 days was put in place to initiate change. That’s the matrix against which they should be measured. In that regard the Government has excelled over and beyond reasonable expectation.