Nick Mangwana View from the Diaspora
This column has been absent for nearly six weeks. There was just so much going on and the job to inform and represent views had to be done through other means. But we have a new Government in power now. It is being heralded as a new era and a new dispensation.
We hope this column will be allowed the latitude to continue to say things as its writer sees them and as the Diaspora views them. Tolerance for candour will be a well-sought after trait from the new administration.
The announcement of the Cabinet by President Mnangagwa seems to be some torrential rain on people’s parade. Spirits were dampened and some felt let down and their hopes of renewal dashed. Others on the opposite side appeared reinvigorated.
Suddenly, they could breathe again as they appeared to regain the life that had been snuffed out of them by the on-point inaugural speech, the positive response by foreign governments and the people who were simply no longer interested in the opposition. What has gone wrong? It is possible that it is the management of perception that has gone wrong.
When the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) intervened on November 14, 2017 it was surreal. The iconic statement, which came out of the articulate Major General Sibusiso Moyo was; “His Excellency the President and Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces and family are safe.
We are only targeting criminals around him.” This is what the people held on to as they awaited the enunciation of the new Cabinet. When names started rolling out on ZTV the people were aghast.
Some of the people they perceived as criminals were now going to surround the new President and Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces. So were the people conned into believing there was a cleaning exercise taking place or it was just a ruse to buy them into internal Zanu-PF politics?
The numbers of people from the high society of Zimbabwe who will be arrested and seriously prosecuted for commercial crimes, chief of which will be abuse of office and corruption, will be the only thing that will answer this question. If it ends with Dr Chombo, (Inoocent) Hamandishe and (Kudzanai) Chipanga then the people have a right to feel this was, but a big modern con.
It is not too much to expect that at some point between now and the next elections those Auditor General’s reports will be dusted and perused for any suggestions of criminal misconduct and those implicated investigated. The “targeting of criminals” should not end with the ascendancy of President Mnangagwa to the highest office in the land.
That should only give it impetus. Criminals are only deterred or emboldened by consequences. If the consequences are that one gets to keep their loot under the guise of starting on a clean slate then we are setting wrong precedents.
A slate can only be clean if everyone restores what they looted back to the granaries and only keep the fruit of hard and honest work. If the consequences are that there is an amnesty on confiscating filthy lucre, then the said criminals will be emboldened.
If the President has put criminals close to him again like the last President was accused of, then it is wrong. Zimbabweans expect justice to catch up with these regardless of their current station. It won’t be an indictment on the President if one of his current ministers is indicted for criminal conduct.
It will be a feather on his transparency hat. As much as this columnist is an establishment writer, there is no doubt that there are people who are accused of malfeasance around the President right now. These are part of the legacy of the last administration, which left among other great achievements a legacy of corruption.
When the ZDF launched Operation Restore Legacy that is not the legacy they wanted to restore back into influential positions. It was the legacy of the liberation struggle. But the operation was not for the restoration of those with a legacy of corruption.
These should surely face their day in court, but for now they should not be near the most powerful man in the land. We don’t do names here, but if the boot fits then put it on and strap up the laces.
There is one minister who has been brought back whose reputation is marring the new cabinet. There are also very good choices in there, but this yeast is fermenting the whole lump of dour.
The efforts that have taken place from mid-November to this day have already borne fruit as the signs of economic stability or at least readjustment are there for all to see. What is not yet proved is the sustainability of these green shoots that have come with the first rains. The reasons given and accepted for the interventions were the need for social progress.
The Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces posited that Zimbabwe had not seen any development in five years. This was partly due to internecine fights within the revolutionary party which intruded on the operations of Government. But the major part has also been the corrupt activities of some in Government at a very high level.
From Major General SB Moyo’s brilliantly drafted and equally brilliantly delivered statement, it was clear there was organised crime which included some of those at a very high level Government who were riding roughshod with our resources, our governance and our laws. Some of those are reported to have sought assurances from the highest office in the land that they not be persecuted.
That is well and good. They should not be persecuted. We are not barbarians. But they should be prosecuted because their prison break escapades and abuse of office is not a matter of ifs or buts. They bragged about it and gave interviews about it. The witnesses are there. We can’t have one rule for a certain class and another rule for the rest of us. The law needs to take its course and do so blindly.
Zimbabweans need to continue to feel good about this new administration. And the only way that can happen is if it sustains its break from a lot that happened in the past. This columnist has sat down in many a forum defending this administration postulating that this is not another Mugabe rule, but in name. It is time the administration paid back for the faith by coming good. Is it too early days? No, it’s not. There are no better times than now.
In his inaugural speech, President Mnangagwa said, “Our system of economic organisation will incorporate elements of market economy in which enterprise is encouraged, protected, allowed just and merited rewards, while gainfully interacting with strategic public enterprises run professionally and profitably, all to yield a properly run, national economy in which there is room and scope for everyone.”
That is another brilliant piece of thinking, brilliantly drafted and articulated. But we want to see it brilliantly implemented and brilliantly delivered. This is because good intentions are not enough. Those pave the road to hell. If people are not brought to book this will just end up being a brilliant speech that sold a dummy.
Corruption escalates the cost of doing business. It prolongs negotiations and delays implementation of projects. It stifles free enterprise and delays the reaching of the break-even point. That bit in that speech on free enterprise is killed before it takes off. The “Jobs, jobs job!” the President spoke of at Manyame Airbase would remain a mirage.
The “Strategic Public Enterprises” cannot be run professionally and profitability unless corruption itself and the perceived corruption risk is weeded out. Of the about 90 State enterprises most of which enjoy a monopoly in their sectors, very few are profitable.
Corruption and incompetence being major problems afflicting them. Movement to reform not only the way of doing business in these as well as the personnel that has failed should be very clear to infuse confidence in the populace and the investment community. This way we can restore legacy of the Second Chimurenga.
The interactions between the two as postulated by the President cannot happen in a market distorted to the level of contortion by corruption and or the perception of corruption.
The entrepreneurial talent will not flourish and rent-seeking behaviour we have seen over the years will remain the order of the day. We need to have deterrents in place. We need the corrupt shaking in their boots expecting a knock on their door. This is a call to challenge corruption at all levels.
When we talk of national security we look for ways to detect, eradicate or neutralise enemies. But none is worse than corruption and criminal enterprise. They retard development and good governance.
They cause internal weaknesses killing the ability of creativity to manifest. They affect rule of law, accountability and cause abuse of both office and citizenry. These are not the ideals of the liberation struggle whose legacy we are all excited about restoring.