New ministers have their Work Cut out for them

THE inclusive government formed last week faces a daunting task to stabilise the economic situation, revive social services and generally improve the living standards of the majority of people wallowing in poverty.

The Zimbabwe Independent looks at the challenges some ministries have to surmount to bring about stability.

Finance

Finance minister Tendai Biti has a Herculean task to restore confidence in the country’s flagging economy.

His ministry’s major task will be to reengage bilateral and multilateral financiers like the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) to provide balance of payments support and lines of credit to kick-start the comatose economy.

With arrears close to US$500 million owed to the IMF and the WB, Biti and technocrats in his ministry have to convince the world of the country’s creditworthiness.

The ministry should come up with a robust repayment plan for what it owes the international community.
The Finance ministry should restore confidence in the financial sector that is currently in limbo after the introduction of multi-currencying.  

Another immediate task for Biti is local resource mobilisation through the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) which resumed trading yesterday.

Trading on the bourse was suspended last November amid allegations by the Reserve Bank of insider deals, costing government billions of dollars in lost revenue from taxes.

Stockbrokers said Thursday there were still issues to be sorted out relating to multi-currency trading, revaluation of Zimbabwe-dollar-denominated stocks and synchronisation of foreign currency accounts.  

Biti and RBZ governor Gideon Gono also have to resolve their differences over the financing of quasi-fiscal activities which have been blamed for fuelling inflation.  

The Finance ministry also has to come up with a revised national Budget to finance new ministries created by the inclusive government and channel more money to social services to protect the poor.

Biti has to raise funds to deal with the current humanitarian crisis — the cholera outbreak and feeding over five million people facing starvation.

Economic Development

Declining performance in exports and foreign direct investments have crippled the country’s bartered economy in the past 10 years.

The economy has become import-driven to the detriment of local industry. Elton Mangoma, the new Economic Development minister, like Biti, has the task of convincing international investors and organisations to invest their money in Zimbabwe if real economic development is to take place.

The shift to a market-based economy would be another challenge Mangoma and his ministry face. For far too long, the government subsidised numerous goods and services to the detriment of economic development.

But such policies are now unsustainable in an environment where foreign currency is scarce.

Matching the country’s competitiveness in the wake of regional trading zones calls for pragmatic steps from Mangoma, a chartered accountant by profession.

Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi must lead a paradigm shift in government’s approach to foreign relations.

He has to formulate a new foreign policy aimed at cementing and re-establishing relations in the region and the international community.

The last Zanu PF administration’s policy was skewed in favour of Asia and the Arab world.

The United States, Britain and its European Union allies were perceived as enemies seeking to topple President Robert Mugabe.

The hardline foreign policy that treats everything “Western” with suspicion could be a stumbling block to reengagement and ending the country’s near pariah status.

Mumbengegwi is not well-liked by foreign diplomats based in Harare because of what is seen as crude posturing in line with ruling-party thinking.

His challenge is to adopt a middle-of-the-road policy that will see Zimbabwe regaining its membership in multilateral organisations like the Commonwealth and reengage the EU, the US and Britain, among others, and at the same time uphold the country’s territorial integrity.

Mugabe last week insisted that Zimbabwe has to be treated as an “equal partner” with other nations.

The Foreign ministry should use its 38 missions and three consulates across the world to improve the image of the country and sell it as a good destination for tourism and investment.

But that has to be matched with improved governance at home.

Another major challenge for Mumbengegwi is to convince the US and the West to lift sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, which have for the past seven years been an albatross on the economy. But he is not the best person to do that.

The Foreign minister would need the support of the entire government and beyond to achieve this goal as outlined in the power-sharing deal signed last September.

Information and Publicity

Like Mumbengegwi, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu’s immediate challenge would be to improve the country’s international image and he can only do that by revoking the ban on international media organisations and individual journalists who have been expelled over the years.

Shamu has to reopen newspapers closed by the Media and Information Commission (MIC) such as the Daily News and The Tribune to show the world that Zimbabwe is on the path to full democracy where media diversity is a necessity.

The MIC has to be reformed or better still junked while laws like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act need to be repealed.

Aippa has done nothing to provide access to information.

Shamu’s challenge is to initiate democratic media laws that guarantee the safety of both media practitioners and consumers of news.

He must strive for equal access to the public media by all political players, religious groups and civil society, among others.

The public media — ZBC and Zimpapers — should be accountable to the people and not government as is the case today.

Health

With the cholera outbreak that has so far killed over 3 700 people and infected 73 000 since last August, critical shortages of drugs at government health institutions, staff and equipment, new Health minister Henry Madzorera’s job will not be a stroll in the park.

The ministry’s former head David Parirenyatwa lamented this week that underfunding affected health delivery in the country and Madzorera should fight hard to secure the necessary funding.

There is need for huge sums of foreign currency, currently in short supply, to re-equip public hospitals and clinics, buy drugs and recruit and retain health workers, some of whom left the country for greener pastures.  

Increasing the provision of antiretroviral drugs for people living with HIV and Aids, dealing effectively with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases would be some of the pertinent issues Madzorera, a Kwekwe-based physician, would have to quickly address.

Agriculture

The appointment of Joseph Made as Agriculture minister came as a surprise to many given his dismal performance when he was in charge of that portfolio between 2002 and surprise to many given his dismal performance when he was in charge of that portfolio between 2002 and 2005.

Most Zimbabweans remember that Made, after a helicopter ride declared that the country would have a bumper harvest.

The year turned out to be the worst on record.

The expectation however is that Made is now a changed man.

His greatest challenge is to ensure the revival of the agricultural sector through the timely availability of inputs and that farmers are paid well for their produce.

Dilapidated irrigation facilities should be rehabilitated and used to boost agricultural productivity to guarantee the nation’s food security. 

Made’s other challenge and that of Lands and Resettlement minister Herbert Murerwa is to ensure property rights on farms are respected. New farm invasions must be stopped.


Industry and Commerce

Minister of Industry and Commerce Welshman Ncube, like Biti, also has a mammoth task to spur the revival of the economy.

Ncube’s immediate task is to ensure the coming back into stream of the manufacturing sector to enhance production.

This would translate into increased exports and foreign currency inflows desperately needed to revive the economy.

Companies that were shutdown must be revived by business-friendly policies.

According to a government recovery plan drawn up last year, the inclusive administration would need US$900 million in the next 12 months to boost depressed capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector to 80% from the current level of 15%. Ncube, Mangoma and Biti must come up with policies that attract investors to pour in sunstantial sums of hard currency to revive the local industry.

State Enterprises and Parastatals

State enterprises and parastatals are key to the economic revival of Zimbabwe and minister Joel Gabuzza has a plateful of challenges in reforming the institutions.

Since Independence most parastatals and enterprises have been feeding from the fiscus to the detriment of the economy.

These institutions have been making huge losses because most of them were never run on business lines and used to charge sub-economic rate prices for goods and services.

State enterprises like Zesa and Zinwa have failed to deliver a continuous supply of electricity and water because of incompetence on the part of their managers and for charging sub-economic rates.

Some institutions have been militarised over the years as Mugabe and Zanu PF consolidated power and it’s up to Gabuzza to undo that.

Gabuzza’s challenge is to come up with a viable commercialisation and privatisation policy for some of the parastatals and enterprises, but should spare institutions such as Zesa and Zinwa, which cater for the majority of people.

Privatisation of water and electricity creates the risk of denying the majority of Zimbabweans access to those services.     

Local Government, Urban and Rural Development

“Housing for all” is such a tired cliche.

But this slogan has not lost its appeal amongst most in Zimbabwe.

After numerous years of unfulfilled promises, many have died whilst still on the government housing waiting list awaiting affordable residential stands.

High prices charged by private property developers have relegated many urban dwellers to perpetual tenants rather than homeowners.

For the rural folk, good water and sanitation facilities continue to elude them despite humanitarian assistance from donor agencies.

The continued spread of the cholera epidemic in the countryside is a clear testimony of the dire need for water and reticulation services.

Ignatius Chombo should be cognisant of the task ahead.

The deplorable state of the urban and rural road network has become a perennial problem. Like any other ministry, this ministry has had little funding for its development projects against the background of sub-economic tariffs charged by local authorities.

The minister should stop his trademark interference in the affairs of local authorities, especially those run by the MDC, using legal and extra-judicial means. There should be an end to the appointment of commissions to run local authorities. They have achieved nothing except to consume public funds.

Energy

Elias Mudzuri, the new Minister of Energy equally has an important task in resuscitating local industry. For years commercial farmers have blamed frequent power outages for the declining agricultural productivity and down stream industries.

Refurbishing the five thermal power stations in the country and minimising breakdown at Kariba should be the top priority for the ministry.

Moreso increasing power generation for domestic purposes is critical for economic revival. In the longer term, Mudzuri should consider investment in renewable energy sources to boost energy supplies.

The constant supply of fuel is another critical component Mudzuri has to ensure. With world oil prices currently favourable, fuel supplies for agriculture, manufacturing and mining sectors should be sufficient enough to support production.

Education

The Ministry of Education headed by David Coltart and the Ministry of Higher education led by Stan Mudenge have somewhat similar challenges ahead of them.

Prolonged job actions from staff demanding better remuneration is just a microcosm of the total collapse of the country’s education system.

The revision of tuition fees at tertiary schools is also a major hurdle that Coltart and Mudenge will face amid outcries from parents and students demanding a slash in the recently announced fees.

 Zimsec, the country’s examination board currently dogged by administrative constraints, requires urgent attention in restoring its lost credibility and integrity. With dollarisation in place parents could be forced to register with foreign examination boards.

Armed forces ministries

The armed forces include the army, airforce, police and the Central Intelligence Organisation which fall under the ministries of Defence; Home Affairs and National Security.

The armed forces have — since the late 1990s — been used by the state as instruments of oppression. They have been deployed to contain democratic change.

Serving and retired members of the armed forces have benefited immensely from state patronage.

As a result most of them have openly and actively participated in election campaigns in support of Mugabe and Zanu PF and also declared that they will not support any electoral outcome that would result in the loss of political power of Zanu PF.

The armed forces stand accused of fomenting pre and post-electoral violence against opposition officials.
Given this scenario, the three ministries in charge of the armed forces have a challenge to ensure that the forces should not continue to be used to foster an undemocratic environment and to subvert electoral processes.

The ministers in charge, Giles Mutsekwa and Kembo Mohadi (Home Affairs), Emmerson Mnangagwa (Defence), and Sydney Sekeremayi (National Security) have a crucial task to transform the armed forces into professional bodies that do not participate in party politics and the administration of electoral processes.

The armed forces should also be unequivocally committed to loyally serving any government or president who is constitutionally elected by the people.  

   
The Home Affairs ministry’s major challenge is to improve the police’s image. The general public views the police force as a partisan body, which dances to the tune of Zanu PF.

Mutsekwa and Mohadi should ensure that processing of important documents for citizens such as birth certificates, national identity cards and passports should be done within reasonable time and at affordable prices.

Mnangagwa has to re-equip the army and improve conditions of services and salaries for soldiers, some of whom went on the rampage last December because of poor remuneration in Harare.

The Ministry of State for National Security should turn the CIO into an outfit whose pre-occupation must be the enhancement of national integrity.

Forced disappearances and torture, which have been the hallmark of the CIO since 1980, should be brought to an end.

BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE AND BERNARD MPOFU