HomeOpinionJonathan Moyo: Stop Obsession With 100-day Timelines

Jonathan Moyo: Stop Obsession With 100-day Timelines

IF there is one development that has raised troubling questions about the seriousness of the coalition government which completes its critical 100 days in office on Saturday next week, it is Wednesday’s launch by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Vice-President Joice Mujuru of what they unconvincingly presented as the government’s 100-day action plan.

What action plan?

Curiously, Wednesday’s launch of the purported 100-day action plan came 90 days since the formation of the coalition government and 45 days since the launch of Sterp, which some in the government say is an economic recovery plan while others in the same government say is an emergency recovery plan, as if the words economic and emergency mean one and the same thing.

Even more curiously, the latest launch was done 38 days since the wasteful Victoria Falls cabinet retreat during which the 100-day action plan was crafted while the prime minister, his two deputy prime ministers, ministers, their deputies along with permanent secretaries, sought to get to know each other through horse and helicopter riding and boat cruising when most Zimbabweans were failing to make ends meet.

If the coalition government wants Zimbabweans to believe that it is in an emergency mode and its Victoria Falls retreat produced an action plan with ministerial targets to be met within 100 days, why did it take the same cabinet that produced the 100-day action plan in Victoria Falls 22 days to approve its own plan?  And why did it take the coalition government 16 days to launch that action plan following its approval by cabinet on April 28?    

It is hard if not impossible to avoid the inevitable conclusion that, while its formation on February 13 was without doubt most welcome in the interest of reducing political tension in the country, the performance of the coalition government has been utterly delinquent. 

What has compounded the government’s manifestly delinquent performance is that, like a truant juvenile, it has gotten itself entangled into a maze of meaningless “100 days” mumbo jumbo and is now trapped by that hogwash like a hopeless spider ensnared by its own web.

The time has come for someone to tell Prime Minister Tsvangirai to free himself from the 100 days nonsense.  The Prime Minister and his unimaginative inner circle have obviously tried but failed to understand the notion of the first 100 days in office which they’ve stolen from American presidential politics. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first American president to frame his assumption of office around the notion of the first 100 days.

After his landslide electoral victory in 1932 when the United States was under a devastating economic crisis, the so-called Great Depression, Roosevelt gave himself a tight timeline to come up with politically creative and policy meaningful ways to get the United States out of the crisis. 

Following his inauguration on March 4, 1933 Roosevelt put in place a radical 100-day action plan on the strength of the unprecedented political capital he had received from the electorate.  His first 100-day action plan became the basis of what Roosevelt called “the new deal” which was the essence of his policy programme that transformed the American economy and got that country out of its economic depression from 1933 to 1935.

Roosevelt’s 100-day action plan was not crafted after he was sworn in but well before he was elected in November 1932 and it was refined after his election but prior to his inauguration.

This enabled him and his administration to hit the ground running because, once they assumed office, they had a bankable plan from day one which they used to engage Congress to secure the funding they needed to make things happen.

Since Roosevelt’s time, successive American presidents and the general American public, especially the media, have sought to define and understand their administrations by what they do within their first 100 days in office not only in terms of the implementation of prior plans but also in terms of how they respond to previously unforeseen emergencies.

The vain attempt by Tsvangirai to model himself on the American presidential experience is understandable given the close relations between his MDC-T and the American political establishment. But commonsense dictates that folks in the Prime Minister’s office should not get carried away to the point of comparing oranges with apples or uncritically mimicking Americans.

Tsvangirai is not a president in the mould of Roosevelt or any other American president for that matter. No, he’s not. And, besides, he’s not a Prime Minister as is Gordon Brown or as was Robert Mugabe in 1980 under the Lancaster Constitution. Things have changed. Tsvangirai is an Honourable but not a Rt Honourable Prime Minister.  

This is because he is not the head of government. In terms of the so-called Global Political Agreement signed by Zanu PF and the two MDC formations on September 15 2008, Prime Minister Tsvangirai is only the deputy head of government regarding the chairing of cabinet and that is quite a long way from chairing cabinet because the organogram of the coalition government clearly shows that he is number four in the hierarchy of the leadership of the government after President Mugabe, Vice-President Joseph Msika and Vice-President Mujuru who will have to chair before he does.

Although it is true that if you go to Munhumutapa offices, most of the human traffic you’ll find there heads to the Prime Minister’s office or his deputies, the truth is that it’s all symbolic because the real power is not there at all since it is shared in terms of the Constitution. The sharing of power is the essence of a coalition government.

Roosevelt was able to do big things within the first 100 days of his tenure, and to lay the foundation for his “new deal” because he was not part of a coalition government and also because the American Congress approved budgetary allocations to fund his policy programmes.

The 100-day action plan launched on Wednesday by Tsvangirai and Mujuru, who seem to be forging a parliamentary partnership apparently designed to manage and control Mugabe’s succession, is unique by its lack of funding. Anyone who thinks they can implement a plan in a battered economy such as ours without funding is joking and their joke is not funny.

Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his cronies must come to terms with the fact that the first 100 days of the coalition government will be completed next week on Saturday. After that any talk of 100 days of this or that will be just idle or even dangerous.

In the same vein, the Prime Minister and his team must be aware that there are only four months to go before the first anniversary of the much touted GPA. Yes, eight months have gone by since September 15, 2008!  

While the likes of Gorden Moyo, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office, have been confusing themselves and asking Zimbabweans not to criticise the coalition government but to support it by giving it more time, the government itself has been taking the time it is being given to indulge in endless rhetoric about 100 days that never start or finish and about unbudgeted plans that have no chance of seeing the light of day.

The record will show that with one week to go before completing its first 100 days in office, and with nothing to show for its performance in real terms, the coalition government has thus far only preoccupied itself with the following three issues that will not help the nation to get out of its economic meltdown that is getting worse:

The pursuit of the so-called outstanding issues about provincial governors, the appointments of the Attorney-General and the governor of the central bank, permanent secretaries and ambassadors; and the confusion of the real mandate of the new and the curiously named Ministry of Information Communication Technology;

The persistent false and embarrassing claims of credit for the current impacts, mixed as they are, of fiscal and monetary policies respectively, implemented on January 29 by Patrick Chinamasa as Acting Minister of Finance and on February 2 by Gideon Gono before the formation of the coalition government;

The shameless turning of Zimbabweans into hunter-gatherers by officially declaring, as did the Minister of Finance Tendai Biti in his revised national budget statement, the illegal death of the Zimbabwe dollar with the consequence of rendering ordinary people unable to participate or even exist in the formal economy all in order for the minister to settle personal scores with the governor of the central bank.

If one thing can be said about the coalition government one week before its first 100 days in office, it is that its future is very bleak.

Moyo is an independent MP for Tsholotsho North.


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