Editor’s Memo: Partisan interests stifling reform agenda

THIS week I received a highly ambitious and comprehensive document called Government Work Programme (GWP) 2010 “setting out agreed options, aimed at responding to political, social and economic challenges facing the country and society”.

The programme, a product of deliberations by the Council of Ministers chaired by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, sets out priorities, objectives and targets government has committed itself to deliver within the limitations of time and resource constraints.
It succeeds the 100-Day Plan of March 2009, which was a dramatic flop as less than 10% of measurable set goals and objectives were met due to financial constraints, although some in government have a contrary view.
The GWP is anchored in five government priorities –– to promote economic growth and ensure food security; to provide basic services and infrastructural development; to strengthen and ensure the rule of law and respect for property rights; to advance and safeguard basic freedom through legislative reform and constitutional process; and normalisation of international relations.
I am more fascinated by the last three priorities. Between 2000 and 2010 the three priorities were discarded by the then Zanu PF-led government for political expediency and as a result our economy almost imploded and the country was on the edge of a civil strife.
What has aroused my concern now is the commitment of partners in the inclusive government to implement the set priorities and objectives given that since September 2008 they have failed to fully consummate the global political agreement (GPA) which they signed of their own volition.
What is outlined in the GWP is well captured in the GPA, but little progress has been made to institute legislative reforms needed to secure and uphold the rule of law and property rights, among other issues.
The highly ambitious programme is likely to suffer the fate of other comprehensive plans which came before it, among them the National Economic Recovery Programme and the National Millennium Development Programme.
The GWP has an impressive legislative agenda for this year. Government proposes to democraticise the media space by introducing two Bills — Freedom of Information and the Media Practitioners.
The Freedom of Information Bill will replace the despised Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and will simplify the procedures for accessing information in line with Sadc best practice, while the Media Practitioners Bill will provide for the regulation of media practitioners.
Government is also proposing a General Laws Amendment Bill that will amend laws like the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Electoral Act, Referendums Act, Public Health Act and the Health Services Act.
Other interesting proposed laws to come before parliament will be the Human Rights Commission Bill to provide for, among other things, the terms of office of the commissioners and their conditions of service; the National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration Bill to give effect to the organ on national healing; and Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill to broaden participation in the sector and the protection of government’s interests, among others.  
Meanwhile, confusion continues to dog the indigenisation and empowerment regulations at the same time exposing deep divisions in the marriage of convenience which is called the inclusive government.
Since the regulations were gazetted in January, the unity government has not been speaking with one voice thereby sending mixed signals to the world, particularly to would-be investors who have been waiting in the wings to be part of the country’s economic revival crusade.
So confusing are utterances from various government officials that many people have been left unsure as to the status of the regulations.
Have they been shelved as claimed by the MDC-T or has the implementation deadline been extended by a month as stated by Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere on Tuesday at a media briefing?
The confusion was compounded by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai when he addressed a business conference at the ongoing Zimbabwe International Trade Fair on Wednesday, and told delegates that consultations on the regulations were underway and that he will ensure that the empowerment regulations are broad-based.
What is clear is that the shaky unity government has no common position on the empowerment regulations, a situation that is antithetical to attracting investment.
The respective parties that constitute government should immediately dump partisan interests and come up with one position on this crucial matter. We do not need rocket scientists to tell us that we should dovetail on this issue if we want investors to take us seriously.

 

Constantine Chimakure

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