President Robert Mugabe this week promised to fire non-performing ministers from his predictable “new” cabinet in what is widely seen as a last-ditch attempt to convince an uninspired nation that his appointments can deliver.
Candid Comment with Brian Mangwende
Responding to questions from journalists soon after the swearing-in ceremony of ministers and their deputies on whether his appointment of Francis Nhema, regarded as a moderate, signalled a climb-down on his combative indigenisation drive, formerly spearheaded by an aggressive Saviour Kasukuwere, Mugabe retorted: “Nhema is an introvert, Kasukuwere is an extrovert, but don’t think that the one who talks a lot is the one who performs a lot. We expect the ministers to deliver. If the introvert goes to sleep, we chase him away.”
This is exactly what Mugabe must do. He must kick them out when they don’t deliver. Mugabe must be held to his word, taking into consideration his somersault on a promise not to appoint unelected individuals to ministerial posts by roping in five losing party members.
His cabinet has been received with mainly scepticism because it comprises virtually of the same “old boys” whom many, including those in Zanu PF circles, wanted gone like yesterday raising queries as to whether he was sincerely for government reform.
While retaining the old guard, Mugabe demoted some and elevated others.
But surely, unproductive public servants must shape-up or be dismissed, period. Cabinet posts must not be meal tickets to access public funds for self-aggrandisement.
Mugabe must, without any compunction, fire poor performers because the economy has been haemorrhaging for too long without any consequences against the culprits.
Mugabe is reluctant to take action against some of his bosom buddies in government to maintain the patronage system, unity accord of 1987 and tribal balance.
How do ministers account for the loads of money they will spend vis-a-vis their salaries? Mugabe must close the tap if his ministers do not cut back on their spending.
It has been said and not denied that Mugabe has on several occasions discussed issues of extravagance with his ministers and their astonishing incapability to vigorously see through government policies.
From the onset Mugabe should ensure there are mandatory written performance contracts, clear guidelines on how each minister is going to improve output and conduct an evaluation within the first 100 days in office. He should encourage spot performance checks with a view to reining in delinquent and lazy ministers. Lame excuses such as “when I got into this ministry, it was dysfunctional because of the incompetence of the coalition government”, should not be tolerated.
Unlikely as this may sound, something has to be done to get real value from this recycled cabal. The Zanu PF government, which made fantastic promises during elections, needs to deliver lest it gives credence to assertions it has nothing new to offer.
Currently, Zimbabwe depends too much on handouts and loans from China without production, hence its liquidity crisis, so it is prudent for Mugabe to re-engage the world’s biggest economies and move forward.
The nation is waiting with bated breath for Mugabe to deliver on his threats to fire non-performers and election promises.