It is folly, irrational and unreasonable for Zimbabweans to bury their heads in the sand, pretending that everything is fine, when it is abundantly clear that the country continues to perform dismally on all fronts, creating and breaking its own records on unemployment, company closures, job losses, corruption, factionalism, hypocrisy, bad governance, nepotism and electioneering. To worsen the situation, the country is faced with a drought of unprecedented magnitude ravaging both animals and humans alike, with no immediate solution in sight.
As if that is not enough, the majority of government ministers are preoccupied with succession wars, factionalism and power struggles, an indication they think they are bigger than life and do not owe the general public any explanation, support or agreement. Policies are made, changed and amended with none or little contribution from the public. The general populace simply expects healthy, robust and meaningful engagement and the opening up of business space to trade fairly.
However, some ministers have since abandoned their mandate and call of duty to politicking. They spend more time on inconsequential party affairs than they do on government issues. Nothing significant can be attributed to them. If they are not at rallies making more unfulfilled promises, they are catching the next plane to wherever the so-called mega deals will be negotiated.
As a matter of fact, many of them do not exist beyond their titles. They have absolutely nothing to show in terms of creating an enabling environment for business growth, creativeness and innovation and providing equal opportunities for all to work, acquire businesses, create employment and give a lifeline to the hard working community of Zimbabwe.
It is therefore critical and important that government institutes radical changes on how the country is administered to unlock value, business opportunities and creating a conducive environment for economic and business growth to arrest the economic freefall and political quagmire the country finds itself in.
To put this into perspective, an analysis of Zimbabwe’s population and growth is important. According to the African Economic Outlook 2015, the population of Zimbabwe as of January 1 2016, was estimated to be 16 248 421 people, which is an increase of 4,31% (671 520 people) compared to a population of 15 576 901 the year before. In 2015, the natural increase was positive, as the number of births exceeded the number of deaths by 284 746.
During 2016, Zimbabwe’s population is projected to increase by 700 469 people to reach 16 948 890 in the beginning of 2017. The natural increase is expected to be positive, as the number of births will exceed the number of deaths by 297 021. According to these estimations, daily change rates of Zimbabwe’s population in 2016 will be the following: 1 418 live births average per day (59,10 in an hour), 605 deaths average per day (25.19 in an hour) and 1 105 immigrants average per day (46,06 in an hour) and the population of Zimbabwe will be increased by 1 919 persons daily in 2016.
This growth in population foretells that government needs planning ahead of time in terms of service provision to cater for the increasing demand.
Sadly, we have ministries that think in reverse and are so blind to the bare facts on the ground that strategic thinking and planning is called for to start rolling the projects and work on service provision and create opportunities for the people to access natural and man-made resources, amenities, funds and opportunities to boost the economy thereby creating jobs, wealth, business growth which in turn improves the lives of the people.
The economic model and template of the country needs to change. Hard, difficult but sustainable and well thought-out decisions need to be made. First and foremost, the government needs to streamline, rationalise and right-size its workforce starting from the top.
A country like Zimbabwe does not need to have two vice-presidents and more than 70 ministers and deputy ministers in addition to the permanent secretaries and technical staff who also have assistants like personal assistants, secretaries, messengers, drivers, typists, photocopier operators, cleaners, some of whom end up dedicating more time on personal business of their bosses. There is no need to have that entire excess staff.
In fact, the country can perform well with a president, one vice-president and less than 20 ministers. Unfortunately, a small country like Zimbabwe has almost similar numbers of ministers like South Africa which is three times bigger than Zimbabwe. There are too many ministers which explains why there is duplication of duties, clashes and fights on jurisdiction of power, mandate and authority. Some ministries are better off operating as departments.
The positions of deputy minister, deputy director, assistant manager or any assistant position must be abolished because it does not serve any purpose. If a deputy minister cannot act in the absence of a minister, then there is no reason why that position should exist. Ministries have technical staff, mostly in the form of permanent secretaries and other staff who know what needs to be done.
The practice of having an assistant no longer applies in the modern leadership and management models especially with daily improvements and changes in technological advancement.
The government needs to reduce the number of parliamentarians from 350 to around 50 because there are provincial ministers and mayors in towns, councillors in every ward, chiefs and headmen in rural areas as well as district administrators who operate within the same areas. Many have since abandoned the interests of the people they represent for the luxurious benefits that go with the position of being an MP. No wonder, they always try to get everything for free; free parking, free electricity, stands, water, buying goods and cars duty free.
Government needs to set the tone on promoting professionalism, ethical business practices, superb service provision and good performance. Appointments, promotions and opportunities must exist for all based on non-discriminatory and fair practises. They should also be based on merit and performance, not favouritism, regionalism, tribalism, nepotism, hatred and fear.
All board members must be selected and appointed on merit to sit on boards and commissions for parastatals and other state-owned enterprises. The government must prohibit a person to sit on more than two boards or commissions for a public entity.
The issue of allowances and incentives needs to be revised. With the salaries ministers claim to get, it is surprising how they manage to spend holidays out of the country and afford to pay school fees for their children in schools and universities outside the country. How do they also manage to access treatment and health facilities in other countries, wear designer suits and spend so much? It boggles the mind. It appears a lot takes place behind the scenes and it is everyone’s guess that such dealings will not pass the ethical and fair business practice test.
To put things right, the Tanzanian experience is worth mentioning. A few days in the office, the President of Tanzania John Magufuli made tremendous and wide far -reaching changes by introducing the following austerity measures; no more foreign travel, no more first-class and business class travel for all officials except the president, his deputy and prime minister; no more workshops and seminars in expensive hotels when there are so many ministry boardrooms and no more sitting allowances. He questioned why engineers are given fuel guzzlers when a pick-up is more suitable for their jobs.
He diverted the budget of US$1,9 million for independence celebrations to expand a congested road and street cleaning. Magufuli uses a car instead of a jet to travel around the country and has banned all but the most essential foreign travel for officials, instead ordered them to visit rural areas to find out about problems there.
Surprise visits appear to be a favourite modus operandi of his administration and in one such visit to the main state hospital, Magufuli found patients sleeping on the floor and promptly sacked the hospital chief and dissolved its governing board.
Surely, Zimbabwe can do much better and shrug off its bad boy tag. With the mandate to rule up to 2018, the government has an opportunity to acquit itself well and retain the confidence of the electorate. Let us make Zimbabwe work again.
Kwaramba is the principal executive consultant for Capacity Consultancy Group. He is a leadership, organisation development, management and labour relations expert. These New Perspectives articles are co-ordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, cell +263 772 382 852