The inauguration of a new president in Zimbabwe, scheduled for today at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, gives this troubled country a glorious opportunity to reboot itself and for self-renewal.
President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa carries on his shoulders the weight of expectations of the people of Zimbabwe. To attain a turnaround, there are several low-hanging fruits that the incoming leader should capitalise on. The first assignment is to ensure that the nation restores economic stability and policy credibilty. This can be done through the creation of an environment that promotes investment and growth. Policy consistency is a major part of the confidence matrix. Zimbabwe has become the worst performing country in southern Africa when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). A country’s capacity to stimulate significant inflows of FDI is a reliable indicator of economic competitiveness.
Owing to low economic confidence, the country has fared dismally in the competitiveness stakes. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to thrive in a cut-throat global market, where nations must compete for capital, investment and export destinations.
The new government, we hope, will inject the momentum necessary for Zimbabwe to improve its economic performance.
One of the greatest weaknesses of former president Robert Mugabe’s administration was the failure and refusal to embrace reform. The economic catastrophe is staggering in its magnitude. Apart from severe cash shortages and a shrinking economic base, the country is feeling the effects of a fiscal crisis triggered by government over-borrowing not supported by revenue inflows.
Policy inconsistencies and failure are just some components of the “fragile state” equation. The others are socio-political instability, poor access to financing, corruption and inefficient government bureaucracy. Mnangagwa has to realise that he does not need a huge financial outlay to achieve some of these vital objectives. For instance, government does not need money to restore the rule of law, property rights and uphold human rights.
Zimbabweans are watching closely as he embarks on the important task of forming a government. From the very beginning, his every move will be subjected to scrutiny. This is normal; in a democracy, public officials are held accountable.
His picks for cabinet will be carefully scrutinised. Even the size of his cabinet will indicate to the nation whether he is serious about making a clean break with the past. Already, there is no shortage of bootlickers and opportunists who are jostling for Mnangagwa’s attention. They are desperate for a seat on the gravy train. He should keep away from these cronies and focus on the task of leading Zimbabwe towards a united, productive and prosperous future.
In recent years, the extent of the decline has been astonishing. Industrialisation on a massive scale has left the average person reeling from severe poverty, plunging the entire nation into despair and hopelessness. The United Nations says 72% of Zimbabweans are living in extreme poverty and some economists now estimate that the average quality of life has plummeted to 1950 levels.