The wild celebrations that gripped the streets of Harare and other cities and towns across the length and breadth of Zimbabwe are an expression of hope and optimism that the new administration will change the fortunes of this great nation.
The expectations of citizens are high. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inaugural speech took those expectations to a higher level.
It was so clear that the people of Zimbabwe were desperate for change and that their silence over the years was not in any way a sign of contentment but rather a clear demonstration of maturity, resilience and discipline.
The challenges that have affected this country over the years are all too visible and the solutions are also simple and straight forward as was also explicitly articulated in the President’s inauguration speech. Work is cut out for you, Mr President, and the earlier you begin action the better.
I have written before in this column that ours is not a case of lack of tools but rather lack of action and correct attitude. Mindset transformation and behavioural change are imperative in all government and quasi-government institutions. It should not be business as usual if we are serious about national development.
This is the dawn of a new era and millions of Zimbabweans are definitely anticipating an overhauled system of governance. Mnangagwa’s first press statement when he was in brief exile, before he took to the helm, was full of hope and enthusiasm, no wonder the thunderous reception he received on his return.
Just to quote you verbatim: “I look forward to returning home soon and join in the struggle for economic revival of our country which is so endowed with agriculture, industrial and commerce, and mining opportunities and with a rich human resources bedrock to support our endeavours . . . My desire is to join all Zimbabweans in a new era where corruption, incompetence, dereliction of duty and laziness, social and cultural decadence is not tolerated. In that new Zimbabwe it is important for everyone to join hands so that we rebuild this nation.”
This press release was consistent with his maiden presidential speech, further strengthening the optimism and faith the people of Zimbabwe have in him insofar as delivering a better Zimbabwe is concerned.
Although there is scepticism as to why you did not implement these changes while you were still in Mugabe’s government, nobody can dispute that you have clearly summarised the new opportunities available to harness the desirable outcomes for a better nation.
I am a known advocate of execution.
To me, Zimbabwe does not many talk-shops and pointless conferences at luxurious venues that had become characteristic of Mugabe’s government.
They diverted plenty of resources that could otherwise have been productively deployed elsewhere.
We have many reports, plans and policy documents stashed somewhere in the offices of the countless executives manning our institutions which have been recklessly abandoned in preference for individually self-created systems that are designed at self-enrichment.
It is this wanton disregard for policy guidelines that has bred the seemingly insurmountable vice of corruption. Public offices had become a conduit for primitive accumulation of wealth.
Mr President, I am not the only one calling for behavioural change and a mindset shift.
Reacting to your inauguration speech, MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube had this to say: “All these are the right things to say and we congratulate him for saying the right things which ought to be said. Now, the taste of the pudding is in the execution and that is where the big issue is. He has articulated a policy direction which resonates with the challenges that the country is facing.”
Within the same context, Sifelani Jabangwe, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), said: “When the leader says he is hitting the ground running, everyone has to run faster so that you don’t get left behind. His indication that it is not business as usual is key because we have issues that we have to attend to quite quickly, because implementation of programmes has always been a challenge.”
It is my belief that the views above are shared by many. We all seem to converge on a point of collective disregard of performance. It is notably disturbing for a cabinet minister to report that parastatals have an accumulative loss of over US$270 million and it just passes like that without thorough interrogation.
Holding conferences to discuss parastatal losses is utter rubbish. The simple thing to do is to get rid of the non-performers, those responsible for the reported losses. Why should they remain when there is demonstrable lack of their value addition?
How can we keep liabilities in our key institutions? How do we continue to have repeated outbreaks of typhoid, year in year out, when we have an executive that enjoys outrageous perks? How do we justify their continued stay in office? How do we have institutions that deduct statutory obligations from workers and fail to remit to Treasury for years?
How do we have institutions that spend over seven months or even years without paying employees? How do we have national projects stalling for years? How? How? How? The questions are endless and the answers all point to one conclusion: lack of execution.
My article is aptly summarised in this part of President Mnangagwa’s speech: “As we focus on recovering our economy, we must shed misbehaviours and acts of indiscipline which have characterised the past . . . To our civil servants, it cannot be business as usual. You now have to roll up your sleeves in readiness to deliver . . . Each and every one of us must now earn their hour, day, week and month at work. Gone are the days of absenteeism and desultory application, days of unduly delaying and forestalling decisions and services in the hope of extorting dirty rewards. That will have to stop. . . A new culture must now inform and animate our daily conduct. Our offices must speedily answer questions and generate solutions awaited by our customers . . . The culture in government just has to change, unseating those little ‘gods’ idly sitting in public offices, for a busy, empathetic civil service that Zimbabwe surely deserves.”
To me, that summarises the most fundamental strategy for the recovery of our nation. This could not have been said any better. My only humble submission to President Mnangagwa is: let it not be another exercise in hollow rhetoric. This brilliant speech deserves concrete action by way of delivery, even if it means being ruthless to those who choose to get in the way of progress. Nothing short of results will impress the people of Zimbabwe.
This country has all the ingredients for success. People have suffered for too long and now deserve a better life.
Corrupt self-enrichment must never be tolerated. We do not have to question one’s prosperity where there is clear evidence of reward for hard work.
Ill-gotten wealth must be probed and where unsatisfactory responses are given the state must have the prerogative to recover on behalf of the sincere taxpayers.
In fact, by way of improving accountability and, consistent with principles of good governance, I humbly recommend that appointments to public office must always be accompanied with full declaration and disclosure of pecuniary interests and/or wealth. Everything said and done, it is vital for all of us to accept and embrace the new dispensation and move forward. Zimbabwe now has new wheels with which to traverse the rugged terrain.
What is critical at this juncture is the recognition by all and sundry that we are in this together and that we all have our roles to play going forward.
Chatsama is ta leading organisational development, training and leadership development consultant with ProSource Global Consultants. He is an expert in strategy and policy design. These New Perspectives articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES). Email firstname.lastname@example.org and Cell +263 772 382. 852.