…as pressure mounts ahead of 2018 elections
By Kudzai Kuwaza
CABINET ministers are profusely sweating over demanding 100-day targets set by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as pressure mounts on them to deliver ahead of make-or-break general elections next year.
This comes amid Mnangagwa’s call yesterday for the government to focus on service delivery and production, not just politics. His approach has been widely welcomed by Zimbabweans, although his cabinet is seen as packed with deadwood — people no longer useful or productive. The majority of them are seen as redundancy, not ministerial material.
Mnangagwa succeeded former president Robert Mugabe after a soft military coup.
Despite his contentious ascendancy, the new president has brought hope and promises of a new dispensation — which Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa described as a “new economic order” — indicating he means business. He has said he will not tolerate a business-as-usual approach and corruption.
With his first 100-day period and scorecard on productivity and delivery ticking, ministers are sweating to produce plans of action and deliver to avoid the sword of Damocles.
Apart from trying to ensure acceptance and legitimacy, Mnangagwa and his ministers are also under immense pressure to perform ahead of crucial elections.
Addressing the Zanu PF central committee yesterday ahead of today’s congress gathering in Harare, Mnangagwa said the party should focus on the economy rather than politics.
“Zanu PF cannot be seen as the party of politics alone. From now it is politics and economics,” he said.
“Productivity across all sectors must be religiously encouraged not only at a national level, but at a disaggregated ward, district and provincial level. I urge us all to think, sleep, dream and walk productivity.”
In a bid to get a feel of Mnangagwa and ministers’ assignments, targets and expected performance scorecard, the Zimbabwe Independent this week engaged the country’s policymakers now working under immense pressure.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Retired Lieutenant-General (he retired as a Major-General, hence a rank up afterwards) Sibusiso Moyo, the face of the military intervention, said that during his first 100 days in office he would focus on re-engagement and luring foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. He also said he would also seek to revamp the country’s image to attract tourists as part of the broad economic recovery process.
His ministry overlaps with that of Tourism in that regard.
“My mandate is very simple. The ministry has been rebranded; it is now Foreign Affairs and Trade,” he said.
“Therefore, my responsibility is to drive foreign direct investment into the country. It is about securing markets for the country. I also want to attract tourists in the country. That is my mandate; if I fail I would have failed, but I will work hard to achieve these goals.”
Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu said he is still working on priority areas and would only talk after presenting his plan to cabinet.
“I am actually preparing that for cabinet,” Mpofu said. “I cannot comment before I discuss it with my principals.”
However, he promised to address the issue of numerous roadblocks and corruption in the police force at the swearing-in ceremony of cabinet ministers on Monday last week.
“This is the first assignment I want to deal with. I have received a lot of complaints about the behaviour of some of our police officers and I am going to address that,” Mpofu said. “This is a people’s police force and it has to abide by the expectations of the people, at the same time maintaining law and order.”
Transport minister Joram Gumbo said his ministry will prioritise the Beitbridge-Chirundu highway project, the US$400 million National Railways of Zimbabwe recapitalisation plan and Air Zimbabwe’s resuscitation.
He said Beitbridge Border Post would also be rehabilitated in the first 100 days. ZimBorders, a locally-owned company, has been awarded a US$100 million contract to rehabilitate the Beitbridge Border Post within the next 100 days as government targets to improve efficiency at the country’s busiest port of entry.
Chinamasa also said in his budget last week Beitbridge town would soon be revamped.
The project was caught up in fierce Zanu PF factional fights Mugabe’s era with Mnangagwa’s faction and the G40 camp which had coalesced around former first lady Grace Mugabe battling for the tender.
While the Mnangagwa faction preferred ZimBorders, G40 wanted a South African company linked to controversial businessman Nikko Shefer to secure the contract.
Local Government and National Housing minister July Moyo said his main focus will be on service delivery.
“We are focussing on service delivery issues,” Moyo said. “Basically, you cannot pinpoint an area where service delivery was functioning properly. So we have to fix that.”
Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security minister Supa Mandiwanzira said he would seek to expand the communication network in the short-term.
“Our focus is to expand the telecommunications network with the building of towers in unreserved and undeserved areas. This is important to make sure we connect the unconnected; through that infrastructure we will facilitate mobile banking,” Mandiwanzira said.
“We are also going to step up the computerisation of schools under the e-learning initiative. This will be coupled with the connection of 1 300 schools to the internet via satellite. Also, as part of our 100-day plan, we are stepping up fibre connectivity to homes.”
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said he was not at liberty to discuss his plan yet, although his budget last week set the parameters and deliverables.
“I will have to report to the president first before I make it public,” Chinamasa said. “I am working on a paper that I will be presenting to the cabinet, so next week I will be in a position to talk.”
Chinamasa has already set the balling rolling through the budget in which he promised a raft of reforms and austerity measures. His promises were welcomed by the majority, but criticised for lack of concrete execution plans.
Some of Chinamasa’s priority areas and urgent deliverables include balancing the primary fiscal accounts, restoring confidence in Zimbabwe’s financial sector, improving the investment climate and reviving the strategy to clear arrears first with multilateral and later bilateral institutions. He need to clear US$1,8 billion arrears to secure new funding, although reforms and free, fair and credible elections are the key to that.
One of his top priorities is also to move resources from the bloated wage bill to much-needed capital and social spending.
In his budget presentation last week, Chinamasa spoke about cutting the wage bill.
Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira said she is still finding her feet in her new portfolio, but will have her work plan ready by Tuesday next week.
Women and Youth Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni said she is in the process of aligning the two portfolios before coming up with her 100-day plan.
“As you are aware, I am converging two and half ministries into one,” Nyoni said. “We are still aligning the two ministries to make them one. It takes time.”
Energy minister Simon Khaya Moyo referred questions on his plans to chief cabinet secretary Misheck Sibanda.
“That is a cabinet issue,” he said. “That is a matter for cabinet; you have to speak to the secretary of cabinet Misheck Sibanda.”
Some of the issues that Khaya Moyo has to deal with include Zesa’s US$1 billion and arrears to South African power utility Eskom (US$41 million) and Mozambique’s Cahorra Basa (US$9 million) amid looming power cuts. He also has a task of sorting out the tender corruption mess at the power utility.
Mines minister Winston Chitando, one of the new few technocrats in the new government, said he was away in Miami, the United States, on government business and could not speak.
He has, however, spoke about the need to revive his sector, boost production in mining and enhance investor-confidence to attract capital.
Other ministers did not respond or were unavailable to comment on their 100-day plans. — Additional reporting by Tinashe Kairezi, Elias Mambo and Melody Chikono.