Political economy of Zim transition

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ZIMBABWE’s post-coup government has seized the window of opportunity to push for a raft of reforms and demonstrate its commitment to democratic and economic recovery, but now it needs to go beyond rhetoric to concretise change.

Zimind Comment

The government, led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has been making the right noises and hitting the right notes, promising sweeping political, economic and institutional reforms, although not much has been delivered yet.

Mnangagwa and his officials, including ministers, want reforms and austerity measures to drive recovery and growth as they chart a path towards a “new economic order”.

Authorities say they will tackle low production and increase exports, as well as address macro-economic instability, unemployment, company closures, job losses, the chronic liquidity crunch and cash shortages. They have adopted a major policy shift to re-engage with the international community, international financial institutions and attract investors. This entails dealing with investment policies, laws and agreements, as well as sorting out land tenure, security and compensation issues.

These are big promises, but nothing much has changed. Although government needs time — it has been in office for almost two months only — officials must now stop talking and act.

For instance, on indigenisation the policy and attendant law must be amended to cystalise change. Just talking about it is not good enough. The same applies to the alignment of laws to the current constitution, one of the low-hanging fruits.

Critical electoral reforms deserve special attention and cannot wait. Elections must be free, fair and credible to have a legitimate outcome. The ousting of former president Robert Mugabe and the unfolding process of economic and political reform has renewed international interest in Zimbabwe’s transition. Re-engagement is slowly but surely moving.

The military’s role in the current transition must be scrutinised and redefined if a democratic state is to be built. This includes the exercise of appropriate civilian power control and oversight on the military.

Given changes institutions undergo during transitions, as well as changing demands and expectations of their roles and responsibilities, consultations and dialogue over public policy development are essential. Public involvement in policy-making processes is key for a legitimate social contract.

Power structures; not just in terms of faces and who holds political office, but also in relation to wealth distribution and wealth-creation must also be reformed.

Building a functional and thriving democracy requires the growth of civil society, political parties and a culture of political participation. So this transition needs sound democratic structures, institutions and parties.

Hence reforms, which must be agreed to both in form, content and implementation framework and timelines, can no longer be considered optional for the country’s political stability and economic recovery, but a sine qua non.

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