PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday held his inaugural meeting with the Presidential Advisory Council (Pac) recently appointed to assist in bringing in new ideas, policy proposals and solutions to Zimbabwe’s myriad of problems.
Editor’s Memo, Dumisani Muleya
Objectively speaking, the initiative is a breath of fresh air. It shows Mnangagwa is willing to listen. Well, on paper at least.
Besides, it has distinguished people of great character, integrity and reputation. They are generally experts in their own fields. Each member should add to Pac’s diversity of experience as a collective body.
Yet the truth is that the team was not welcome by everybody. In a divided and polarised society like Zimbabwe, some say it is a good initiative. Others say it is nothing more than a manifestation of elite capture and co-option — the usual politics of authoritarian rule — hence the need for counter-hegemony narratives and strategies.
Nonetheless, Pac deserves a chance. Granted it must be scrutinised and criticised, but given a try. Its members seem ready to hit the ground running, though they ought to understand very well they have a mountain to climb. They can make a difference, but then again it won’t be easy. It’s like trying to climb Mount Everest.
However, after years of dreaming about it and seven weeks of mountaineering, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest, the earth’s highest mountain, at 11.30am on May 29, 1953. They were the first people to ever reach the peak — 8,848km — of Mount Everest.
Perhaps the Pac can also make its own piece of history.
For that to happen they need to have fresh ideas. They must also have a dream, policy alternatives and meaningful solutions.
Here is their biggest challenge: to be frank and upfront with Mnangagwa for him to abandon Mugabeism and embracing an alternative progressive democratic vision to rescue this troubled nation. This is fundamental.
For that to work they have to be independent-minded. They can’t afford to be captured and swallowed. They also can’t afford to embrace Zanu PF’s discredited politics of flattery, insults and delusions. That won’t work.
Given their credentials, exposure and experience, they must be able to avoid that.
But we also happen to know men and women of similar and even greater reputations and integrity who faltered and got co-opted. When proximity to power, money and fame get involved, people change. Incentives will obviously be dangled before them. That will be the truest test of character for them. They also need to realise they are swimming with the sharks. Or they are in the belly of the beast. There is no room for naivety and gullibility.
Aside from these attendant risks, there are great opportunities for them to contribute to national reconstruction, economic revival and democratic progress. They have huge networks and capacity. So they must have the courage of their convictions to speak truth to power in a bid to advise, reform and rebuild.
Given Zimbabwe’s restless political environment and economic instability, Pac must urgently help Mnangagwa to tackle a number of things, among them the following: restoration of constitutionalism after the 2017 military coup, democratic renewal; dialogue to resolve the current political stalemate arising from last year’s toxic elections; halt political repression, brutality and human rights abuses; stop impunity; resolve past atrocities; repeal dictatorial laws; embrace accountable leadership and good governance; uphold rule of law; property rights; and ensure political tolerance.
Pac must also help Mnangagwa to come up with a serious economic recovery plan and reforms. Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and his team are already doing some of that amid strong headwinds.
Further, they should also help genuinely combat corruption. Combined with leadership and policy failures, corruption is a cancer gnawing away at the fabric of this nation. Political will will be critical. Good advice falling on deaf ears has no utility and won’t make a difference.