Where there is a will . . .

Editor’s Memo
By Alfonce Mbizwo email: ambizwo@newsday.co.zw

Nearly two years ago, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa wrote an editorial in the Financial Times, a United Kingdom publication, to make his case for political and economic reforms in the southern African country.

Back then, he styled himself as a listening president and he regularly engaged with Zimbabweans across social media platforms to share his thoughts, aspirations and to hear their concerns and expectations.

On some critical issues, he would report back on the actions he would have undertaken to solve whatever problems Zimbabweans had raised with him.

His epistle came after he had been judged the winner of a hotly contested election four months previously, and his army had shot and killed six civilians in clashes that left several people injured the day after the polls.

That episode evoked memories of the dark days of the late Robert Mugabe, a political chess master who Mnangagwa had just toppled, buying himself goodwill from a population weary of nearly four decades of decay and misrule.

But Zimbabweans were keen to move on to the better future he had promised when 60 000 people piled into the National Sports Stadium on November 24, 2017, to witness a first post-Mugabe inauguration. The future, it seemed then, had arrived.

Zimbabwe has no choice but to embark on reforms, a process that would be painful, he wrote. He was not afraid of taking tough and painful, decisions.

“A large and inefficient public sector cannot be allowed to hold back private enterprise. We have set about cutting unnecessary expenditure, therefore. We are reducing the number of ministries, limiting foreign travel and perks for officials, and retiring or redeploying senior officers.

“Privatisation and the reform of state-owned enterprises are also key components of this strategy. Organisations which have outlived their commercial viability or necessity will be dissolved,” Mnangagwa wrote.

But the president failed to kick on and the talk about reforms has been reduced to just talk.

Austerity measures and currency reforms have proved disastrous, and the government brought back the US dollar into circulation less than a year after its ban as rising inflation quickly made mincemeat of the re-introduced Zimbabwe dollar.

Mnangagwa has found it hard to revive economic growth and faced criticism over a heavy-handed response to protests and allegations of rising human rights abuses. Under his watch, Zimbabwe is struggling through its worst economic crisis in a decade and there appears to be no solution in sight.

In his editorial, the president made some pertinent observations that he would do well to recall now, when everything seems so dark and hopes of a recovery under him have all but faded. The government must:

l Act on privatisation of state enterprises;

l Deal with the scourge of corruption decisively;

l Support private enterprise; and

l Recognise that Zimbabwe needs support of the region and the international community.

“The process of change is not smooth. Some pain and discomfort along the way is inevitable. The arduousness of the path of reform can sometimes lead governments to stall or backtrack. But as a passionate reformer leading a reformist government, I know there is no other way,” wrote Mnangagwa then.

Where there is a will, there is a way. So, whenever you are ready to walk the reform journey, we are prepared to walk with you. Zimbabwe is counting on you.

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