Nick Mangwana Special Correspondent
A few were wondering whether President Mnangagwa was aware of the current challenges and the accompanying hardships experienced by the people. Right on cue, he answered the question and left those who listened to his New Year address in no doubt that he has his finger on the pulse of the nation. This piece is a glimpse into what that speech contained and the vision it charted.
In speeches towards the end of the year 2018 and, in his end of year message to the nation, President E.D. Mnangagwa showed that he has not been oblivious to the need to fortify citizens in the face of the real and perceived challenges before the nation. Assuring citizens that a firm foundation has been built for the sustainable economic recovery and growth that we all yearn for, he called for more commitment and focus on what needs to be done for the attainment of the Zimbabwe we all want — that should be in the upper-middle income category by the year 2030.
“Being focused” were the key words underpinning the President’s address to the nation.
“Focus” is a word that denotes directing one’s attention or their efforts. This is one thing the nation needs. If in the midst of current challenges, we misdirect that effort we will end up with some opportunistic labour disputes that take attention from the goal.
If we misdirect our focus, we will start believing the lies that our nation can be turned around by a magic wand as promised by some politicians. And if we lose sight of what should be our focal point then we will be distracted from what we are trying to achieve by the pain of today. But as the cliché goes, “no pain, no gain”. Even the great philosopher Aristotle said that, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light”. And yes, Zimbabwe will soon turn the corner. The fundamentals are being put right and the plans are in place. More importantly, the political will to see them through is there.
To a significant extent the President has also called for maturity and wisdom from Zimbabweans by reminding the nation that part of the pain being experienced by ordinary Zimbabweans is inevitable as it resembles birth pangs experienced by the female folk when delivering new life. Indeed, it would be naïve for Zimbabweans to expect a painless transition from the old to the New Dispensation in whichever sphere one may consider — political, social or economic. As is the case, the political and socio-economic system shaped by the illegal sanctions regime imposed on Zimbabwe following the land reforms at the turn of the century, was to be transformed starting with the politics as the New Dispensation emerged. The events of November 2017 started the much-needed political change which was capped by the Constitutional Court’s confirmation of President E.D. Mnangagwa as the presidential winner of the harmonised general elections.
The political transition itself as a process impacted politicians as individuals, parties, and groups or factions within the parties differently depending on their various political inclinations, positions and standings vis-à-vis the national question and pertinent topical issues of the day. Some were perceived as handsomely rewarded while others felt severely punished by the political transition process.
The reality is that the political question with respect to who should govern Zimbabwe and how, has been settled, at least for the next five years. It therefore behoves that those who were disappointed by the prevailing democratic and constitutional process should allow the nation to move ahead to explore the beckoning opportunities of Zimbabwe’s Second Republic and let citizens benefit in the medium to long term by way of improved livelihoods and welfare.
The President’s end of year message implored Zimbabweans to be honest when interpreting the current moment and its socio-economic challenges which he emphasised as being surmountable and transient. The moment is indeed historic as it is meant to bring back Zimbabwe into the fold of nations enjoying normal non-antagonistic relations with all the other members of the international community, especially those that hitherto the new political dispensation treated Zimbabwe as a pariah state.
It is a moment of consolidating the gains of our independence and national sovereignty by ensuring that adequate foreign capital investment flows into the country to aid the exploitation of domestic natural resources and the industrialisation of the economy for the benefit of the Zimbabwean citizens.
Zimbabwe is vigorously pursuing re-engagement with Western countries with a view to removing trade, investment, credit and financial barriers. The country is also being guided by its Constitution on which laws need reforming and that programme is being pursued with fervour. At the heart of this reform agenda is the President’s philosophy of building “the Zimbabwe we want”.
It is very important for Zimbabweans to note that this is not because someone elsewhere is demanding these reforms. It is because the President’s belief that Zimbabwe can only blossom if it enhances its democratic credentials. This is why days before he was even President he declared that, “the voice of the people is the voice of God”. Where this pursuit of democratic and economic reform converges with the wishes of external friends, synergies will be built. All this is meant to put Zimbabwe on a pathway to recovery and sustainable growth. But there will be challenges and there are challenges.
A sober analysis of the present socio-economic challenges, whose chief indicators are cash shortages, rising consumer prices, shortages of bread and fuel, would reveal that except for the very last, (shortages of bread and fuel) the same challenges were prevalent over the years prior to the emergence of the new political dispensation in November 2017. However, any adverse reactions or discontent by the general public then were subdued and could not find much expression which it enjoys now because of the freedoms that come with the New Dispensation.
Latest statistical evidence with respect to the recent or current fuel shortage indicate that it is a result of increased national demand evidencing an expanding economy, a situation that vindicates the President’s claim that there are “strong signs of (economic) recovery and growth” already underway.
We have the challenge our daily fuel usage rising from one million litres for petrol to 3,1 million litres and from 2 million litres to 4,6 million for diesel. The increase evidences the constantly expanding fuel usage. This is reflected mainly by the construction industry, which by the way, as most economic analysts would anticipate, was the first indicator of the current expansionary effects within the economy.
The perceptible expansionary effects also embrace the impact of various national projects in the different sectors of the economy — mining, agriculture, energy, infrastructure development, etc. These, in our view, will engender and anchor positive prospects for socio-economic stabilisation and growth in the year 2019 and beyond. It would be remiss to attribute all the thirsty demand for fuel to economic activity when we do have so much non-productive use of fuel.
To put bluntly, Zimbabweans, we are wasteful fuel users. One struggles to understand something this writer has witnessed from even close family members. Take, for an example, four cars leaving the same house each one with two people or less passengers all going to the same church. It would still be dishonest to end here without making the right attributions to leakages within the fuel sector.
Does all the fuel imported to Zimbabwe end up being used in Zimbabwe or Zimbabwe is subsidising the region through these suspecting leakages? We will leave this for the right institutions of the State to unravel. Everyone should just do their job diligently. That had to be said. Now let’s go back to the President’s New Year Message.
The goings-on in the Zimbabwean economy testify of an economy in a shake-up moment, poised to take giant strides in the right direction. It is a moment of sifting and separating chaff from the grain. In dialectical terms, it is the moment of “negation of negation”. That is, a moment of doing away with negative spent forces in terms of development and embracing new ones, new ideas that are bound to propel society forward to a higher level of development.
In essence, the President’s end of year message sought to alert Zimbabweans of the need to keep focused on the bigger picture of the development underway in the country and to accordingly position themselves to contribute to it while at the same time leveraging the same to improve their own welfare, that of their families, businesses and communities under the well known mantra “Iwe neni tine basa”.
The message also on one hand cautioned citizens against being misled by political losers, malcontents and merchants of illegal regime change while awakening them. On the other hand, it exhorted Zimbabweans to look for solutions within. That means each individual should not expect progress to be spearheaded by the person next door. Everyone should take responsibility for making this country the Zimbabwe they want because surely everyone is contributing to our current state of affairs. The mirror is always a good place to start from. Being masters of own destination should start with the individual then expand to a group, a community until it becomes a national clarion call.
The State has a role in all this. But its role is to ensure that the infrastructure, which is the primary enabler of economic activity, is in place. That it is doing and it also ensuring that the right legal framework is in place. That, it is working on. Let everyone focus on their role as an individual and collectively we will have the Zimbabwe we want.
Nick Mangwana is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.
Source : The Herald