By Paul Kaseke
My concerns lie with the things that are effectively within the President’s reach.
I accept that he cannot single-handedly turn around the sinking ship that Zimbabwe had become overnight at least in the economic sense and I am under no illusion that this is a simple task.
To undo the damage of former President Robert Mugabe’s disastrous rule will take years essentially. It won’t happen overnight and anyone who thinks otherwise is deceiving themselves.
There are some things that he could have changed, however, and the first stop would have been his Cabinet.
His Cabinet is an almost exact replica of Mugabe’s recycled Cabinets except for a few additions of former military generals.
Mugabe’s weakness was in part, an incompetent Cabinet that could not formulate and execute sustainable policies, but President Mnangagwa’s Cabinet has the same faces that failed under Mugabe. To expect them to have a Damascus experience and change 180 degrees is really wishful thinking.
Some of these ministers have been implicated in scandals involving corruption and abuse of office, yet they appear in this new cabinet that is meant to usher a new Zimbabwe.
It is a basic premise of government that while the President superintends Cabinet and its business, it is Cabinet that pushes the President’s agenda and turns political rhetoric into a lived reality, so it is crucial that any good President surrounds himself with a Cabinet that will get the job done.
Some of these ministers have repeatedly failed in their Cabinet posts and are behind the collapse of several institutions or in some cases, entire sectors of society.
One good example would be Health minister David Parirenyatwa under whose supervision the health system has become virtually comatose.
Surely if one intends on changing the country’s fortunes, then such individuals should be removed just based on their track record of poor service delivery.
Zimbabwe continues to occasionally be plagued by diseases that have almost become a myth in other countries. We are one of very few countries that still struggle with cholera because of this kind of inefficiency.
With respect, the current Cabinet is generally not capable of anything new under the sun apart from continuing with mediocrity and general inefficiency.
As I showed in a previous article, many of these ministers are unaware of the constitutional limits they must observe, let alone the legislative framework on which they are meant to base their decisions.
For all intents and purposes, not only do we have an inefficient underperforming Cabinet, but we also have a Cabinet that is legally illiterate and oblivious to the workings of the Constitution they swore to uphold
President Mnangagwa has also failed to show that he means business, hence, his statements are not taken seriously anymore. He has spoken about ending corruption, but to date no serious action has been taken by his government.
The first problem is that a large section of his Cabinet is generally corrupt and, therefore, nobody should expect them to act on large scale corruption when the ministers themselves are actors and benefactors of corruption.
The second problem is that If anything, the “corruption must end” mantra is just rhetoric with no significant impact.
The few casualties of the “corruption fight” are insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. The integrity of Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (Zaac) which is mandated to deal with corruption matters, has been heavily compromised and with several utterances of being given directives to investigate individuals, it seems clear that Zacc has drifted from its constitutional mandate and takes instructions on who to investigate and when to investigate.
They are the epitome of a captured institution that should be reconstituted for it to effectively work.
The pledge to cut down on government spending has been a farce, because government continues to splurge unnecessarily on events and trips that are not necessary at this stage.
One example would be the cross-continental trips by the President which could arguably have been dramatically reduced.
Zimbabwe is not a country that can afford to fly its leaders to other countries to pay courtesy calls and provide briefings of updates in the country. That can be done via emails, skype calls or whatever medium the government chooses.
It does not, in my opinion warrant an entire delegation jetting across Africa and out of it, to do so.
Government departments continue to waste money on commemorations that result in expenditure of no less than $50 000 in entertainment, catering and t-shirt printing costs.
In this, President Mnangagwa has failed to distinguish himself from Mugabe, who spent more time outside the country. While on this matter, I am curious to find out how Zanu PF has managed to purchase new vehicles for campaigns without dipping into national Treasury.
Based on Zanu’s past practices, it is easy to conclude that the campaigns are being rolled out with national Treasury funds instead of party funds.
The credibility of the President’s words will be tested and seen when he acts on the things he has promised to act on, but that must start with a cleaning up of his own house (in this sense I am referring to Cabinet).
We cannot have ministers like Obert Mpofu who arrogantly believes he cannot be held accountable by Parliament and its committees.
Such leaders must be kicked out of government for undermining the function of Parliament and, thereby, undermining the Constitution that set-in place that mandate.
If the President cannot act on seemingly minor matters like these, there is little hope of a better Zimbabwe under his leadership.
Mnangagwa must walk the talk and make the hard decisions to protect principles over personalities. In the absence of this, he certainly will only be viewed as a continuation of Mugabe’s rule…