PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has, perhaps for the first time, publicly referred to himself as a crusading “reformer” warning, nothing was going to stand in the way of his resolve to bring about painful but positive economic change to his troubled country.
At the height of the Zanu PF internal power struggles before he masterminded a military coup that ousted former President Robert Mugabe exactly a year ago, Mnangagwa and his faction were touted as reformists but he never publicly admitted fitting into that label.
But the President, in an article he published with British economic newspaper, The Financial Times Tuesday, presented himself as Zimbabwe’s version of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“The arduousness of the path to reform can sometimes lead governments to back-track. But as a passionate reformer leading a reformist government, I know there is no other way. We cannot allow anything to slow us down,” Mnangagwa said.
Amid reports of internal opposition to his reform agenda with some Zanu PF hawks supposedly girding up to throw banana skins in his wake, Mnangagwa argued the civil service which hitherto remains a no go area for reforms, will not be spared.
To underscore his resolve, Mnangagwa quoted the former British premier in an analogy meant to present Zimbabwe’s economy as a dying patient requiring extraordinary measures to survive: “Yes the medicine is harsh, but the patient requires it in order to live.”
He added, “In order to reform, restructure and rebuild the Zimbabwean economy, the national budget must be balanced and spending reined in. The government wage bill is unsustainable. 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,” said Mnangagwa.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has already set out a path to the disposal of non-performing State entities and Mnangagwa revealed his confidence in the Treasury chief.
“Organisations that have outlived their commercial viability or necessity will be dissolved. Over the past two years, we have spent large sums to support struggling state owned enterprises.
“But we cannot continue to prop them up, so we have earmarked underperforming bodies for sale and given them strict deadlines to conclude privatisation deals,” the President said.
Mnangagwa said the fight against corruption will not relent.
“Investigations are under way and arrests are already being made, including of ministers and senior executives. The era of zero tolerance for corruption is here,” he said.