South Africa-based Zimbabwean economist, Vusi Nyamazana — who has developed a government policy tracker eponymously called MnangagwaMeter following the ushering in of the new dispensation last year — says President Mnangagwa achieved a lot in his first eight months before the July 30 elections. With a new mandate, President Mnangagwa is set to achieve more, but it is the duty of citizens to also take part in the development of the country. Nyamazana says his barometer will help Government and citizens stay in the loop in terms of the country’s trajectory in the next five years. The Herald’s Political Editor Tichaona Zindoga (TZ) caught up with Nyamazana (VN) to discuss the initiative.
TZ: Can you tell us about the polimeter; how it started and what you seek to achieve with this kind of initiative?
VN: The whole idea started when the new dispensation was ushered in because there were high expectations as Zimbabweans and the international community wanted to know what the President would be doing and what he would achieve in the caretaker term.
So, the idea of the polimeter was to try to collect all pronouncements by the President in terms of promises and track the progress towards the fulfilment of the same. So, in a way it was more of an informational tool for citizens so that citizens will know what the Government is doing and they can easily comment where progress is made and criticise where the Government fails to honour its promises.
The other aspect is to sensitise the Government that citizens are monitoring what they are doing and in a way can improve in policy implementation.
In a nutshell, the idea behind this is to highlight Government progress or lack thereof, and also provide an interface with citizens through their monitorial function.
TZ: How do you collect your indices and make measurements and how reliable is this barometer?
VN: The meter is reliable because it is fact-based, that is we take promises from official channels or other sources that we can all agree that they represent true positions of Government, for example the Press. The information, therefore, comes from inauguration speeches, information on the Government websites, fiscal and monetary policies and other official pronouncements. These are quite authoritative sources.
On tracking the promises, we use the media, especially The Herald and The Sunday Mail, as papers of record and they also report accurately on what the Government is doing. The information is factual. We don’t put any opinion on the information: it’s just taking facts as they are, collecting them and consolidating so that we have all information on one platform.
TZ: You monitored the first seven to eight months of the transitional period to the July elections. Can you tell us the highlights and what you found in your assessment?
VN: The President hit the ground running because it looks like he had a clear mandate, when it related to governance he was sure where the problems were and came up with solutions and as soon as he came in he put in several structures in place and some reforms which are more administrative, especially in the Public Service and Finance ministries. He made sure that it had to be business as usual and there had to be coherence.
In our assessment, he split his duties into two: governance and economy and we can safely conclude that governance did extremely well, but on the economy he inherited an economy that was already in trouble, so any programme would have lagged behind. The programmes introduced through the budget and monetary policy were quite important. However, some issues such as the cash liquidity issues are related to structural problems such as production and export.
Some programmes are likely to be concluded in the early days of this Second Republic. Obviously, we are looking forward to them being actioned in the new term.
TZ: The Government of Zimbabwe has previously used some indicators and devices for monitoring and evaluation of performance. What is your comment on the general policy monitoring in Zimbabwe and what should be done with the new administration?
VN: There has always been a monitoring policy even during the Mugabe era. However, when President Mnangagwa came in, he came up with the idea of 100-day cycles to be implemented across Government, at ministries, departments and all parastatals. They in turn came up with 100-day plans. There were some successes, but a lot needs to be done in reorientation of the public service because these bureaucrats may not have been used to a new work ethic and way of doing things.
It is rather regrettable that some departments failed to pick some low hanging fruits. We need to take policy monitoring seriously because it is the nerve centre of Government and resource it adequately. There is need for clarity in the establishment of monitoring and evaluation entities in Government and that monitoring and evaluation at national level should cascade down to lower levels of governance.
TZ: You want to target Government delivery and in particular the performance of the President. But there have been concerns about citizens and the private sector not playing ball. What would be your comment on the role of civil society and the private sector in ensuring that Zimbabwe goes forward?
VN: The task of moving Zimbabwe ahead is not only for the President and his Government. Every citizen should contribute in their own special way. Looking at other non-state actors like the CSOs and private sectors they also have a critical role to play in making sure that service delivery happens. It will be necessary to track what the private sectors and others are doing in contributing towards the global goals that the President has set.
TZ: Earlier we discussed about the eight months that you monitored given the momentum that you saw, what would be your prediction on President Mnangagwa`s capacity to deliver in the next five years?
VN: The outlook is positive, in the first eight months President Mnangagwa had to inherit a bureaucracy that had its own issues and wasn’t that dynamic. In this full-term I think he has more room to recruit on merit and have everyone focus on what needs to be done. I believe performance management will take centre stage, chances are high that he will make much more progress than in the first eight months.