By Prince Kurupati*
On 4 March, Zimbabwe’s leader who replaced Robert Mugabe marks his first 100 days in office. The 100-day mark has been used globally as an indicator of how a President (mainly a newly elected President) goes about his business. It’s a gauge to see if a leader is on track and if he is implementing the policies he promised during the campaign period.
Emmerson Mnangagwa in a video posted on his official Facebook page stated that “it takes more than 100 days to recover an economy.” As such, we shall judge Mnangagwa in light of the above.
Mnangagwa inherited a mess of an economy, a broken democracy, and an eroded social fabric. It was always going to be a daunting task from the word go but Mnangagwa tried to paint a positive outlook starting from his inauguration speech as he said that his administration would work tirelessly to restore Zimbabwe ‘s glory.
To mark his 100 days in office, we have drafted some of Mnangagwa’s hits and misses taking into perspective the fact that his first 100 days in office were never going to be an easy ride.
Re-engagement with the West
The statement, “Zimbabwe is open for business” has become synonymous with Emmerson Mnangagwa. Every chance he gets, whether speaking in Zimbabwe or beyond the confines of the Zimbabwean border, Mnangagwa reminds everyone that the country is open for business. Mnangagwa’s re-engagement efforts with the outside world are already starting to pay dividends.
Soon after his inauguration, the then British Minister for Africa, Rory Stewart paid a courtesy visit to the new leader. His replacement, Harriet Baldwin made her first international trip to Zimbabwe in a move that showed that relations between Zimbabwe and the UK are recovering. The US, Russia and other Western countries have also sent envoys and delegations demonstrating that there is a shift in the once frosty relations between Zimbabwe and other countries.
Perhaps the biggest illustration that Zimbabwe indeed has progressed in its reengagement efforts with the outside world is the invitation forwarded to the President for him to attend the World Economic Forum, the first time a Zimbabwean President has been invited to the prestigious business forum.
In sporting circles also, the country’s re-engagement efforts have paid dividends. For the first time in more than a decade, a European team came to play the Zimbabwean cricket team as Zimbabwe and the Republic of Ireland women’s teams played a test cricket series earlier this year. Also from 4 March to 25 March, Zimbabwe hosts the Cricket World Cup Qualifiers featuring 10 teams from around the world.
National Peace and Reconciliation Bill
One of the issues that faced Mnangagwa when he came into office was the Gukurahundi question. The Gukurahundi occurred in the early 1980s when the army killed many people classified as ‘dissidents’ in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces. At the time, Mnangagwa was the Intelligence minister and many people accuse him of being at the forefront of Gukurahundi. In an effort to bring closure to the families affected by the Gukurahundi and subsequently other government injustices, Mnangagwa signed into law the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill which establishes commissions that tour different districts in the country helping the aggrieved air their voices to the aggressors. The National Peace and Reconciliation Bill is a step in the right direction but it is important to note that the commissions tasked with reconciling the aggrieved societies have not had much success so far as their efforts have been thwarted by the Mthwakazi Group.
Mnangagwa was elected by ZANU (PF), Mugabe’s party to carry on Mugabe’s term until the elections slated for later this year. After his inauguration, Mnangagwa has committed to holding credible, free and fair elections when they are due. He has also promised that he will do what Mugabe failed to do in his last years in office i.e. to call for election observers and monitors from the European Union, the United Nations, and all other countries willing to send election observers and monitors.
Freeing up fiscal space
One of the biggest challenges the Mugabe administration had in its final years was a huge budget deficit. The country had more expenditure than revenue as the salaries for the civil servants accounted for 70 percent of the national budget. When Mnangagwa took office, he promised a leaner and efficient government. A raft of plans was put in place to reduce the budget deficit. Some of those plans were to abolish 3 739 youth officer posts which the government has done, reduce the ministerial posts and vehicles given to top government officials something that Mnangagwa did, and scaling down on foreign trips, another thing the administration has been able to do. A lot is still needed though but the steps taken so far prove the President’s commitment to a leaner and efficient government.
During the 2018 National Budget presentation, the Minister for Finance, Hon Patrick Chinamasa promised to privatise all technically insolvent parastatals. Close to three-quarters of all the 93 state enterprises in Zimbabwe are technically insolvent but only a handful have embarked on privatisation. Probably, it’s a matter of time but this is one area that needs immediate work as the parastatals are costing the taxpayer loads of dollars each year as they record massive profits only to be bailed out by the government.
Moratorium on externalised funds
Technically speaking, the moratorium on externalised funds ends on 1 March but if anything is to be taken from the press statement issued by the secretary to the President stating that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has already received some of the externalised funds, then the moratorium to many Zimbabweans is a farce and huge disappointment. What Zimbabweans want with the moratorium, first of all, is to hear ‘who’ (names) returned funds then how much was returned. By categorically stating that they have received funds without giving the names of who had externalised funds in the first instance makes this whole moratorium a farce.
Another populist promise given by the President refers to asset declaration by top government officials. According to a statement from the Office of the President, all top government officials were instructed to declare their assets publicly. The statement came out during the first weeks of January but up to now, no single official has made public his/her assets.
During Mnangagwa’s first days, many stated that they would tell if he is different from Mugabe or not from the names he picks for ministerial positions. It was a disappointment, to say the least for many as he recalled most of the faces that were in Mugabe’s previous administration except for one or two new faces. Leeway was given, however, as there were arguments that Mnangagwa needed tried and tested individuals in his cabinet as he faces an election in a few months’ time. However, the conduct of some of the ministers chosen especially the Home Affairs Minister, Obert Mpofu has further cast doubt on the Mnangagwa administration. The longer he keeps Mpofu in his administration, the longer he loses the trust and respect from the majority of Zimbabweans as they view Mpofu as the embodiment of everything that was wrong with the Mugabe administration i.e. corruption, nepotism, and arrogance.
The above are some of the major hits and misses of the first 100 days in office of President Emmerson Mnangagwa but thanks to the ingenuity of one Zimbabwean, Vusi Nyamazana, you can check out a full complement of Mnangagwa’s promises and how he has fared at MnangagwaMeter.