First 100 days: Drain the swamp

Forget the cosmetics, likeability or lack thereof in the character of Zimbabwe’s new Cabinet – the President has his work cut out for him and he knows it.

Source: First 100 days: Drain the swamp | The Sunday Mail December 3, 2017

President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa’s first 100 days may well be the most onerous faced by any national leader in modern times.

President Mnangagwa has at most eight months before elections are held, no later than the end of August 2018 according to the law.

The President has hit the ground running, rightly pointing out in his first meeting with permanent secretaries that his Government will take “advantage of the positive optimism among our people, ushered in by this new dispensation”.

“Our people have endured economic hardships for over two decades, and now expect this Government to turn things around, within the shortest time possible,” he said.

This is a good reading of the mood and expectations.

Indeed, there is optimism within the populace, and people expect President Mnangagwa and his team to improve their fortunes as soon as possible.

On the parallel market, the exchange rate has dropped dramatically. In banks, there is improvement, with some clients accessing hard currency.

But the President’s enthusiasm and focus on the economy and well-being of the people did not start now.

His track record, especially with regards to the successful Command Agriculture, tells the story of a man with the country’s prosperity at heart.

Even in his then unbelievable statement issued while in exile, and days after dismissal from both Zanu-PF and Government, Cde Mnangagwa spoke about the economy.

While promising to come and take control of the levers of power within weeks, President Mnangagwa said he would do this to better the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans who have long suffered and endured economic hardship.

So, even as the burden of political gamesmanship weighed heavily on his shoulders as he calculated how he was going to “control the levers of power” when the deck appeared stacked against him, the economy and well-being of the people were top of his agenda.

He wrote: “Fellow Zimbabweans. . .let us bury our differences and rebuild a new and prosperous Zimbabwe. . .we want a country that gives every citizen the opportunity to prosper, to take care of their families, a country that encourages Zimbabweans to invest in their economy and contribute to the development of infrastructure for future generations.

“This is part of my vision for a rejuvenated Zimbabwe. Let not your hearts be troubled for peace, love, unity, development and prosperity are around the corner.”

And in his inaugural address at a fully-packed National Sports Stadium on that historic afternoon of November 24, 2017, the President again spoke about the economy.

“Our economic policy will be predicated on our agriculture, which is the mainstay, and on creating conditions for an investment-led economic recovery that puts premium on job-creation.

“Key choices will have to be made to attract foreign direct investment to tackle high levels of unemployment while transforming our economy towards the tertiary.

“The many skilled Zimbabweans who have left the country over the years for a variety of reasons must now come into the broad economic calculus designed for our recovery and take-off.”

The economy dominated the President’s inauguration speech as he stated that “the physical and social infrastructure” must be repaired.

He also spoke of urgent solutions to liquidity problems and dealing decisively with corruption.

“In the immediate, the liquidity challenges which have bedevilled the economy must be tackled head-on, with real solutions being generated as a matter of urgency. People must be able to access their earnings and savings as and when they need them.

“As we focus on recovering our economy, we must shed misbehaviours and acts of indiscipline which have characterised the past. Acts of corruption must stop forthwith.

“Where these occur, swift justice must be served to show each and all that crime and other acts of economic sabotage can only guarantee ruin to perpetrators. We have to aspire to be a clean nation, one sworn to high moral standards and deserved rewards.”

The President expressed his Government’s desire to fully engage with the international community.

Further, he spoke of paying off the country’s debts – a major step in the re-engagement effort.

“As we bear no malice towards any nation, we ask those who have punished us in the past to consider their economic and political sanctions against us.

“Whatever misunderstandings may have subsisted in the past, let these make way to a new beginning which sees us relating to one another in multi-layered, mutually-beneficial ways as equal and reciprocally dependent partners.

“We remain committed to honouring the debts and to enter into new relationships. Above all, all foreign investments will be safe in our country, and we will fully abide by the terms of Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements which we have concluded with a number of nations. I ask you to join us in exploiting our potential to make a difference in the lives of our people.”

His first major policy statement after inauguration was about the economy as he extended an olive branch to economic saboteurs who have been externalising foreign currency at the expense of their country and fellow citizens.

Said the President: “As a first step towards the recovery of the illegally externalised funds and assets, the Government of Zimbabwe is gazetting a three-month moratorium within which those involved in the malpractice can bring back the funds and assets with no questions being asked or charges preferred against them.”

The three-month moratorium is a bold statement in terms of governance and discipline in business and the economy.

This is a forthright declaration by a no nonsense President that corruption and malfeasance will not be tolerated, yet accepting that all avenues must be exhausted to achieve the goal of economic recovery.

Which means that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe must put the correct spectacles on, that Zimra should execute its mandate and good corporate governance must prevail.

Friend or foe of the President, the message is clear. It is no longer business as usual.

The announcement that there would be a leaner Cabinet with ministries being merged to avoid duplications and contain unnecessary expenditures to improve productivity, was music to most people’s ears.

Indeed it is a smaller Cabinet with a refreshing mixture of experience and fresh blood, a good combination to jump-start the heavy duty economic engine.

So, those wailing about the new Cabinet or those who were simply too eager to see new faces regardless of experience or ideology; hold your horses, the President knows what he is doing.

After all – if his team fails, it will be him without a job in about nine months.

Meanwhile, the President has already shown his fatherly love and determination to unify the party by extending an olive branch to all G40-aligned MPs, save for the few “criminals” that had captured Ex-President Mugabe.

This is different from the purging the nation was tortured with by the G40 cabal. Just pause and imagine what kind of purging and chaos would have followed a G40 victory. It’s a scary thought.

Instead, President Mnangagwa is giving just about everyone a chance to reform and work hard.

The President knows the weight of expectation.

Mr President, we are behind you in fixing the economy, draining the swamp of corruption and making Zimbabwe a better place to live.