Lovemore Chikova Assistant Editor
In 1997, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) listed characteristics of good governance as including participation of citizens, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity, accountability and strategic vision.
Since President Mnangagwa assumed office, there have been reforms and policies that ensured these aspects of good governance and more others are enhanced, taking the country on a new trajectory of openness, freedom and democracy as never witnessed before.
This new culture has influenced the development path that the country has assumed, characterised by the participation of different actors in governance issues.
Good governance has become a buzzword in recent times, and the term is now widely used as an alternative to approaching societal problems and seeking developmental solutions.
It is a departure from the traditional and linear system of government that is viewed as rigid, to a flexible and all-encompassing system that takes everyone on board for a progressive society.
Good governance has become a central issue to developing countries, as they seek to consolidate their independence and democracy.
It has a potential to contribute to improvements necessary for political, social and economic development because if applied to its fullest, the concept promotes unity of purpose.
Since the end of 2017 when President Mnangagwa assumed office, Zimbabwe has witnessed a relooking into a number of issues that hinder good governance, including some laws, to enable opening up of the democratic space.
The President’s fight against corruption, which is being strengthened with new measures, is one of the key issues enabling good governance.
There has been a worrying trend of corruption in both the public and the private sectors, which has resulted in resources being misused and self-enrichment of some, in the process hindering the country’s developmental efforts.
For instance, no foreign investor is interested in bringing funds into a country known for being infested with corrupt officials and individuals, as the risk is just too much.
A number of bigwigs have since appeared in court charged with corruption, while the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) was recently accorded powers to arrest offenders.
This is in addition to the setting up of the Special Anti-Corruption Unit housed in the Office of the President and Cabinet to improve efficiency in the fight against all forms of graft and to strengthen the effectiveness of national mechanisms for the prevention of corruption.
Only last week, Government gazetted the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill (2019) that seeks to give ZACC, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) powers to seek explanations from people who flaunt wealth whose source raises suspicion.
Law enforcement agents will be empowered to question people leading flamboyant lifestyles from inexplicable sources of income.
The Bill amends the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act (Chapter 9; 24).
It is this reform process that has seen other laws that have previously been viewed as stifling good governance, democracy and freedom being repealed.
The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), criticised in the past for stifling Press and other freedoms, will be repealed by the friendlier Freedom of Information Bill, which has already been gazetted for the first time.
The Bill seeks to give effect to Section 62 of the Constitution, which provides for the right to access to information as enshrined in the Declaration of Rights.
What is also crucial about the Freedom of Information Bill is that it sets out additional functions of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, with respect to the right of access to information, which are to be exercised in the normal course of its role as the guardian of human rights.
Another milestone in enhancing good governance by President Mnangagwa’s administration is the repeal of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) through the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill.
This new Bill signifies the New Dispensation’s commitment to opening up of the democratic space, as it also helps align laws with the Constitution.
It is a direct response to the people’s concerns on the way demonstrations and public gatherings were being handled by the authorities, which was viewed as undemocratic and stifling the rights to association and gathering.
While POSA provided for temporary bans on demonstrations, the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill relaxes such rules, and this is in line with a Constitutional Court ruling.
Previously, there was no timeframe during which the police could respond to a notification to demonstrate, but the new Bill sets the time at within three days, making it easier for demonstrators to carry out their programme.
The repeal of AIPPA and POSA will boost good governance in Zimbabwe because the two pieces of legislation contained clauses that were seen as toxic, with provisions that hindered people’s freedom.
They also contained sections that were ultra vires the Constitution.
There is also the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, which will enhance good governance by opening up the media space and ensuring journalists operate freely, but within the confines of the Law.
This will advance good governance and the thriving of democracy aided by the freedom of information, freedom of speech and freedom of the media.
Related to the media laws reform is the Protection of Personal Information/Data Protection Bill, and there are also other reforms taking place in institutions like the police force, which are meant to refocus the people on the developmental agenda.
These measures and many others are meant to ensure that people have a greater role in governance, instead of being excluded.
A new phenomenon has also emerged in the country — that of collective decision making, coupled with less bureaucratic control from Government.
This has encouraged the flow of ideas from all facets of society, especially from the bottom to the top, without any hindrances.
The desire by President Mnangagwa to enhance good governance is reflected in his famous statement that he is a listening President, and true to this assertion, he has managed to listen to various people in society and incorporate their thinking in governance issues.
The private sector has been active in contributing to governance through various platforms, including the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), which shares ideas on the way forward with President Mnangagwa
PAC assists the President with formulating key economic policies and strategies that advance Vision 2030 meant to ensure the country achieves an upper middle-income status.
The advisory council comprises experts and leaders drawn from diverse sectors like business, health and social protection, agriculture, governance and human rights, faith-based organisations, tourism, education, minorities, information communication technology, civic society, communication and media management.
In his endeavour to ensure that everyone contributes to governance, President Mnangagwa also initiated the Political Actors Dialogue, which brings together political parties that participated in the harmonised elections last year.
The platform is meant to afford everyone a chance to proffer solutions to the challenges facing the country and build a peaceful, open and transparent society through discourse.
More space for people to participate in governance has been opened up through the concept of devolution, whose objective is to give decision-making powers to local communities on issues that affect them.
Through devolution, people will chart the developmental course and priorities for their areas, and go ahead to implement them.
The Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF), which was launched recently bringing together Government, business and labour, is another exercise for enhancing good governance in Zimbabwe.
Through the TNF, there will be consensus and win-win arrangements among participants on various issues of governance.
It is clear that President Mnangagwa has instituted a system that is inclusive and appreciates the contribution of people from various sectors to the development process.
It is more like sharing responsibility and accountability, with all members of society being given an opportunity to make contributions.
These efforts have been centred on key issues of rule of law, respect of human rights, political openness, public participation, judicial independence, transparency, absence of corruption, active independent media, freedom of information and administrative competence.
President Mnangagwa’s actions show that he understands that other than Government, there are other players in society with a big role in enhancing democracy and economic progress.
This is why he has been meeting different sectors of society in a bid to hear their views and contributions on how best they think their interests can be achieved.
President Mnangagwa has met civil society, chiefs, the private sector, youths, students, women, churches, vendors, journalists, nurses, teachers, doctors, lecturers, among many other groups, since 2017.
He has held broad-based discussions with them, as they participated in governance by proffering their ideas on the way forward, thereby taking Zimbabwe forward as a united nation with a consensus.
The achievement of Vision 2030 needs a country that pulls in one direction, and this is being achieved through pursuing all aspects of good governance, as being witnessed.
President Mnangagwa’s meetings with different groups have proved his genuineness in achieving good governance and an inclusive society.
Through his meetings with chiefs from Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces and a grouping of civil society known as Matabeleland Collective, President Mnangagwa has tackled some thorny issues like the Gukurahundi disturbances that took place in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions in the early 1980s.
He has since encouraged people to openly discuss the issue to enhance a healing process that allows them to focus on the future development of the country, instead of continuing to lament about the past.
In this way, the President is encouraging people to participate and give their views on how they think some of the problems bedevilling the country can be solved.
In promoting good governance, President Mnangagwa has been putting people first, seeking direction from the people, promoting harmony among the people, conducting his affairs with integrity and openness and encouraging excellence and welcoming creativity.