Eddie Cross, Harare
24 August 2018
I have just sat in front of my TV for an hour to hear the Chief Justice give the unanimous ruling of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe (9 Judges) that Emmerson Mnangagwa has been properly elected as the President of Zimbabwe for the next 5 years. There is little satisfaction in being proved right that this was an expensive and time wasting deviation for the country, but at the same time I was proud at the dignity and professionalism conducted by everyone through the proceedings. It is activities like this that build Nations. It strengthens Constitutionalism, the rule of law and respect for the Bench.
I am also glad that the decision was made that the proceedings be conducted in front of the public through the media. This amplified the impact and meant that at the end, we did not see any significant outpouring of anger on the streets by those whose petitions failed. This was a turning point for us as a country, the Mugabe era is behind us – we have a legitimate Government elected in an election which was not ‘free and fair’ by any standard but was a big step forward after the criminal subversion of our democracy since 1980 by the Mugabe led administration.
In my view Morgan Tsvangirai won the 2002 Presidential ballot by over 400 000 votes, in 2008 I know he won on the first round with 54 per cent of the vote – Mugabe winning only 27 per cent. What a different country this would have been if those results had been respected and implemented. We would be well on the way to becoming a middle income country instead of a country that is staggering on and just staying out of the clutches of being described as a ‘failed State’.
I weep for all those lives lost, all those families broken up, all those who have had to leave Zimbabwe to try and eke out a living in other countries where they are strangers and foreigners. I weep for those children who have come out of our schools functionally illiterate and innumerate. Our broken infrastructure, the potholed roads, the hospitals without even cleaning materials and linen, the failed parastatals which have served this country so well in the past and are now broken wrecks and nonfunctional.
But what next? Yesterday the Ministry of Finance issued its half year review, the fiscal deficit was at $1,3 billion, our National debt $19 billion and we are headed for a fiscal deficit this year of $3 billion (last year $2,5 billion or 15 per cent of GDP). Our national debt will soar well over $20 billion, nearly 100 per cent of our formal GDP. Our revenues are rising but so is expenditure, underlying inflation is over 30 per cent per annum and rising. Our exports are growing strongly but we are still short of money to import essentials, cash is still a nightmare. What on earth are we going to do?
I say ‘we’ because this is not the job of the new President; every one of us has to accept that these problems and challenges are so great that we all have to put our shoulders to the wheels and our thinking caps on. These are our problems – we did not create them but we have to deal with them because this is our country.
What we need in the next week is the selection of a new Cabinet which will be smaller than in the past; under 20 members please, made up of men and women with three main characteristics; they must be people of known integrity, both intellectual and fiduciary; they must have experience and they must have the capacity in both energy and leadership terms to take over the leadership of the tens of thousands employed in our Civil Service and who must do much of the work to turn this country and its economy around.
The new President has already, to some extent set the pace. He arrives at work early in the morning, leaves late, he has put new leadership into all branches of the armed forces, is completely revamping the CIO and the Police Service, he is retraining the entire police force to restore public faith after years of belligerence and corruption. He fired 13 Permanent Secretaries yesterday – many of who had thought that the description ‘Permanent’ meant just that – jobs for life no matter what. He has dismissed the Prosecutor General because he was not doing his job and has replaced him with someone who I think is an outstanding individual and legal mind.
But for the world and in particular the international and diplomatic community, it will be his choices for the Cabinet that will start to swing the game in our favor. If he recycles the old guard and fails to appoint new blood; even from outside his Party, he will disappoint and this will make his task even greater than it has to be. Then he has to put flesh on all the promises made in the past 9 months – political reform, perhaps a road map to a really free and fair election in 2023.
Implementation of the 2013 constitution after 5 years of prevarication, major media reforms, scrap repressive legislation left over from Smith and Mugabe, clean up corruption and start imposing real punishments for those found guilty of abusing their Offices. Give the country an independent ZEC that can prepare for a poll that cannot be contested in 2023. Restore the rule of law, rebuild faith in property rights and grant freehold title – the best form of title that works for everyone, to all urban families on contested land, to all new farmers so that they can start to operate normally.
Conscript some of that amazing Zimbabwean talent out there in the Diaspora – appoint a real professional in the Reserve Bank with complete autonomy, create a Monetary Policy Board with responsibility of issuing a new currency with open markets that are stable and reliable and will protect the value of our savings. Completely revise our tax system, reform ZIMRA and reduce the burden of taxation on the formal sector to more sustainable and competitive levels. Spread the burden of funding the State across the whole economy and not just a few companies and the small population that can be reached by normal means.
Call in our Bankers – the IMF and the World Bank and its subsidiaries like the ADB. Get agreement on what is wrong and what the remedies are, go back to our people and tell them what we have to do to get back into the game of fast growth and a rapid rise in living standards with full employment. Demand that if we take our medicine and take the pain of whatever surgery is involved, that the international Community, stops yelling at us from the sidelines and gets down to actually helping us deliver health services to everyone and getting all our kids back into school and actually learning skills with which they can secure jobs and make money.
But none of this is possible unless we all see this as our responsibility – not the new President, not the new Cabinet, not the international Community but ourselves, all of us doing what we can. I can well remember a conversation I had with my Chairman, Willy Margolis, in 1974 when I thought that we would never get out of the mess we were in. I asked him what I could do to help move things along and he responded ‘come to work tomorrow and do your job to the best of your ability’. I was disappointed by that advice but as the years have gone by I recognize the soundness of it all those years ago.
So what next? Well you decide and let’s get on with it.