Mnangagwa promises…an empty phrase?

Mary Mundeya & Regina Pasipanodya

BECAUSE of the plethora of socio-economic and political challenges that have been bedevilling the country since Independence in 1980, many Zimbabweans believed the coming in of a new president would result in the country taking a new trajectory.

Many believed that after the November 2017 military assisted transition which was followed by the 2018 general election, the new regime would usher a new dawn characterised by the provision of opportunities, economic restoration as well as the protection of human and property rights among other things.

After all, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised a clean break from the past as he unveiled an election campaign manifesto under the theme “Unite, Fight Corruption, Develop, Re-Engage, Create Jobs.”

Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa

During his 2018 election campaign, Mnangagwa travelled to all corners of the country, promising economic rival, investment and development, an end to corruption, and of course to offer “jobs, jobs, jobs”.

Turning around Zimbabwe into a middle-income economy.

On economic restoration, Mnangagwa who said he ascribed to principled and servant leadership, promised to transform Zimbabwe into a middle-income economy by 2030. He said his administration would ensure consistent economic growth of at least 6% per annum for the period 2018-2023 while spending at least 2% of the GDP on research and development initiatives.

Presenting the 2023 national budget last November, Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube projected the economy would grow by 3.8 percent this year, driven by favourable international commodity prices, a good agricultural season and a tight monetary and fiscal policy, among other reasons.

However, according to the African Development Bank, Zimbabwe is still far from achieving a middle-income economy. A middle-income economy entails having a higher proportion of persons with college degrees being employed as professionals, having more income available for consumption, and people purchasing their own properties. Most people in Zimbabwe are still struggling with the bulk, as much as 90% according to some estimates, working in the informal sector.

The economy remains largely in doldrums with the government blaming sanctions for its failure.

International Re-Engagement

President Mnangagwa’s administration emphasised the need to build burnt bridges to end international isolation as well as persuading nations that had imposed sanctions on the country, to lift the measures. The government also actively sought to re-engage International Financial Institutions and other creditors for agreement on debt clearing, which has stopped the country from attracting new finance. Under the “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” mantra, government sought to attract new investors. Government also sought to accelerate the harmonisation of investment laws and establish a one-stop shop for the processing and administration of investments.

Five years after the elections, Zimbabwe remains on United States and European Union restrictive measures, largely because of a failure to reform. The government, which was reconciliatory at first, is increasingly using rhetoric which was common during former president Robert Mugabe’s era as relations with Western nations take a dip.

Ironically, to achieve its re-engagement and investment targets, Mnangagwa introduced a Presidential Envoy and Ambassador at Large, Eubert Angel, giving him the responsibility to liaise and re-engage with the global community. Angel was recently exposed as a corrupt diplomat, who is involved in money and gold laundering, by the Al Jazeera four-part investigative documentary, the “Gold Mafia”.

Developing and improving education, health, and housing.

The manifesto further stated that to improve education, health, and housing, according to the ZimFact election promises report (2018), government would build 2000 schools by 2023, rehabilitate and establish at least one vocational training centre per administrative district, ensure treasury allocates at least 15% of the budget to healthcare in line with the Abuja Declaration and establish at least one new hospital per administrative district by 2023. Government said it would deliver at least 1.5 million affordable houses in the next five years in collaboration with the private sector and also not move or destroy property unless settled on land designated for schools, clinics or roads among other things.

However, Zimbabwe’s health industry has failed to keep up with the expanding demand for healthcare services at a time there is a high prevalence of infectious and non-communicable diseases. Zimbabwe has an annual average population growth of 1.5 percent. The health system has difficulties in important HRH (human resources for health) areas. The difficulties include the number, size, absorption of health professionals, the geographic distribution of professionals at the level of health facilities, skill mix, and capability of managing the health workforce. Zimbabwe is also a low-income country, which has of late seen several health personnel and educators leaving the country for greener pastures.

Free education was one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s election campaign pledges, but he has failed to deliver.

Early this year, Primary and Secondary Education minister Evelyn Ndlovu, told parliament her ministry lacked the resources necessary to complete the exercise because it was underfunded during the 2023 budget. She said although her Ministry wanted to provide free education, the ministry only had US$6,3 million towards such a scheme, which is insufficient to cater to all the pupils.

A research by World Remit in 2022 stressed that the education system in Zimbabwe is one of the most expensive in the world. As a result ,there are many dropouts of students.

Energy, Transport, and ICT

On ICTs, transportation, and energy the Mnangagwa administration promised to implement projects at the Kariba and Batoka Hydro Stations, Shilands Power Station, Bulawayo Power Station Repair, and Hwange Power Station 7 and 8 life extension to increase power generation. In recent years, Zimbabwe has had severe power shortages due to a variety of reasons among them lack on investment in new power stations, dilapidated equipment and machinery at power stations, outdated coal-fired power plants, and drought which has resulted in low water levels in the Kariba Dam.

The government has largely failed on the energy front although the Hwange 7 project, which started during the Mugabe era, has been completed while progress has been made on Hwange 8. Zimbabweans are still experiencing power cuts of up to 18 hours.

The rehabilitation of the Kwekwe-Nkayi, Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls, and Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu roads is taking too long although headway has been made on the Harare-Masvingo section. The Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway is in a terrible state and so is the Harare-Chirundu highway.

In 2021, Zimbabwe’s former ambassador to South Africa Information Simon Khaya Moyo boasted that the government had managed to fulfil its promise of reviving ZUPCO.

Government said it would solve the country’s persistent transportation issues “once and for all” as state funds were used to import hundreds of buses for the ZUPCO.

Reports however surfaced that a local businessman who is also a well-known Zanu PF financier was importing the buses and selling them to ZUPCO at inflated costs. Additionally, ZUPCO developed a franchising structure that required private transportation providers to lease buses to the parastatal. However, the agreement has not gone smoothly because ZUPCO was offering cheap rates while delaying payment.

The ZUPCO project has failed and private transport providers have withdrawn their buses from the parastatal, making the urban transportation problem worse.

Confidence re-building

As part of confidence rebuilding, ensuring accountability and transparency, the government promised to adopt zero tolerance towards corruption. The Zanu PF manifesto stated that swift justice would be served on perpetrators of crime and other acts of economic sabotage. Mnangagwa kept his promise to set up a commission to investigate the shootings of civilians on 1 August 2018 and make its findings public. Crucially, however government has failed to compensate victims or take action on the perpetrators.

Several government and Zanu PF officials were reported to be involved in corruption for example, Justice Mayor Wadyajena was accused of defrauding the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) of US$5 million through the alleged fictitious purchase of goods purportedly for use by the government-owned company ( Deputy Agriculture minister Douglas Karoro was recently charged with stealing fertilizer, maize seed and other items meant for rural farmers and Former Public Service Minister, Petronella Kagonye, has been jailed for 16 months for stealing 20 laptops that were donated to public schools in Goromonzi.

The Al Jazeera documentary has also exposed how persons close to the president are looting the country’s gold.

The government has failed to nip corruption in the bud and has been accused of adopting a catch-and-release syndrome when addressing corruption. Zimbabwe is now preparing for elections, which will mark the end of the first term in office of the Mnangagwa administration, which has seen a few projects being implemented out of a promise of more than 200.

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