The inclusive government — the best of times, the worst of times

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The height of the Zimbabwean crisis saw the Zimbabwean economy shrink by a third, unemployment ballooning to over 75%, health, education and other basic services to all intents and purposes collapsing.

I would like to suggest that while the inclusive government in spite of its inconclusive birth and inconclusive operations has brought a measure of socio economic stability.

We should not forget that at the height of the crisis schools were closed for almost a full year with teachers on strike and government departments were in perpetual go slow mode due to inadequate remuneration, poor work ethics, endemic corruption and chronic incapacity to deliver.

In order to move forward as a country we have to take stock of the incremental changes that have occurred over the past three years even though this has not translated into steady economic growth, infrastructural development, increased access to basic services, increased wages and salaries accompanied by betterment in standards of living.

We are still many years from achieving socio economic transformation as the country is still in socio economic and political transition and is likely to be in such a state for a while even beyond new elections and a new constitution.

Change is not an event but a process and a painful one too. While it may be easy to change the faces of those who are ruling, delivering real change which impacts lives and livelihoods is a difficult proposition.

The economy has stabilised but it may take five or so years before we experience real economic growth and another ten to fifteen years before such economic growth is necessarily accompanied by corresponding positive human development indicators such as access to health services, water, electricity, housing and a decent standard of living.

We have to understand that change of government may happen speedily but transformation takes a longer time. Politically, the constitution-making process may give birth to a new constitution but the process of grounding the new constitutional institutions, processes and values will take time as these are subject to the evolution of political culture and behavior.

Likewise it will take time to change the work ethic of government departments and service providers and to all intents and purposes a new government may not practically translate to a change in the bureaucrats that run government.

I would like to suggest that the inclusive government has brought in some new fresh brains, some positive policies and for the first time several ministers who are actually accountable to the people.

This off course has been blighted by the “Luxurygate scandal” which saw the government recklessly, callously and carelessly splashing millions of dollars on luxury vehicles for government ministers and expenditure on what Finance Minister Tendai Biti describes as “useless things’’ such as foreign travel.

There is however, a silver lining in the cloud and at times it is that which should give us hope. A new breed of ministers has injected new ideas, energy and policies in the past couple of years.

These have included the likes of Moses Mzila-Ndlovu, Gorden Moyo, Professor Welshman Ncube, Tendai Biti, David Coltart and Walter Mzembi. Even the controversial Professor Arthur Mutambara has come with some good ideas on private–public partnerships.

These ministers from across the political divide have achieved some incredible measurable deliverables under very prohibitive circumstances.

These deliverables include but are not limited to:

The possible, probable and potential resuscitation of the iron and steel industry through a strategic partnership deal with foreign investors. The recovery of the iron and steel industry will have a ripple effect industry and the economy at large.

The allocation of US$40 million to ailing industries in Bulawayo largely through the efforts of Industry and Commerce Minister Ncube with the able support of Moyo and Biti with the consent of the entire cabinet.

The formulation of a corporate governance framework for parastatals and state enterprises.

Marginally improved fiscal discipline under Tendai Biti who has irked some of his colleagues in the MDC-T and Zanu PF for his tight-fisted control over the country’s finances.

In very difficult political circumstances epitomised by the emergence of divergent centres of power, conflicting government policy, uncertainty, selective application of the law as well as lack of institutional reform the country has still managed to move forward albeit at snail pace.

However, if viewed in the context of both history and posterity, the country is making incremental strides forward which will only be measurable with hindsight in ten to fifteen years.

Admittedly, the inclusive government has been a spectacular failure in implementing over twenty provisions of the Global Political Agreement including:

The setting up of an all-inclusive economic advisory body.

Failure to institute an independent land audit.

Liberalisation of the airwaves.

An effective and ornamental national healing organ and dysfunctional institutional framework.

Institutional reform.

Selective application of the law and partisan policing by law enforcement agencies.

The socio economic agenda of the inclusive government has also operated in fits and starts with the Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme [S.T.E.R.P] the G.N.U’s economic blueprint being replaced by the Medium Term Policy before it had fully achieved its objectives.

At this period in time in the life of the shaky inclusive government it would be immature and subjective to claim that the GNU is a total failure or a total success.

It would be politically and factually naïve as well as irresponsible to describe the Inclusive Government in absolutes rather the inclusive government has presented the country with breathing space to recover from the pre 2008 madness then stabilize and once again move forward.

Obviously the Inclusive government is not permanent and is likely to come to an end by 2013 but in the absence of viable options it appears to be the only practical solution for the next 12 or so months.

A post G.N.U government should be able build on the successes of the I.G without the hindrances of conflicting and confusing centers of power. The Inclusive Government can best be described in the words of Charles Dickens:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was an age of wisdom, it was an age of foolishness, it was an epoch of belief, it was an epoch of incredulity, it was a spring of hope, it was a winter of despair, we had everything before us we had nothing before us.”
Dumisani O Nkomo is an activist and Chief Executive Officer of Habakkuk Trust