Mugabe: A leopard changing its spots?


For all the talk about the new ministers “hitting the ground running” — and some will try to do just that — most will find themselves “grounded” in their first 100 days or more in office.

Painona with Tapiwa Nyandoro

The Airbus A380 and the Boeing Dreamliner are fantastic planes. But neither will fly if their fuel tanks are empty. The same applies to our ministries.

With State coffers empty, there will be no business, except the painful, but necessary one of introducing austerity and right-sizing.

That is besides passing the well-worn hat around, especially for those in the social ministries. Decent folk would think twice before accepting such positions, unless of course they have a game-changing strategy.

For the majority of ministers, it will be business as usual, and that will be tragic, as the 2013 elections would have beckoned yet another false dawn.

The excitement over Cabinet appointments that gripped the nation after the elections was thus unwarranted. The key change agent remained President Robert Mugabe.

His threat to drop non-performers in Cabinet and institute performance appraisals and management contracts in State enterprises and parastatals, besides being tough on corruption, are welcome initiatives though long overdue.

With the possible exception of combating corruption, adequate capital is needed before ministerial or managerial incompetence can be impartially ascertained. You can’t bake bread without flour.

Without resources visions will be nothing, but mere dreams. The ministers are better advised to use their first 100 days in office for “masterful inactivity”. They need to “lean back” and think. Business can’t be business as usual anymore.

Recent research has indicated that “the most obvious beneficiaries of ‘leaning back’ would be creative workers — the very people who are supposed to be at the heart of the economy”.  And creativity should be the hallmark of any Cabinet.

It is thus “thinking forward” that has usually been missing in the national agenda, and even at political party level as the MDC formations amply demonstrated over the past four years. As for Zanu PF, evidence abounds for sleeping on the job, not least the economic meltdown that long ago gave birth to the MDC.

The midwives for that fateful occasion are back in Cabinet, hence the palpable national despondency upon the announcement of Cabinet. Can old dogs be taught new tricks?

Hearing the President speak, you feel he has learnt his lessons, but some of his actions show otherwise. He says he would like to focus on low-hanging fruits that generate returns. Yet he missed an opportunity to trim down the three arms of government, an action that would have targeted the lowest of hanging fruits, but I suppose politically the prickliest.

Recent Press reports reveal that the Secretary to the Cabinet and other mandarins took newly-appointed government ministers through a briefing on their duties.

One such duty is creating a vision and mission statement, followed by a strategy for each ministry. To avoid a multi-vision Cabinet, a recipe for disaster, it is important that all ministries must adopt the Presidential vision, whilst the mission statements may be ministry specific.

A story is told of how a busload of Japanese tourists arrived at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)  in the United States of America and one inquisitive tourist asked a cleaner what he did at NASA. His response was: “Sir, we send people to the moon.”

Accordingly, a Cabinet retreat, a lekgotla, to borrow a native South African term, involving all permanent secretaries should revisit the national vision and mission statements.

Prior reading material should include our current moribund Medium Term Plan and Industrial Development Policy, related documents from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and South Africa’s National Development Plan.

The strategic intent should be to grow the economy at a minimum of 7,5% annually from 2014 rising to double-digit growth by 2018, whilst also reducing poverty by 2 to 3% annually going forward for the next two to three decades. These goals will then determine the quantum and nature of the resources the Ministry of Finance will have to mobilise, and how they should be applied each year for the next five years.

This will lead straight into the National Budget for 2014 and projections for the next five years. Preparing a ministry’s own mission and budget afterwards would thereafter be an easier and more informed task.

Investment and wealth creation should take precedence, in a paradigm shift, over consumption. Mugabe has said as much, but will he drive sustainable, above-average growth this time around? Does a leopard change its spots?

Ordinarily that should not happen. But rare as they are, usually under adverse conditions, mutations, sometimes for the better, do take place. Going over the President’s actions and speeches, and scanning the Press and history for clues of such change can be a time-consuming exercise.

Conflicting statements and actions manifest themselves leaving the world the worse for clarity.

For a country that needs an average of US$2 billion annually in foreign direct investment, if the economy is to grow at double-digit figures for the next three decades, policy clarity, investment incentives and fiscal policy prudence should be from the top drawer.

The plethora of populist policies shows a mentality stuck in the war of liberation era when empathy and donations in cash or kind were morally obligatory.

The script now calls for a totally different mindset. And there seems none in sight.


  1. People always want to blame corruption for the non performance of our African governments. I personally think that is not the case. I think its a simple case of appointing people into positions that they do not have a clue about. Its like appointing an engineer to do an accountants job as much as appoitning an accountant to do an engineer’s job. The person needs to understand the measurables in their portfolio to be able to deliver. We have people who do not know what they are doing in positions they do not know anything about. Ideas then emanate from outside their portfolio and they then implemented with the promise of “something” in the back pocket without good sound professional scrutiny. The backhands are not the problem but the knowledge of the implementer are the problem. We have half baked ideas being implemented in their raw state without any professional refinement by people who know what they are doing. Any great idea is as good as how it is implemented. Land reform, Indegenisation, ESAP, Leadesrhip code etc. The list is endless. I however forgive the Presidential appointments for these people do not have any working experience of how to implement ideas to produce results. Management is a skill that can only be learnt through experience in the field. The war people who are appointed have never worked in proper organisations that are results driven therefore to expect them to deliver is nearly impossible, for they do not know how. The biggest problem is that they do not even know that they do not know. A person will only know that they do not know until they work with people who really know what they are doing. Application of management tools is acquired through experience and that is what lacks in all our Zimbabwean affairs. A lot of professional Zimbos especially in Zimbabwe think they know their work a lot, go out there and work for a South Korean company, US, or German company and then you will understand that you do not know jack.

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