ZIMBABWEANS will on Monday hold crucial elections, where they will be choosing the country’s next President and Members of Parliament to guide the nation in the next five years.
By Mthandazo Nyoni
NewsDay will, in this article, assess President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s perfomance in the last eight months that he has been at the helm following his ejection of President Robert Mugabe on November 21 last year.
The article also assesses performances by two of the country’s crucial ministries — Finance and Industry and Commerce.
When he got into power through a military-backed transition, Mnangagwa promised to turn around the country’s economic fortunes, solve the cash crisis, attract foreign investment, curb corruption, promote human rights, among others. However, some of the challenges still persist to this day.
Mnangagwa managed to remove police roadblocks and spot fines for traffic offences, which many see as having a positive effect on society. He has also managed to put the right policies for economic revival, for instance, the watering down of Indigenisation Act which used to deter foreign direct investment. He also managed to attract “investment commitments amounting to over $16 billion.”
Mnangagwa has dismally failed to curb corruption and solve the cash crisis. The country is still suffering from the two and due to the prevailing cash crisis, parallel market rates hit 100%, for instance, when using EcoCash or bank transfers to buy the greenback. This is the first time the country reached such a rate since dollarisation.
But parallel market rates have since dropped though they still remain high. Recently, police in Harare arrested four people after they were found in possession of $4 million and 100kg gold which they could not account for. As of today, it’s not clear what happened to those people, whether they were taken to court or ‘freed’, only God knows.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president, Sifelani Jabangwe, said under Mnangagwa’s tenure, the country seemed to be heading in the right direction.
“In 2015, the growth rate was 0,6% and in 2017 we achieved growth of 3,4% and in 2018 we are targeting a growth rate of 6%. The trajectory is right when we are looking at the statistics. Every producer is performing better than they were performing in 2016. From our perspective, the policies that were at play were working very well for the industry,” Jabangwe said.
He said over the past three years, exports had grown to $3,4 billion while industry capacity also surged.
Association for Business in Zimbabwe chief executive officer, Victor Nyoni said during Mnangagwa’s tenure, there had been an element of focusing on what needed to be done in terms of reviving the economy.
“There have been attempts to improve the image of the country, for instance, the two ministries — Industry and Commerce ministry and Foreign Affairs ministry — have been working very hard to improve the image of the country. We have seen investors showing interest in the country. Even though the country is still struggling economically, we are in the right direction,” Nyoni said.
Financial expert, Persistence Gwanyanya said in his few months at the helm of the country’s leadership, it appeared that Mnangagwa tried very hard to break away from the past administration by opening up the economy for business.
“The underperformance in the Zimbabwe economy can be traced back to an unfriendly investor environment which, off course, was closely linked to the political factor. In his own right, being a business person, l think Mnangagwa understands business better than his predecessor.”
“That is why he quickly scratched the indigenisation policy, save for platinum and diamonds, on his ascendency.
Investment commitments of more than $20 billion registered into the country so far are testimonial to his appeal to the business world. I would give him 7 out of 10,” Gwanyanya said.
“It’s also comforting that he managed to create a calm and peaceful environment towards election, which is again a break away from the past, which was characterised by chaotic and bloody elections,” Gwanyanya added.
Importantly, Gwanyanya said, Mnangagwa desisted from hate speech, which had thrown the country into political isolation.
“We have seen heightened efforts to reintegrate the country into the world after many years of isolation. It appears to me the man really worked. But obviously, he is haunted by legacy issue relating to his ascendancy,” he said.
“That’s why he has done very little about corruption by not pursuing among known Lacoste culprits. He continues to trade cautiously because he needs a critical vote and those who are proving to be loyal are difficult to touch.”
Similarly, Gwanyanya said it appears Mnangagwa has not been able to contain the army leaving the country at risk of two centres of power.
“We hope he will be able to deal with these vices if he obtains the mandates of people in the vote set for July 30 2018,” Gwanyanya said.
Economic analyst, John Robertson, said the President, has been in office for only eight months, but he and the other ministers had to work under the highly restrictive (Former President Robert) Mugabe policies that were in place before November 2017 and they would have lost their respective positions if they had shown any reluctance to comply with Mugabe’s demands.
“Emmerson Mnangagwa did lose his, and almost lost his life, for different reasons, but that sequence illustrates that severe difficulties faced anyone who might have wanted different policies,” Robertson said.
“The policy changes that were made possible by forcing Mugabe out of office could be presented as a long list, but while many were identified, only a few of them could be carried out because of uncertainties about the levels of support that would come from members of the politburo, the central committee and the Zanu PF Members of Parliament,” Robertson said.
Robertson said the more adventurous changes would call for the President to be more secure after winning the election, but even that is another uncertainty.
“I would agree that more far-reaching changes could have been imposed in the past eight months, but I am not surprised that they have not been imposed. Consensus is needed and we will soon have an almost new Parliament that will take time to reach agreement on what should be done first,” Robertson said.
Meanwhile, Robertson said some of the promises seem to have been chosen for electioneering, in particular the public sector wage increases.
“These are disturbing and they damage the credibility of all the ministers because the country cannot afford to increase the already extremely high cost of government. Because so many of the promises made cannot be kept, I would not be able to give the ministers ten out of ten for their performance. Perhaps about six would be my limit,” Robertson said.
Another economic analyst, Reginald Shoko, said the reality was that “we cannot switch off from the past like that in terms of economic revival. We, as country, will go through phases to reach the desired economic growth,” he said.
“The president has done well in terms of priorities economic development over political policies, a lot more needs to be done to transform investment commitments to real foreign direct investments,” Shoko said.
“The re-engagements efforts have been positive but can only be measured with delivered goals like the improvements in foreign exchange earnings for the country etc. For the efforts I will give President an eight out 10,” Shoko added.
Performance of the two ministries — Finance and Commerce
Shoko said Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa seemed to be a man missing from duty in the past few months due to the continued challenges around the availability of foreign exchange for trade and issues around the bond note have affected his performance.
“I will give him four out of 10. Then the minister of Industry, Mike Bimha has been a disaster and has failed to steer the industrial revival agenda been busy pushing policies with negative repercussions to the economy,” Shoko said.
Gwanyanya said Chinamasa failed to exercise fiscal restraint and as such, the country was suffering from a severe budget deficit.
“Cash situation is getting out of hand. We also expected him to deal with Parastatals. He has listed a number of parastatals to be privatised, but as always, there is still no action. As we speak, parastatals are weighing down the fiscal. As such, I would give him five out of 10,” Gwanyanya said.
Gwanyanya sadded that Bimha had failed to come up with a proper industry policy for the country.
“It would appear he believed in protectionism, which yielded short term benefits. We needed to see him speak more on an export oriented growth model. There was supposed to be more efforts coming from the minister because we don’t have industry to talk about,” he said.
As such, he gave him five out of 10.