Opinion: New brush more like deadwood

Guest Column: Cliff Chiduku

WHEN President Emmerson Mnangagwa assumed the presidency after a disputed 2018 poll, he appointed “technocrats” in Obadiah Moyo (Health) Kirsty Coventry (Sport), Winston Chitando (Mines and Mining Development) and Mthuli Ncube as Finance minister.

But a year after the quartet’s appointments, the economy has continued on a downward spiral. The conduct of the four musketeers, especially Ncube and Moyo is disappointing in more ways than one. The Finance and Health ministries are strategic portfolios, which are key in the socio-economic and political well-being of a country. But based on how they have fared so far, to say they have failed is an understatement. To the ordinary Zimbabwean, it seems Mnangagwa is riding on dead horses.

The dead horse theory explains why organisations and governments fail in their programmes.

Even though I could not figure out its origin, it is generally believed that it is a tribal wisdom of Indians, passed on from generation to generation which posits that when one discovers that he/she is riding a dead horse, the best way out is to dismount. While other people might choose other strategies, such as buying a stronger whip or changing riders, this wisdom tell us to dismount.

Although the above solutions seem far-fetched, they might be game changers. Lots of our politicians and business leaders are taking these decisions instead of the rational one. The main problem of these decisions is not identifying the root cause. The root cause analysis is one of the most fundamental concepts to improve outcomes. Ncube and Moyo are two of the many dead horses in government and Zanu PF that Mnangagwa should dismount with urgency to save Zimbabwe: Here is why!

A fortnight ago, Mnangagwa threw Ncube under the bus when he dramatically reversed the scrapping of grain subsidies, hardly a week after the economics don had announced the shock measures.

The U-turn confirmed policy incoherence and confusion within the new dispensation. Mnangagwa is playing the nice guy and being populist, as has been the hallmark of his predecessor. We were told Ncube announced the scrapping of subsidies without his boss’ approval. Insubordination?

Early this year, Ncube told the media that the government had declared an $803 million budget surplus in the first half of 2019 amid plans to increase tax collections revenue to $24 billion next year on the strength of his current strategic reforms.

“A budget surplus savings of $803,6 million was attained during the half-year, which culminated in domestic debt decline to $8,8 billion as at end June 2019, down from $9,5 billion recorded as at December 31, 2018,” he proudly told us. But up to now the budget surplus has remained hot air. Maybe Ncube’s assertions were meant to test the waters.

Two months ago, Ncube told the State media that Zimbabwe’s monthly inflation rate will fall to 10% by December on account of on-going fiscal and monetary policy reforms. It remains stubbornly high. Only recently, Ncube angered our all-weather friends when he understated development aid the Chinese had advanced to Zimbabwe. The United States also picked up the same anomaly. But such misrepresentation is likely to create suspicion and lack of trust on the part of government. If it had occurred once, then Ncube could be forgiven, but twice, then it could be deliberate. However, this creates an element of mistrust if development partners are not being handled properly.

It was a damning indictment which erodes credibility and trust. But it can only be in a banana republic where the appointing authority harnesses several other dead horses together to increase speed.

The way Moyo handled the health professionals’ industrial action is a slap in the face of a government which touts itself as a new dispensation. A damning report which exposed massive corruption at Chitungwiza Central Hospital during Moyo’s tenure as chief executive offers ground for Mnangagwa to dismount from such a horse.

Fortune Chasi has also failed to live up to expectation. Load-shedding has since worsened. Fuel prices are adjusted on a weekly basis, but the commodity remains scarce. Mnangagwa’s appointment of Sydney Gata as Zesa executive chairman also confirmed that a leopard will never change its spots. Zanu PF will always be Zanu PF.

Ncube, Moyo, Energy Mutodi, Victor Matemadanda, Owen Ncube and Sekai Nzenza are among the long list of dead horses who deserve to be substituted so that they can follow action from the terraces. The country is literally burning; all hands should be on the deck.

Since Zimbabwe’s economy is in shambles, Mnangagwa should stop blaming sanctions or third forces, but should fish out dead horses in his inner circle. It is not too late to get rid of the dead horses, he simply has to do the right thing. He who appoints can disappoint.

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