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Village Rhapsody: How Zimbabwe can improve governance

Obituaries
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration does not waste an opportunity to praise itself when it comes to the implementation of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).

BY EVANS MATHANDA A number of countries in the region have made significant progress in combating corruption and maintaining good governance.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2021 report on Good Governance in sub-Saharan Africa highlighted Botswana, Rwanda, and Seychelles as three countries that are leading the effort to improve governance.

Some key elements are usually present in the most successful countries.

The first requirement is a strong political commitment to good governance and transparency.

One of the most important issues for good governance is to improve the political environment.

When a country’s politics are mirrored by instabilities it can pose a threat to good governance and long-term development.

Political leaders must lead by example in disclosing their financial information and establishing incentives to fight corruption with the aid of the legal system and an anti-corruption organisation.

Together, these factors produce a governance bonus, greater and more inclusive growth supported by more accountable institutions that are stronger and more transparent.

When discussing governance it’s also important to consider how a nation’s budget is created and presented, the degree of independence of the central bank, and whether there is a commitment to publishing audits and disclosing the assets of important public officials.

The rule of law and property rights must be respected.

When foreign investors invest in a country they expect that the government will honour contracts and enforce property rights.

Poor governance and corruption have a negative impact on economic growth in Zimbabwe.

And now, as the world faces multiple crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukrainian war, and the on-going challenges of climate change, the need for good governance has become even more pressing.

In Zimbabwe, the real issue is not about “competence,” but rather greed and selfishness, which have seriously jeopardised both good governance and sustainable development.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration does not waste an opportunity to praise itself when it comes to the implementation of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).

This vision aims to “achieve an empowered and prosperous upper middle-income society by 2030.”

However, poor governance has distorted the primary objective of  Vision 2030.

It’s unclear whether we are cycling in one place or moving towards that vision.

The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, which hampered infrastructure growth and disrupted economic activity nationwide, was another factor in the development of the NDS1.

Since the new government took office, Zimbabwe has made efforts to concentrate on infrastructure development.

But more of our efforts should be directed towards reducing corruption vulnerabilities by strengthening governance in six key state functions: central bank governance, financial sector governance, fiscal governance, market regulation and rule of law.

Since access to information promotes accountability, which is a crucial prerequisite for good governance, the government should increase public access to information.

The government can be held accountable for their actions when they produce, collect, and disseminate information.

Decisions are also made more transparently, and citizens are better informed.

The government can do better in responding to citizens’ concerns and tackling issues that are important to them, like procurement and management of public funds.

A classic example is that of former Health minister Obadiah Moyo who was accused of misusing US$60 million in Covid-19 funds.

Moyo was freed after he was granted an exception from charges on the grounds that the facts presented by prosecutors did not amount to an offense.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has the mandate to investigate cases of corruption and refer them to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for prosecution, but the cases rarely result in convictions.

Making laws that people cannot or will not obey serves to discredit all laws.

In any republic, it is crucial for citizens to uphold the laws because, if they do not, what hope is there for civil government?

It’s now common that the state security apparatus is increasingly used to harass, intimidate, and detain opposition leaders and supporters, as well as to persecute predecessors.

The fight against corruption and crime is only as effective against the opposition as it is in maintaining the status quo.

It took a few hours for the police to arrest Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislator Job Sikhala for allegedly inciting violence after the death of CCC activist Moreblessing Ali.

But police say they are still investigating a case of a top Zanu PF official, Abton Mashayanyika, who is also a church leader, after he threatened to kill opposition CCC leader Nelson Chamisa and his family during a Zanu PF meeting before the video footage went viral on social media.

Both Sikhala and Mashayanyika are accused of inciting violence, but because the police force is partisan, Mashayanyika is still free.

According to the World Justice Project, “the rule of law is the foundation for communities of opportunity and equity and is crucial to addressing the world’s most pervasive and harmful ills.”

Three fundamental elements —having the proper governance structures, procedures, and tools, as well as the proper sustained behaviour that exemplifies good governance — are the key to finding the solution.

Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his capacity. For feedback email: evanngoe@gmail.com or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19

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