New Perspectives: Good Governance: Zimbabwe’s 2023 resolution

File pic: Pfumvudza has taken over from the productive commercial farms

As the New Year begins, it is time for reflection and looking forward.

It is time to say goodbye to the things that did not go as planned and to embrace new opportunities that the year ahead may bring.

The new year offers a chance to set goals and resolutions, not only at a personal level but at institutional and country levels too.

At country level, it is a time to start afresh and make positive changes in people’s lives.

The year 2022 has not been kind to Zimbabwe and her people.

Despite the ongoing work and, in some instances, completion of infrastructure projects, the general standard of life of the masses continues to deteriorate.

The percentage of Zimbabweans living in extreme poverty below the international poverty datum line (PPP $1.90/person/day) increased from 43% in 2021 to 49% in 2022.

According to the World Bank, macroeconomic volatility, high dependence on low-productivity agriculture, the lack of creation of high-productivity jobs and intermittent shocks — such as droughts and the Covid-19 pandemic — have all contributed to increasing vulnerability in both urban and rural areas.

The World Bank went on to ascertain that Zimbabwe’s economic development continues to be hampered by price and exchange rate instability, the misallocation of productive resources, low investment, and limited structural transformation.

High inflation, multiple exchange rates, unsustainable debt levels and the ineffective control of public spending have increased the cost of production, reduced incentives for productivity-enhancing investment, and encouraged informality.

The above factors point to poor governance at the three major governance levels in our country.

Most of the challenges bedevilling us could easily be solved by choosing to do things the right way.

Mostly the political will to implement good governance is the missing link in our efforts to lead better lives.

At its most basic, good governance refers to the effective and responsible management of a country, organisation, or group.

It encompasses a wide range of issues, including transparency, accountability, rule of law and participation.

When good governance is present, there is a strong likelihood that a country or organisation will be well-managed, efficient, and able to effectively address the needs and concerns of its citizens or members.

One key aspect of good governance is transparency.

This means that there is openness and honesty in the decision-making process, and that information is readily available to those who need it.

This can be achieved through the use of freedom of information laws, open meetings, and other measures that allow the public to have access to information about how decisions are being made and how public resources are being used.

Accountability is another important aspect of good governance.

This means that those in positions of power are held accountable for their actions and decisions.

This can be achieved through the use of checks and balances such as an independent judiciary and a free press, which can help to ensure that those in power are not able to abuse their positions.

It also means that there are mechanisms in place for holding individuals accountable for their actions such as through elections or other forms of accountability.

The rule of law is also critical for good governance.

This means that there are clear laws and regulations in place that are consistently and fairly enforced.

This helps to ensure that everyone is treated equally under the law and that there is predictability and fairness in the legal system.

This also helps to attract investment in key economic sectors.

Capital does not favour markets where the legislative field and the economic outlook are unstable and cannot be predicted for the next 20 years – let alone the next 12 months as has been our case. 

Participation is another important aspect of good governance.

This means that people have the opportunity to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives, whether through elections, public consultation, or other forms of participation.

When people have a stake in the decision-making process, they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for the outcomes of those decisions.

This goes hand in glove with the understanding that when people raise their voices, they are not calling for the illegal removal of the sitting government but they are calling for better service delivery and accountability from the powers that be.

The current governance system seems to fall short of the above-narrated good governance principles.

In earnest, the governance system seems to be taking us backwards.

One can easily pick a few pointers to the bleakness that now surrounds us.

First, the productive commercial farms are now a thing of the past as pfumvudza has taken over.

 Secondly, the successful large gold mines have been replaced by informal gold miners dotted around the country leaving an eyesore of open pits.

Thirdly, solar units, boreholes and septic tanks have replaced the electricity system, tap water and sewer reticulation system, respectively. 

The masses have been treated to isolated cases of prosperous individual farmers and informal miners.

Whilst the stories are great, it is an indictment on the economy that people are resorting to primary occupations like agriculture and small-scale mining because higher-level activities are simply not viable.

All professionals now find themselves taking the agriculture or informal mining route because plying their professional trades surely leads to poverty.  

This is the unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in.

Our jewel is now a sad case of each man for himself where leaders appeal more to self-interest at the expense of the greater good of the masses.

The fact that people started to benchmark the current economic trajectory to Smith’s days is an indictment of the post-independent leadership.

Whether the benchmark is right or wrong, is a story for another day but the fact that it is happening, speaks volumes.

It simply means the post-independence leadership has not delivered to the masses’ expectations.

High-level recommendations

As the country enters into another year of harmonised elections, there could not be a better new year’s resolution than to wish for better governance from whoever wins the forthcoming elections.

There are many ways in which good governance can be promoted and strengthened.

One key way is through the use of international assistance and support.

This can take the form of financial assistance, technical assistance, and capacity building to help our country build the institutions and systems that are necessary for effective and responsible governance.

Another way to promote good governance is through the use of civic education and awareness-raising efforts.

This can help to build a culture of accountability and responsibility among citizens, as well as a greater understanding of the importance of good governance.

In addition, civil society organisations can play a critical role in promoting good governance.

These groups can act as a check on those in power, bringing issues to light and holding individuals accountable for their actions.

They can also serve as a voice for those who may not otherwise have a say in the decision-making process.

May the new year bring better governance to the country that the late Tanzanian president Julius Mwalimu Nyerere once dubbed, ‘the jewel of Africa’.

  • *Paison Tazvivinga  is a development economist based in Pretoria, South Africa
  • These weekly articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, managing consultant of Zawale Consultants (Private) Limited, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe. Email- [email protected] and Mobile No. +263 772 382 852

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