By Hopewell Chin’ono
President Emmerson Mnangagwa needs to win convincingly in order for him to succeed in undoing many years of Robert Mugabe’s rot that was underpinned by his patronage system, corruption and clansman rule.
The results that came out of the ZANUPF primary elections show a half-hearted attempt by the ruling party to clean up the Mugabe mess and fix its resultant tragic outcomes.
The ZANUPF voters led out some political dinosaurs from of the feeding hall but unfortunately, some thoroughly corrupt and toxic elements were left to continue on the feeding trough and were joined by some equally dodgy characters.
ZANUPF is seen as a natural home by the criminal, corrupt and fraudulent elements amongst us, the very people who contributed in a spirited effort that got us where we are today, a sad 38 years of nothing but economic and emotional ruin.
This is the tough reality that President Mnangagwa has to face up to if he wins the general election.
Those personally close to him have told me that he wants to clean the slate but that he is facing resistance from a rotten and yet hardcore entrenched civil service.
They simply do not want change and they are doing all possible to retain the broken system that prevailed under Robert Mugabe.
A system that saw nothing wrong with cabinet ministers being given four cars whilst local hospitals had NO ambulances at their disposal. Rural folk are still being transported to hospital in donkey drawn scotch carts.
Mugabe deskilled the civil service by making sure that it was packed with incompetent loyalists whose first priority was to pray on Mugabe’s feet in return for an open ended contract which produced employment perks that one could only dream of.
Each time they jumped onto his plane they got paid upward of US$5000 in allowances and extras.
How many times did Mugabe takeoff on that Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767 Jumbo Jet?
How many people would join him on those senseless trips?
How much money would they make and to what extent did they drain the fiscus and punish the taxpayer? These are the monumental roadblocks in front of the president that he needs to uproot if he is to make any difference to the standard of life of the ordinary citizen.
He needs to break the corrupt elite consensus and nexus that saw the country looted relentlessly for 38 years when hospitals went without painkillers and citizens drank dirty water resulting in medieval diseases like cholera.
Zimbabwe’s first black central bank governor told me that each time Robert Mugabe flew out of the country, he would bring back change and receipts.
Kombo Moyana told me that the habit eventually stopped and nothing was brought back. Each time a president flies out of a country he is given millions including cover for unforeseen eventualities like a coup.
That money did not come back anymore after Mugabe had consolidated his powers post 1987.
Mugabe and his family made big money out of these trips, his boys and girls in the civil service also made huge monies through these trips, which included attending a conference on oceans.
These are the same civil servants that we expect to put an end to that rot and drive President Mnangagwa’s new deal, a new dispensation of sorts.
It is quite evident that in order to have any small hope of seeing some tangible change, the President needs to overhaul the civil service that served Robert Mugabe wonderfully well at the expense of the country and national interests.
They were not patriots anymore, they had become beholden to a dictator whose only desire was to die in power.
President Mnangagwa has been advised quite honestly on many occasions that he needs to let go of these senior civil servants if he expects any positive traction on the economic front.
He has argued that he needs a mandate to unravel Mugabe’s system of patronage, as doing so this side of the election would result in unintended consequences which might screw up his chances of a clean, convincing and credible election victory.
The problem that he now faces is that a clean victory might require getting rid of dead wood as a signal to the country that he means what he said in his inauguration speech.
It was a great speech that by and large has not yet been fulfilled and remains a dream deferred.
He has made it clear to his associates that some of his current ministers have no role to play in a new government, however some of these toxic elements had used looted resources from the parastals they control to build strong grassroots movements.
They used the proceeds of their corruption loot to construct social bases that would are beholden to them and not the party or the President. Mugabe fell victim to this in 2008 with the infamous Bhora Musango campaign.
Our people are now addicted to handouts, they don’t look at the quality of their representatives, they only consider whether they are getting part of the loot from Harare.
These are the grassroots networks built by the corrupt ministers that President Mnangagwa fears could be used against his election campaign if it is not handled properly.
The President has also been advised to get a new central bank governor who can instill confidence in the banking and financial services sectors.
Some close associates of his have even gone further and advised him to get a retired foreign central banker who can come in on a three-year contract simply to clean up the mess left by Gideon Gono and the existing market and currency contradictions.
The Gideo Gono era was rooted in decadent patronage that saw the central bank getting involved in petty economic transactions. This is why the President is being advised to bring in a professional central banker who will not be beholden to local politics.
My sources tell me that the President and his deputies are somehow sold to the idea, but again like all post Mugabe tough decisions, it requires an election mandate with a buy in from new brooms both in cabinet and senior civil service offices.
This has been necessitated by the delayed removal of permanent secretaries appointed by Robert Mugabe, a decision which was arrived at after Mariyawanda Nzuwa advised the president that removing the permanent secretaries immediately would cost the government huge package pay outs.
Nzuwa advised President Mnangagwa to wait until September when their contracts run out, it would cost the taxpayer nothing, as their contracts would simply not be renewed.
Unfortunately for Nzuwa, he lost his job after he botched the forced retirements of senior policemen in the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
The agreement was to remove 11 or 12 of them but he added more, a decision that unsettled the police service resulting in President Mnangagwa showing Nzuwa the door.
The retention of corrupt government ministers in the just ended ZANUPF primary elections is a reflection of miscommunication between the President, his deputies and their party political support base on the other end.
If the ZANU PF membership understood the President’s road map if ever there is one, they would not have voted for fraudsters, criminals and corrupt government ministers to represent their party in the July elections.
When President Mnangagwa appointed his current cabinet, I questioned the wisdom of retaining government ministers such as Obert Mpofu, Supa Mandiwanzira, Joram Gumbo, David Parirenyatwa, et al.
His advisors and close associates told me that it was done for continuity purposes but more importantly, it was because he could only chose from what was available in parliament.
To what extend has the quality been enhanced after yesterday’s primary election results?
For instance, does he have good quality administrators to run the Ministry of Health portfolio after the inevitable retirement of David Parirenyatwa?
To what extent does electing people like Ozias Bvute and Killer Zivhu enhance the quality of ZANUPF parliamentarians in the house of assembly?
What general message does it send to the general electorate when convicted criminals are allowed to contest in ZANUPF elections?
These and many other issues are all packed in the President’s incoming tray, he needs to respond to them on the campaign trail.
He needs to craft a message that goes beyond the usual empty rhetoric of the Mugabe days. I know that the President and his team have focused their attention on the Singapore economic model crafted byLee Kuan Yew. He needs to communicate those thoughts to the country.
These good nuggets in their planning can only make sense to the citizens if they communicate them. We need to know how they plan to achieve these plans.
He needs to tell the nation how he will come up with a cabinet that is morally upright, engaged with today’s technological realities and equipped with technical competencies to structure the right economic and infrastructural deals for the country and compete with the rest of the world’s political elites?
That cabinet cannot be rooted in people that believe that diesel can come out of a rock.
The President will have to capture our hopes, dreams, and desired outcomes. He needs to harness our realities to achieve a better tomorrow. He should convince us that Better Will Come!
ZANUPF government ministers have used cabinet posts to enhance their personal fortunes. They have done so because they have been allowed to do so, if the President does not act now, the electorate might chose to punish him on the ballot box.
He needs a clean and credible victory to earn the legitimacy he has been fighting for, the very legitimacy quest that saw him accentuate his attention on foreign policy.
That key is held back home by the electorate, he now needs to focus his attention on domestic issues.
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is a CNN African journalist of the year and Harvard University Nieman Fellow.
His next film, State of Mind looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe is coming out soon. He can be contacted on [email protected] or on twitter @daddyhope