Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Hopewell Chin’ono: What are Political Reforms and why are they important for Zimbabwe

By Hopewell Chin’ono

Many compatriots have been asking me what I mean by POLITICAL REFORMS and why they are important to the building of a new Zimbabwean economy.

President Mnangagwa speaks to members of the Presidential Advisory Council, businessman Dr Shingi Munyeza (second from right) and prominent lawyer Mr Edwin Manikai, at the inaugural meeting of the council at State House. - Picture by Tawanda Mudimu
President Mnangagwa speaks to members of the Presidential Advisory Council, businessman Dr Shingi Munyeza (second from right) and prominent lawyer Mr Edwin Manikai, at the inaugural meeting of the council at State House. – Picture by Tawanda Mudimu

I have argued that without political reforms, we should forget about being Open for Business and about a new economic dawn on the horizon.

In the past I have responded to social media messages on twitter and Facebook asking what I meant by political reforms.

Today I have decided to write this article after one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s advisors, Busisa Moyo, asked me to explain what is entailed in these political reforms!

I don’t think that Busisa doesn’t know, I think that he simply wanted to see whether I understood what they are doing and whether my understanding of political reforms tallies with theirs.

This country is broken and much needs to be done. so I will touch on a couple of things that can help define what political reform means in order for us to have an informed debate.

I will do subsequent pieces focusing on individual reform points that will clearly define the road map for each type of political reform.

A lot of our people have the ill-informed misconception that Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube can tinker with the economy under the guise of economic reforms, and then the country’s economy will eventually take off without paying attention to political reforms.

Nothing could be further from the truth, we have a massive political crisis whose distortions are manifesting through economic problems for Zimbabwe.

We must first accept that we are in an economic mess created by bad political decisions and partisan corrupt choices, which had nothing to do with sanctions, as many would have the gullible and ignorant amongst us believe.

Zimbabwe was overspending on unbudgeted expenditures as far back as the 1990s.

It spent on unbudgeted war veterans demands, it also spent on an unsanctioned Congo adventure and ultimately on rampant and out of control State sanctioned corruption.

I come from the same area in Murewa as the Minister of Transport J.B. Matiza, the road that takes us to our villages is tarred on the map but it is still a dirt road in reality, graveled all the way to our doorsteps.

It simply means that someone pocketed that money in the 1990s, and also that there were NO legal consequences for doing so, there are still NO criminal prosecution consequences for doing the same thing today across the government.

This all happened before the sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe for its abuse of human rights and withholding of citizen rights and democratic choices.

Zimbabwe is an agriculture-based economy and it had thrived and became known as the breadbasket of the region for its unparalleled farming prowess.

When Robert Mugabe and ZANUPF’s grip on power was threatened, they tightened and repressed the political space by going after white commercial farmers whom they accused of funding the newly established opposition MDC political party.

The commercial farms were violently confiscated under a chaotic land reform program, and the best pieces of farming real estate were parceled out to the ZANUPF political elites and their surrogates in business and related fields.

Anyone who questioned the process was emotionally blackmailed into keeping quiet on account of baseless accusations of supporting white people and racism, and not wanting land reform to happen.

Many of the recipients of the best farms were never farmers at all in the first place and as a result, they turned these prized commercial and productive assets into weekend retreats.

Most of these farms like Kondoza in Manicaland were ruined and the equipment that was inherited from the white farmers was sold to fund conspicuous consumption habits.

That is how agriculture died in Zimbabwe on Robert Mugabe and ZANUPF’s watch.

Mugabe’s political lieutenants and enforcers are today in charge of the government and the State after they pushed him out through a military coup.

There are many capable black folks who could run these farms, but because they are not politically connected to ZANUPF, they never got a chance and most of them are still in the wilderness.

Today in order to get Zimbabwe back on a successful economic pathway, this issue must be resolved through a proper land audit.

Those who are holding on to idle land must lose it to those who are capable of farming regardless of race, color or creed because commercial farming is a business and not a hobby.

All the solutions to this problem require political reforms because our lack of food security is a political problem created by politics and not economics.

Brother Busisa Moyo fully understands this because he is the Chief Executive at food giant, United Refineries.

If this problem is sorted, it will allow Zimbabwe to export farming produce and earn foreign exchange, which will reinforce economic growth and more importantly, it will create jobs and food security for Zimbabwe.

It will also allow downstream agro-industries to thrive, businesses such as seed companies and others that produce fertilizers, tractors, trucks, irrigation equipment, boreholes and the list goes on.

We have a newish constitution, newish because it is now six years old.

It was put to a national vote through a referendum and agreed upon by the whole country.

Up to now the laws of our country have not been aligned to that constitution which was put in place just a few months before the current President became Minister of Justice in August of 2013.

He held this Justice portfolio until November of 2017 when he subsequently became the country’s President, so he is aware of what needs to be done to fix this issue, all he needs is the political will to do it.

Investors who Zimbabwe desperately needs to help the productive sector of our country to kick start will look at the country’s laws and whether they fully protect their investment if ever there was a legal dispute.

Imagine what would happen to the economy if Emmerson Mnangagwa aligned our laws to the constitution, and he stopped protecting people like former ZANUPF MP Vongai Mupereri who are violating court orders signed and witnessed by the country’s Chief Justice Luke Malaba.

Imagine if Mnangagwa stopped protecting people like his State Security Minister, Owen “Mudha” Ncube, who wrote a letter to Vongai Mupereri sanctioning the re-invasion of a private mine in Kwekwe called a Gaika Mine, after the courts had ruled otherwise.

That requires political reform and a strong institutional regulatory framework that holds the most powerful to account when they do such terrible things.

State Security Minister Owen “Mudha” Ncube walked away unscathed, many will also repeat such undignified acts that violate their oath of office to uphold the law unless there are political reforms.

This has an extremely negative direct impact on investor confidence and Zimbabwe’s credit rating.

Who would want to come and invest in a country where the President’s right hand man can write a letter subverting court orders and violating property rights?

That is why we are not getting investment in Zimbabwe and that is why we are facing economic problems and miseries that include a useless auxiliary currency called the RTGS dollar and product prices that are spiraling out of control.

Prices are shooting up daily and our auxiliary RTGS dollar currency is discredited because there is no investment coming into Zimbabwe to enhance our economy, this is caused by our bad and yet State sanctioned behavior and not because of sanctions.

Imagine what it would do to our economy and international relations if President Mnangagwa repealed repressive laws such as AIPPA & POSA and replaced them with progressive laws that will enhance and encourage media businesses to thrive.

This is good for Zimbabweans and not just for outsiders as some Ghost accounts run by Taurai Chinyamakobvu on Twitter comically peddle daily.

A Zimbabwe with civilized laws and a Zimbabwe that allows its citizens to have modern platforms such as television stations to communicate and showcase their art will thrive economically, because media is a business and not just crude propaganda outlets such as ZBC and the Herald.

When I talk about Media Reforms being necessary, I am not talking about ZBC News and all that stuff that sends shivers down the spines of ZANUPF spin-doctors like George Charamba, Regime Associates, Apologists and party political Sycophants.

I am talking about a proper business and prosperity effect that such media reforms and subsequent media businesses would bring to our broken and battered economy!

The political principals do not properly understand this because they take advice on such technical issues from people pushing personal agendas such as Charamba.

These folks thrive in a divisive world and they hate harmonious engagements because they takes away their power to be consulted by the Presidency.

They hate new ideas that can make them politically irrelevant and they will doggedly fight to block any progressive ideas.

Moving on, I have always reminded folks about a fascinating piece of historical African broadcasting reality.

Zimbabwe and Nigeria were the only two countries in Sub Saharan Africa with a television station in 1960, the only two countries before even South Africa which only got its first television station sixteen years after Zimbabwe.

Today Nigeria, which pioneered television alongside Zimbabwe, has 113 television stations and a billion dollar Nollywood film industry that came out of that progressive investment.

Today Nollywood pays taxes to the State and directly employs millions of people who also pay taxes that help in funding social services in Nigeria.

Having broadcasting plurality or more television stations has allowed Nigerian filmmakers, content producers and the art industry in general to have platforms where they can showcase their products commercially.

Today that is not possible in Zimbabwe because we only have one television station that is owned by the State, and also because the ZANUPF government refuses to give television and radio licenses to genuine professionals in the media industry.

This is because they are ignorant of the fact that television is not just about news and crude propaganda, it is also about fashion, it is also about wildlife, it is also about sport, it is also about music, it is also about business an markets, it is also about agriculture and the list goes on!

That revenue that is being lost from lack of a prosperous media industry would have made the cost of your bread and fuel much cheaper because of the taxes collected from the media industry.

Today the government collects the bulk of money in every litre of your fuel sold because it has a very limited tax base to collect from.

We have compatriots like Chipo Chung and Danai Gurira who have made it at the highest global film platforms including Hollywood, and yet because of our backward approach towards television and media businesses, we are not getting a single penny from their successes, it is other countries that are eating off that success on our behalf.

Sad and pathetic but that is where we are at the moment courtesy of our toxic political environment driven by corruption, incompetence, nepotism and gross mismanagement.

If the media industry were allowed to thrive, the government would have lowered bread taxes that make it expensive for us to have breakfast in the morning, and it would have also lowered the taxes that have turned tea at 10AM and at 4PM into a luxury pursuit.

If the government had a huge tax base to collect from and not only from the currently shrinking industries, your quality of life would be much better because government would be able to lower fuel, food and health taxes.

You would be able to have more money to spend on other meaningful pursuits in life because the taxman would not be as predatory and rapacious, colleting two percent of your transactions which is a sign of a failing and uncreative government.

Other industries that have been choked because of the government’s refusal to be progressive and allow the expansion of the media industry have to carry the tax burden, and yet we have so many investment and business opportunities that are being blocked by bad and repressive legislation!

Today Nigeria’s Nollywood is Africa’s biggest film industry and the world’s second largest movie industry and yet in 1960, Zimbabwe and Nigeria were the leading pioneers of television in Africa.

Today Nollywood is worth 5% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which stands at US$411 billion.

The industry is global and Nollywood films are available through Netflix, Amazon, Distrify and iRokotv.

How much has Zimbabwe lost in such blocked opportunities that have been authored by successive clueless, corrupt, nepotistic and thieving ZANUPF administrations?

This can only change with political reforms that will allow for the setting up of an independent licensing authority that will issue television and radio licenses on account of merit and not political party membership.

Today most of the so-called independent radio stations are in reality owned by State institutions such as the army and the CIO and fronted by ZANUPF surrogates.

All these arrangements were blamed on Robert Mugabe, that is why some of us gave Emmerson Mnangagwa a chance to fix the mess created by successive governments in which he was a member.

Unfortunately his government has accentuated the acts of repression and violence, which is why we are asking for proper political reforms that can unlock this country’s economic potential.

Without proper political reforms, the next round of broadcast licenses will be issued in the same bogus manner again, and thousands of media graduates will remain unemployed selling mobile phone airtime vouchers on traffic light circles.

Imagine what it would do to our economy and investor confidence if Emmerson Mnangagwa stopped the invasions of productive foreign currency earning farms.

His Manicaland Regional Minister, Ellen Gwaradzimba recently attempted to confiscate part of Farfell Coffee Estates and hand it over to her son.

Six months later the President and his cabinet eventually put an end to the corrupt and nepotistic attempts to grab this farm, but the damage had been done already.

We need political reforms to make sure that this never happens again because citizens should never be protected by the President and his cabinet, but by regulations and the Rule of Law that will be corner-stoned by the constitution.

No serious foreign businesses would come and invest in agriculture when a Regional Minister can one day just wake up and hand their investment to her son.

It defeats the whole purpose of calling yourself a New Dispensation when your behavior is NO different from that of the Robert Mugabe governments.

In fact the whole New Dispensation talk has been turned into utter balderdash because of such corrupt and shameless acts of greed.

The fact that Ellen Gwaradzimba is still in her job is a reflection and statement to the rest of the world that this was only a damage limitation exercise, because in a proper democracy she should have been fired for abusing her office!

Imagine what it would mean if Emmerson Mnangagwa cleaned up and professionalized all parastatals such as National Railways of Zimbabwe, Air Zimbabwe, Tel One and Net 1 amongst many.

Instead, the President and his ZANUPF ruling party made a mockery of governance tenets when they appointed former Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa as the new chairperson of Air Zimbabwe.

The appointment of the 72-year-old ZANUPF Finance Secretary has the well-pronounced hall marks of corruption and nepotism.

How can a new Dispensation behave in such a way and what is new about such behavior?

Imagine how both locals and foreigners would respect this government if the President professionalized State controlled media, removed hate speech, removed crude propaganda and lies from State controlled media.

Why would he need to rely on crude propaganda if his government were doing well in transforming the lives of its citizens and in reforming the economy?

You see, this is why people like George Charamba thrive on chaos, they don’t want things to work because it would render their propaganda narratives baseless, and more importantly remove the illicit streams of revenue that come through programs they support such as Command Agriculture.

The country can only put an end to all this corrupt nonsense through political reforms, this can never be achieved through Mthuli Ncube’s tinkering of the economy when the political and corrupt sharks and their cartels are wrapped around very economy.

Imagine how corruption would be curtailed if the President stopped meeting investors and instead directed them to the institutions responsible for investment in Zimbabwe where he would have deployed competent Zimbabwean citizens to run them.

Any serious investor would not need to meet the President unless they were shady and corrupt, a decent and genuine investor only wants to play by the rule book.

This again can only be fixed by proper political reforms, which should also prescribe a jail term for anyone who breaks the investment engagement protocols.

This will attract real investors and scare away the buccaneer business people who are currently making trips to the President’s offices at Munhumutapa.

Zimbabwe is being raped by these crooks with the assumed connivance of the highest office in the land.

Imagine how the markets and the economy and investors would react if the President removed John Mangudya at the RBZ and replaced him with a competent and qualified central bank governor to run the RBZ free of daily political interference from the politicians who are protecting their cartels.

Imagine what it would do to investor confidence and Zimbabwe’s credit rating if the political elites stopped threatening and accusing business of sabotaging the economy with the parallel market, when they fully know that it is their children that are heavily involved in that black market trading of foreign exchange.

Political reforms to fix all these things would put an end to parallel markets because all foreign exchange trade would be done officially because there would be confidence in the economic systems available.

Imagine if the President was transparent with what he is selling to the rest of the world in terms of our natural resources, telling us at what price he would have sold them and also telling us the terms of sale for those natural resources like chrome and platinum.

Imagine if he truly allowed the exchange rate to float and waited for investors to come with their money that would then help stabilize the exchange rate.

Imagine if he hired competent folks in the civil service and parastatals, and held public job interviews for those senior posts.

What sort of confidence would this instill in you as a citizen and in investors who interface with these institutions daily?

Do you think that Zimbabwe has the best civil service at the moment?
Do you think that there are no better qualified Zimbabweans both home and abroad who could do these jobs?

Why are they not being hired if they exist? Is this not a political problem?
Can this be solved by Mthuli Ncube’s tinkering and so called economic reforms?

Imagine if Emmerson Mnangagwa and General Constantino Chiwenga let the military do its professional job and didn’t use it as a party militia.

Imagine if he removed well-known corrupt Ministers from his government such as Joram Gumbo and Prisca Mupfumira and stopped protecting them from legal and criminal scrutiny.

Imagine if he dealt decisively with corruption at parastatals and in Government by allowing the two to run on legal and regulatory principles and not on partisan and patronage basis.

Imagine if he stopped the harassment of genuine opposition and civil society leaders and instead engaged them regularly and listened to their pleas!

These things can be done this week, they don’t need money but only need Political Will, and when that process begins, it will be called Political Reformation!

Political Reforms can change our economic fortunes overnight as they have done in many other countries like Malaysia and Singapore!

Why are they not being genuinely done here? It is because ED is not genuine about CHANGE.

It is because genuine political reforms will close the looting pathways that are used by the ZANUPF political elites and their business surrogates!

Those are the REAL facts brother Busisa Moyo!

If you are genuine about the change that this country deserves, and you are not in it to only protect and enhance your personal business interests, then you will acknowledge this self-evident reality and work towards changing it.

Until these things are done, we shouldn’t fool ourselves and lie to unsuspecting citizens by saying that there will be an economic turn around!

There won’t be one now or in the future unless political reforms are addressed conclusively, Robert Mugabe tried to dodge them for 17 years, we know what happened to him and his close associates.

No serious investor would come to a country where court rulings are violated, private mines are grabbed, laws are not aligned to the constitution and Ministers subvert court rulings.

Mthuli Ncube knows this and NO amount of crude or soft propaganda will change that reality.

Is there anything in this article that any sane citizen can object to?

If the President implements the political reforms, he can then sit down with the main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and put together an election roadmap for 2023, whilst the economy is working.

He is currently wasting time with his comical dialogue with the likes of Sekuru Tau Mteki, Lovemore Madhuku, Elton Mangoma and Thokozani Khupe among others.

That is a sure sign to the rest of the world that he is not yet ready to move Zimbabwe forward, and that his Open for Business chants and mantras were bogus and deceptive!

He needs genuine advisors and not cheerleaders and loyalists who tell him what he wants to hear.

Many of the people around the President in government are careerists whose main purpose is to help him cheat his way out of implementing political reforms.

Political reforms are good for every Zimbabwean because they give us the opportunities taken away by ZANUPF’s bad politics in the late 1990s.

Why would any sane person fight to block opportunities for other Zimbabweans to live a better life?

We hear arguments by the President’s associates saying that reforms take time, it is conceptual deception by people who haven’t studied how reforms should be done.

Ethiopia is a very good example of how political reforms should be done.

The 43-year-old Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came into office five months after Emmerson Mnangagwa became Zimbabwe’s President.

He has fired controversial and untouchable civil servants, reached out to hostile neighbours and rivals.
He has lifted bans on websites and other media, freed thousands of political prisoners, ordered the privatization of massive state-owned companies and ended a state of emergency imposed to quell widespread unrest.

Abiy has apologised for previous abuses on citizens and ordered an immediate end to political harassment.

He has appointed a female President, a first for Ethiopia!

He has sent long-serving politicians and security officials into overdue retirement and detained others who committed crimes.

He has assembled a media-savvy team to disseminate an inclusive message of peace, unity and respect for those that differ with each other’s political views.

He appointed an opposition leader to run the country’s electoral management body.

He allowed ”dissident” groups to enter the country and has done many other things.

Now he is asking scholars to audit the reforms he has done so far and see if they are working.

Today they are looking at political and economic reforms, federalism (devolution), nation building, foreign policy and national security.

That ladies and gentlemen is how a new Dispensation looks like, that is how a government that is serious about moving its people and economy into prosperity will behave.

That can only be done through political reforms and nothing else and as some always talk about sanctions, that too can be removed by political reforms.

Mthuli Ncube is currently treating the symptoms of bad politics, sanctions are a condition for re-engagement made by sovereign States.

We can either agree to those terms or disagree and live with the consequences, but our government now uses those demands as a propaganda tool to explaining their breathtaking failure to successfully govern.

We need to cure our politics because it is the main ingredient and basis for our success and it is the primary element in our economic transformation if it is going to happen under President Mnangagwa’s watch at all.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker.

He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow, CNN African Journalist of the year and CNN Television Journalism Fellow. He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.

Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.

The late superstar Oliver Mtukudzi wrote the sound track for State of Mind.

It was recently nominated for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France, in the UK at the Heart of England International Film Festival and in Texas at The US African Film Festival (TAFF).

You can watch the State of Mind trailer below.

You can contact Hopewell at hopewell2@post.harvard.edu or twitter @daddyhope