On November 27, 2015; Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa advised a gathering of agitated economic stakeholders to set aside politics when deliberating on the economy.
The sentiments behind his advice, though evidently inadequate to appease his audience, were courteously accepted.
It had only been hours since these stakeholders had witnessed Minister Chinamasa presenting the 2016 National Budget and pleading with Parliament for visible enforcement against a now widely acknowledged culture of politicised corruption plaguing our public enterprises and institutions.
Political interactions which preceded Minister Chinamasa’s budget announcement had also exposed an environment of toxic politicking, position jostling and underhanded scheming that was subsequently coined as factionalism.
This is still the state of our governing politics today and unfortunately, inertia both in socio-economic progress and accountability for it is held captive by this factionalism.
Inherently, as our political economic governance is stagnant, all functions under it are resultantly stifled as well.
Not much work is actually being done.
In July 2013, our political economic governance promised the implementation of a five-year blueprint called Zim-Asset, along with creating two million jobs.
Government later set out an expedient 10-Point Economic Growth Plan to accelerate Zim-Asset.
Inconveniently, factional politics have been the greatest deterrent to implementation.
To actually get some work done; ministers, public institution directors, regulatory custodians, and state enterprise executives must be held accountable for their duties.
This requires measurable performance evaluation that is open to critique or praise.
Across all these structures, however, undesirable instances of mismanagement, corruption, or generally poor performance have found convenient cover under the context of factionalism.
Indeed, one cannot find fault in performance or audit honest practices without being vulnerable to accusations of pursuing factionalist interests.
Factionalism has become a hindrance to dealing with inefficient and corrupt governance.
Regrettably, as factionalism has reached very high and respected offices, economic commentary has grown timid to express direct discontent to undesirable conduct carried out by our political economic governance.
So, how does a rightfully demanding public hold its leadership accountable to the promises of Zim-Asset and the 10-Point Economic Growth Plan?
By avoiding factionalism and its growing influence of institutional decay, we would be complicit to the incompetence, corruption and malevolence that has us captive in our current socio-economic stagnation.
We need to get this nation moving.
Thus, perhaps we can end factionalism by creating a meritocracy where political relevance is found through socio-economic performance.
What has become clear is that desire for higher office exists within our political structures. Extracting performance from these ambitious impulses would be a wise approach.
Maybe we need to go American in technocratic political economic governance as a means of realising our socio-economic desirables.
The appeal of such a model is that legislative bills, for instance, are crafted by erudite incumbents who are well informed on the political and economic implications of good policy strategy and implementation modelling.
Immediate to readers’ attention may be the prolonged struggles of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.
However, the need for such incumbency is widespread throughout our entire economy.
For instance, after three years, hundreds of Acts of Parliament are yet to be aligned to the Constitution.
Our environmental laws are yet to be effectively crafted to balance sustainability and competitive industrial practices.
The American model’s selective efficiency is seen through legislation named after exceptional policy strategists such as the nuclear energy Price-Anderson Act from Charles Price and Clinton Anderson; the investor protection Sarbanes-Oxley Act named after Paul Sarbanes and Michael Oxley; as well as the financial sector reform Dodd-Frank Act named after Chris Dodd and Barney Frank.
All the aforementioned legislation was designed with intentional policy strategy that achieved convergence of political and economic desirables satisfying both government and business agents.
Zimbabwe has a culture of personality politics but unfortunately, we emphasise the ministers much more than we do their actual mandate. For example, what was narrated as an enthralling “Chinamasa versus Zhuwao feud” completely missed the underlying tensions between a country’s IFI-focused Staff Monitored Programme and its internally crafted socio-economic agenda.
So while we already do somewhat identify politicians with policy, we should adjust our analyses to focus on how ministers balance the objectives of political ideology with market intricacies, and not simply be entertained by who may or may not have gotten their way.
We have had long-serving politicians but in recent years, it has been difficult to pick stand-out policy strategy and implementation models that we can attribute to their respective tenures.
As a nation, we missed an important observation.
During President Mugabe’s time as African Union and Sadc Chair, none of our Cabinet ministers carved out continental, let alone regional acknowledgement for distinguished policy strategy or implementation modelling.
Cabinet ministers have traditionally ridden on the President’s stature but have not garnered individual respectability. Comparatively, as recently witnessed in South Africa, Cabinet appointments by the Presidency can have significant sway in market confidence and macro-economic outlook when certain candidates carry enough clout to boost economic moral.
Influential African ministers in recent years include Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria, Donald Kaberuka from Rwanda, Tidjane Thiam from Ivory Coast and Abdelkader Amara from Morocco.
Along with many others, they have furthered their administrative skills to consult in regional and global policy strategy and implementation initiatives.
Since independence, only a handful of ministers have created impressionable legacies to affect even our own academic and professional approach towards socio-economic development.
Whilst frequently welcomed to global best practice events and seminars, we have not had noteworthy breakthrough in our medical administrative policy crafting.
While we led African natives towards land reform, we have not crafted a market-driven agriculture policy for indigenous farmers since then, and are well below food self-sufficiency.
From an era of educational supremacy, we have had little impressionable academic discovery and invention to inspire socio-economic development.
These are issues that show a dearth of globally competitive leadership.
However, at the institutional tier we have produced individuals such as Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority chief executive Gloria Magombo and Standards Association of Zimbabwe director-general Dr Eve Gadzikwa who have both recently achieved regional acclaim and recognition for their technical and administrative competence.
Perhaps such credentials would inform the kind of calibre of policy strategists and implementation modelists our country could use.
Factionalism has created refuge for under-performing political economic governance.
Consequently, as a nation, we are riding on the hope of ideology which is impatiently waiting for its physical manifestation.
We are three years into a five-year blueprint.
Our politicians, sheltered from performance and ethical scrutiny, are secretly jostling for political advancement in harmful ways while the time ticks away.
An atmosphere of open meritocracy is the most effective means of fixing this situation.
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