No substitute for quality

Addressing senior officials of the Communist Party of China in Beijing last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said of Zanu-PF: “In my party we say if someone makes a slogan, we give him a post. That must be a thing of the past.”

As is known by all Zimbabweans, the most dominant sloganeering in Zanu-PF, and indeed across major political parties in the country over the past two decades has started with “Pamberi na…” and “Pasi na…”

Essentially, public careers in Zimbabwe have been built and destroyed on the premise of who you suck up to and who you denigrate. This has resulted in critics slamming slogans, as they are often highly personalised political praises or diatribes with no correlation to the socio-economic realities.

Slogans were not always bad.

For us as Zimbabweans, they are a political culture forged in the heat of the liberation struggle, where there were no shades of grey and the world was Manichean: you either stood with the nationalist cause or you advanced the interests of the oppressor.

People understood that there was no middle ground. It was us against them. Plain and simple.

After Independence, we started off with slogans like “forward with hard work, down with laziness”, before arrogance and corruption crept in and corroded a noble political culture, turning a revolution into a detached and static bureaucracy.

Hard work and honesty were replaced by knowing the right people and knowing what slogans pleased them.

Our early disdain of slothfulness and indolence gave way to a thinly veiled glamorising of cutting corners and greasing palms.

Zimbabwe’s politics became a sewer, where the scum rose to the top and people as thick as manure but half as useful were idolised and celebrated.

Like President Mnangagwa said to the CPC officials, individuals rose to the top on the back of empty sloganeering.

And like he also said, that should now be a thing of the past.

Zimbabwean voters are going to the polls in a few months, and the message must be made clear to all aspirants that there is no more room for politicians who are all talk and no action.

Development and improved livelihoods must be at the core of any slogans, and those words must be backed up by robust policies and honest, hard work.

The country has been on the slide for a very long time and it is going to take a lot of serious endeavour to set things right.

Because our Cabinet is largely composed of people who will have been voted into Parliament, it is of paramount importance that the President has the right pool of politicians to choose from.

Of course, in the medium-term — seeing as there is little time left before the 2018 elections — we would advocate for a system where the Constitution is amended to empower the President to pick any capable Zimbabwean, whether or not in Parliament, to sit in Cabinet.

In the few months since his inauguration as President, we have seen the merits in having non-traditional executive appointments in the mould of Ministers Amon Murwira and Winston Chitando.

That said, the reality is right now that the President by and large works with who the voters send to Parliament.

Shoddy candidates create a lukewarm executive that will in turn appoint dodgy characters to head parastatals and State enterprises. This means the onus is on voters to elect capable people who are not given to cheap, non-progressive politicking.

Right from the primaries through to the elections proper, the electorate has a responsibility to put in office people who advance our ambition to be a middle-income economy by 2030, people who appreciate what it means when we speak of Zimbabwe being open for business.

This also applies to local government elections.

Former Harare mayor Mr Muchadeyi Masunda, and the incumbent, Mr Ben Manyenyeni, have never hidden their displeasure with the calibre of councillors they have had to work with.

And it is telling that these are mayors seconded to head the capital city by the opposition MDC-T; heading councils that are dominated by MDC-T. This shows that the all parties, not just the ruling Zanu-PF, have an obligation to forward to the electorate candidates who can do more than sloganeer.

That people derogatively and derisively talk of Harare’s councillors as “garden boys” is anecdotal evidence of the ugly state of affairs in local government.

Our cities, towns and districts will never experience sustainable and meaningful economic transformation if they are overseen by “garden boys”.

The time for meaningless, divisive, hateful slogans is over. It is now the time, and we repeat this, for honest, hard work.

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