The Sunday Mail
The reappointment of Dr John Mangudya by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for a second five-year term as Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, and thus the custodian of the national monetary policy, will be welcomed by those who seek a strong financial team and a continuation of present efforts to solve the raft of inherited problems so that strong economic growth becomes the norm.
President Mnangagwa has made it very clear that he expects to be judged by the people of Zimbabwe and by history first on his economic performance. This starts with the present austerity period while the fiscal disaster and resultant monetary mess inherited by the President on his election is cleaned up, and then with the correct fundamentals in place the move into strong, sustained and viable economic growth for a decade is Zimbabwe fulfils its promise and becomes a middle-income country.
Clearly the President needs competent economic advisors, perhaps more precisely the best economic advisors available. He needs them to work as a team but he does not need, and clearly does not expect to have a bunch of yes-men and nodders but those that tender advice, draw up the plans and implement the clean up, and then ensuring the fundamentals remain sound while the private sector and others in Government push ahead with the economic growth.
With Dr Mangudya’s reappointment,, the three top figures in the economic team are now all “Mnangagwa appointees”, chosen directly by the President. The other two members of the team, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Prof Mthuli Ncube and the Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Mr George Guvamatanga were appointed soon after President Mnangagwa was sworn in last year and the reappointment of an inherited Governor means that Dr Mangudya is known to have the confidence of the President, as was already know with the other two.
The three have distinct laid-down functions. The Minister had to get the fiscal policy right and budget for surpluses, not deficits as was the case since independence. The Permanent Secretary has to enforce the budgeting tightly, something that was done laxly for decades and from the figures we now see is being done exceptionally tightly. He is also the professional head of the team of economic civil servants, a team described by former opposition Minister Tendai Biti as exceptionally and surprisingly competent. And the Governor has to get the monetary policy right, as well as supervise the banking industry to ensure that this core element does not go off the rails.
Turf wars are the sort of thing that happen in dictatorships, Hitler’s Germany was famous for these, but the clearly defined roles laid out in Zimbabwean law and procedures prevent such nonsense, whatever some of the less-educated social media commentators pretend to see.
But the three also need to be able to work together and work as a team with the President. This they have been doing, and doing rather well. It is well known that the three are in quite close agreement over the strategy that must be followed. It is also well known that at times the precise tactics ― the size of each step and the sequencing and timing of each step ― frequently require debate. That must be expected. You cannot put three competent people in the same room and expect instant agreement, or not unless they are the undesirable yes men.
In the end it must be remembered that the President is the only elected person in that core group; even the Minister is not a professional politician, rather an outside appointment using a constitutional provision whereby the President can bring a handful of technocrats into the cabinet. So the President is the person who carries the can and that is why his openness to a broad base of advice is so obviously desirable.
His three top economic appointees all had major reputations outside Government before being called into national service. Dr Mangudya and Dr Guvamatanga headed major, and successful, commercial banks. Prof Mthuli is generally regarded as the leading Zimbabwean academic economist, but one who also left his ivory tower and built up some impressive experience in commercial and international banking and in management consulting. All three made their mark outside State service and all three could easily resume their careers outside State service. The fact that they all have now been offered and accepted appointments from President Mnangagwa shows that the required trust runs both ways.
As was said when the President started appointing his technocrats, the relationship between a technocrat and an elected leader has to run both ways. The political leader needs to trust that his technocrat does, in fact, have the required expertise and the technocrats have to trust that they will get the required political support and backing. This is one reason why the latest step, making all three at the top of the economic team appointees of the present sitting President, is important.