WHEN President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed a Presidential Advisory Council in January last year, it was taken as a sign that Zimbabwe was indeed in a new dispensation and that it was open for business after a tumultuous election year that left scars that are open and bleeding even today.
It was a new phenomenon in the landscape of the country where politics has ridden roughshod over business, to the detriment of economic growth. As a country and especially since 2013, Zimbabwe’s focus has been on politics: the elections to end a now fondly remembered government of national unity, the political chess games leading to the fall from grace of former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and the elevation of Mnangagwa in her stead.
With the 2018 elections on the horizon, the ruling Zanu PF powerplays led to the nearly four-decades-long rule of the late President Robert Mugabe being ended by his own army leaders in November 2017, and the rise of his long-time aide Mnangagwa to the top office in the land. A contested election between Mnangagwa and his rival, Nelson Chamisa polarised the nation and the political chess game between these protagonists is still being played out in courts, both legal and public.
Zimbabwe’s leadership has never seen the need to put the economy at the fore of its deliberations for any sustained period of time. The result is that the southern African country has been in a funk for the last two decades, with a brief respite during the 2009-2013 GNU era. Politics has overridden business and the country is still paying the price and will keep paying for many more years to come.
Which is why the appointment of the PAC was such a breath of fresh air. Members of PAC were a collection of individuals with diverse and unique knowledge, skills and experiences that would effectively advise the President in coming up with policies that would drive this verdant nation forward. They were seasoned business executives, industrialists and academics.
This was a departure from the top-down leadership of his predecessor, who only held two formal engagements with business leaders for the 37 years he held power, often with an iron fist.
While Mnangagwa’s aides made it clear that the role of the PAC will be only to offer suggestions and recommendations on key policy, Mnangagwa himself styled his leadership as a ‘listening’ President. He engaged regularly with people on social media and often asked that people voice concerns, make suggestions and he responded. He wanted to be a transformational leader, the man who took Zimbabwe from the dark ages of the Mugabe rule to a people belonging to the community of nations. And he had a plan and vision to make Zimbabwe a middle-income economy by 2030. But at some point, Mnangagwa must have stopped listening to the advisors in private because they have decided to give him their thoughts in public.
Shingi Munyeza started to talk of the need “to free the country from toxic political systems, oppression and corruption” of the Mnangagwa administration.
He did not hold back after the abduction and torture of three MDC Alliance leaders by security agents last week: “When wicked men rule, the people groan. We have evil men who man this system of the occult that is evil, that is brutal, that is corrupt,” he said. Another PAC appointee, Busisa Moyo noted: “We must end these bizarre abductions and inconclusive investigations to these cases. The State is responsible for the welfare of its citizens. Let us fix this or else we are not going anywhere.”
The Listening President needs to heed the loud advice of his advisers or history will not be kind to him.
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