Quest for visionary leadership


Based on RBZ and WB Databases
As Zimbabwe edges towards its 2008 national elections it is increasingly evident the country needs strong, effective national leadership on matters to do with the economy and general development.   The many conferences meetings and workshops being convened on Zimbabwe confirm the sense of public concern

Life expectancy is down from over 60 years in the 1990’s to the current 37 years, and for the past decade the economy is in cumulative decline (Fig 1). Last month in my neighborhood village in Goromonzi there were six burials in a single week; the majority of these being of young adults in their twenties and thirties. A skewed economy, unemployment, low incomes, and the general frustration are all adding up to rising stress levels and rising mortality amongst the population.  

The ZIMCODD August 2007 Conference, the Zimbabwe Social Forum, (2003), the Africa Social Forum (2005), the SADC People Summit in 2006 and several Zimbabwe Econiomics Societies meetings all highlight the need for breakthrough policy solutions that make sense. For 27 years since independence in 1980 Zimbabwe more than thirty economic development, budgetary and fiscal programs have been introduced in Zimbabwe.

But in 2007 the country is amongst the poorest in the world with some of the highest unemployment levels, deepening poverty, and HIV AIDS prevalence that is incomparable in the world. More than ever before, the population needs the promise of effective leadership to deal, once and for all, with the transitional (financial stabilisation/confidence building and recovery), and the medium/long term growth challenges and imperatives.

It is apparent from the workshops meetings and conferences that politics is increasingly becoming a bother in people’s lives, and that the population is now looking for leadership that projects, or represents, that vision, and promise, of a free, stable, peace loving, confident and growing nation in very real terms.  The record of 27 years of failed public policies under Zanu (PF) does not add up to much promise. This also means that the MDC recognises the commensurate challenges and the immense responsibilities entailed by its promise of alternative leadership.

It is the hope of millions that the opposition invests into the necessary preparations to establish the policies that bring home, or impart that ‘promise’ that all will eventually be well in a very real sense in the arena of public leadership in Zimbabwe. No-one is prepared to face the future without that ‘promise;’ that sense of collective purpose as a nation, that vision and the prospect of consistent public policies.

The ZIMCODD August 2007 Conference noted especially that the present state of the Zimbabwean economy reflects the outcome of successive policy failures over several decades; and that it can not just be attributed to sanctions alone. The Conference also noted that even if it was ‘sanctions’, it will help to consider that sanctions did actually help support local import-substitution and the building of the Rhodesian economy in the 1970s during the Ian Smith era. It means that Zimbabwe’s much acclaimed high quality of education and high literacy rates adds up to nothing if the country cannot break out of the present entrapments of the poverty of ideas on how to lead the country towards sustainable economic growth.

In 2007 Zimbabweans long for breakthrough ideas and visions that will help them establish a sense of economic life.  This means visions based on a clear perception of causal elements, and in particular respect for population needs. It means policy strategies that are shaped by values, principles and ethics of honesty, transparency, accountability and democracy.

Noting the ‘complexity of the present economic circumstances’, the prevalent ‘unproductive, polarized partisan politics, the ‘alarming rate of increase of domestic debt and the huge external debt overhang’, the existence of a ‘captive state,’ and the rampant corruption in the public sector, the ZIMCODD 2007 Conference calls for ‘moral regeneration’, and ‘a new value system’ as foundation elements for prudent economic and development policies.

The ZIMCODD August 2007 Conference, notes in summary;

1)the general failure of economic breakthrough in Southern Africa in recent decades. This is particularly explained by the failure of states to envision effective ‘blueprint’ transformation approaches. States underestimated challenges of transforming colonial economic structures;

2)the failure to manage public policies and budgets in the region, which results in untold suffering especially for marginal communities as jobs disappear, as incomes shrivel up, as prices soar above their means, and as goods just become unavailable.  This has come with the entrenchment of a fearsome one party state, tension and conflict. Since 2006 many writers, academics and activists in Zimbabwe have found themselves behind bars for having said, written or done things that Government considered unfriendly.

3)that liberalization has worked to undermine labor constituencies and erode the power of governing states and other entities, to worsen public indebtedness, and to undermine the capacity of the economy to grow, to cause population and social dislocation and migration, and to erode human conditions of life across the region;

4)that with the unfolding of the new millennium there is increasing need for new, innovative policy approaches, beyond mere liberalization. There is need for new policy approaches that can prioritize and link population needs and challenges to local resource capacities. There is urgent need for visionary leadership and expertise to guide political and socio economic transformation and development processes in the region;  

5)the urgent need for a new culture of accountability, transparency and democratic values in public resource management, to reduce income inequalities, unemployment and poverty particularly among marginal rural communities, women and girl-children who continue to occupy the fringes of the economy.  

The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development ZIMCODD is an economic justice coalition established in February 2000 to facilitate the involvement of citizens, through their agencies and activitists, in making public policy and practice pro-people and sustainable. – Masimba Manyanya, is Member of the Zimbabwe Economic Society and Associate of Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development ZIMCODD who can be contacted on [email protected]

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