WERE President Emmerson Mnangagwa, his deputy Constantino Chiwenga and Cabinet ministers up to the task in a 2021 which proved to be another challenging year for Zimbabweans on many fronts?
In this edition, the Daily News once again holds a mirror before them, through its eagerly-anticipated annual Cabinet ratings, so that both our leaders and ordinary citizens can reflect soberly on their performance and the direction which our country is going.
A quick glance at the Cabinet ratings inside shows a clear pattern; of ebbs and flows throughout 2021 — with a particularly difficult second half of the year. Enjoy the ratings.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa
When Mnangagwa began his full five-year term as president in August 2018, he faced many headwinds on the political and economic fronts.
And as has been the case since he came to power in November 2017, Mnangagwa continued to have a tough time in 2021 convincing long-suffering Zimbabweans that his vision, strategies and works are an improvement on the well-documented failures of his predecessor, the late former president Robert Mugabe.
Former United States of America (USA) ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols, captured this conundrum well in May.
Speaking during a virtual meeting on Zimbabwe and Mozambique, Nichols said Mugabe’s woeful policies and years of rampant corruption had caused enormous damage to the country which would be felt for many years to come.
“Zimbabwe is a country with incredible untapped potential. It has more than just natural resources, it has a vibrant, friendly, educated and hardworking English-speaking workforce that, combined with the glorious weather, makes a stunning first impression on anyone who visits.
“And the resources are here — abundant minerals, and prime agricultural land … The corruption and economic policies of the Robert Mugabe era caused what I can only call economic devastation.
“The damage done then has left scars that have distorted the economy and still impact day-to-day business,” Nichols said then.
What this means is that Mnangagwa’s commendable efforts thus far — to right what went horribly wrong in the past — is akin to necessary baby steps in the direction of needed reforms. That is how bad our past has been.
His political enemies dislike the Daily News pointing out this self-evident truth, leading to pitiable and wholly false claims that we are allegedly “captured” from the usual quarters, which seem to derive morbid pleasure from the country’s failures.
But the truth is that things are gradually getting better in the country, and in a sustainable way too, than when Mnangagwa took over from Mugabe. And 2021, for all its challenges, was the best of his four years in power to date.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, Zimbabwe recorded a bumper agricultural harvest, whose success was credited, in part, to his ambitious Pfumvudza project.
The bumper agricultural season meant that the country saved between US$500 million and US$700 million on importing grain, as the country currently has enough stocks.
And for the greater part of the year, until Omicron happened and the market shocks of the last quarter of the year, the country’s hitherto moribund economy was on an impressive growth trajectory — a fact which has been acknowledged by organised business.
Speaking recently to the Daily News’s sister paper, the iconic Financial Gazette, business leaders and economic experts said while market conditions had deteriorated late in the year, 2021 had been marked by decent access to forex on the formal market, as well as price stability, among other positive developments.
The president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), Kurai Matsheza, said the year had especially started “very promisingly” and would have been a runaway success had this momentum been sustained.
“2021 started very well with capacity utilisation growing on a quarterly basis. However, that good performance slowed down in the last quarter because of a number of issues.
“But despite these issues, the good agricultural season outbalanced some of the negative challenges. Business also operated in a very peaceful environment, with generally quiet and smooth labour relations across all sectors.
“The major challenges related to currency availability for raw materials and retooling, as well as power shortages during the last quarter of 2021,” Matsheza added.
On his part, the erudite chief executive of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), Chris Mugaga, said 2021 was a year of “mixed fortunes”.
“The year 2021 was a year of mixed fortunes. We had a tough year, especially for small enterprises. But it was also a relatively forgiving year for bigger corporates.
“For medium to big corporates, 2021 was a decent year because they could easily be protected from the lockdown measures, and they could access forex on the auction system,” he said.
There is nothing to add to these sentiments.
On the health side, Mnangagwa and his government continued to do well in their handling of Covid-19, including escalating the voluntary national vaccination programme.
Thus, nearly three million people in the country had received their two jabs, while about four million had received the first jab a few weeks before Christmas.
If there have been weaknesses in 2021 that Mnangagwa needs to improve on, maybe this would relate to his infamous cautious approach to issues when quick, decisive action is merited.
Insiders attribute this to his inclusive nature and his background where he operated for decades in the background.
It remains a source of wonder why the powerful VP is often viewed negatively by some pundits, as his government performance is way better than he is given credit for.
Indeed, and away from his personal travails, the former commander of the Defence Forces increasingly got better in 2021 as a senior member of the executive team.
His decisive handling of the coronavirus pandemic was testament to Chiwenga’s growing confidence in that portfolio, after a somewhat shaky start. In this regard, Chiwenga has mended bridges with health workers.
Zimbabwe’s much-acclaimed voluntary vaccination programme is another example of his good works, which have seen him abandoning his hitherto gung-ho approach to containing the respiratory disease.
Given his reputation of being hard-headed, which is sometimes exaggerated, Chiwenga should now go on to build a close working relationship with the media to both further improve perceptions about him and to enhance the communication of his government programmes.
Indeed, it’s very difficult to get a comment or interview with either Chiwenga or his government aides — something that has not always worked in his favour.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube
WHAT a difference three years can make. When Mthuli Ncube was appointed Finance minister in September 2018, he got a baptism of fire — rising from being the poster boy of Mnangagwa’s Cabinet to being the most-criticised minister in government.
But the lettered minister is steadily building a reputation for honest, solid work, even as he continues to battle the many challenges that are retarding the economy’s progress.
The crises of 2018 and 2019, which blighted most of his work, are now mostly gone. And in place of the much-criticised Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) has come the National Development Strategy — which has been widely welcomed.
In addition, there is visible progress in infrastructure development, power generation, road rehabilitation, dam construction and improvements in social safety nets, all of which he has prioritised.
And until the last quarter of the year, Zimbabwe’s inflation was going down. For more than 16 months prior to this, Zimbabwe enjoyed relative economic stability following his implementation of a raft of measures — including the introduction of the foreign currency auction system, which has seen improved production in the economy.
Until recently too, the era of random and steep price increases appeared to have been tamed, something he now needs to put his energies into given the turmoil of the past few months.
To his credit, Ncube has — in the meantime — increased bonus tax-free thresholds, while also introducing tax cuts for struggling workers, and effecting new social safety nets for vulnerable groups, including subsidising agricultural inputs.
But, he will need to do more going forward, while Zimbabweans also need to come to the party by ditching all destructive tendencies that negatively affect the lives of long suffering citizens.
Defence and War Veterans Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri
THE Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) have been tireless in their efforts to help combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
The sight of soldiers complementing nurses and doctors during the national vaccination programme remains one of the highlights of their service to the nation on 2021.
The military has also carried out extensive repair works on bridges and rural clinics to allow people easier travel and access to treatment.
It is thus very sad that a few malcontents are sullying the good name of these soldiers by being involved in armed robberies.
The nation prays that Muchinguri-Kashiri and CDF Valerio Sibanda will deal decisively with these few bad apples who are tarnishing the image of the uniformed forces.
Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Felix Mhona
Mhona has been a man of few words and all action. Since replacing the late Joel Biggie Matiza, who succumbed to coronavirus at the beginning of 2021, Mhona has shown a high work ethic.
Among other things, the Chikomba Central MP has walked the talk on road rehabilitation and construction.
In this regard, works have commenced to end the nightmare of motorists and commuters who use the Mbudzi round-about along the Harare-Masvingo highway.
There has also been pleasing work on the dualisation of the Bietbridge to Harare highway, whose development is now progressing at a frenetic pace.
It doesn’t matter which direction one looks at, the amount of attention of improving infrastructure has not escaped even the most strident critics of Mnangagwa’s government.
Mhona has also brought confidence in parastatals that were once described as havens for corruption.
There is now a semblance of order and clarity at the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) after years of gross indiscipline and corporate malfeasance.
Mhona has taken an inclusive approach by blending gender with youth in most of his appointments to boards of parastatals which fall under his purview.
For the first time, there is a woman chief executive at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ). And he has just appointed a youthful George Manyaya to chair the Zinara board.
While there is a lot that Mhona is expected to do, such as ending congestion on the roads and ridding departments such as VID of corruption and inefficiencies, he has so far shown that he is capable of delivering the desired results.
However, Mhona needs to deal decisively with perennial problems at the country’s flag carrier, Air Zimbabwe.
Energy and Power Development minister Zhemu Soda
WHILST Zimbabwe experienced brutal power cuts in the last three months of 2021, there is hope that Soda will deliver improved electricity generation in the country going forward.
The media-shy minister has been leading the retooling exercise at Zesa, where he is said to have excellent relations with its chairman, Sydney Gata — whose ambition to turn around the power utility has seen him re-engaging specialists who had been working in the diaspora after leaving the company.
Soda is also leading in the Hwange expansion project which could finally end Zimbabwe’s perennial power woes. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
Most of the challenges he is facing are legacy issues, as recently explained in Parliament by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi.
Ziyambi also said the dire electricity situation in the country was being compounded by the fact that power imports from neighbouring South Africa and Zambia had been halted, as the two countries were also battling energy crises.
“We must also be mindful that as we speak, in South Africa, Zambia and the region as a whole, they are also having power shortages.
“So, the issue really is to holistically look at our energy sector and admit that we have old power generation units that need to be upgraded to an extent that once we have done that we will be rest assured that if a certain unit breaks down we have so many back-ups.
“At that particular stage, we will be able to definitively say that the probability of all our units breaking down is one percent, but at the moment, and because of the age of our generation units, they breakdown randomly and you cannot definitively say once they breakdown I am guaranteeing that this particular unit will be able to power us through,” Ziyambi said then.
Lands, Agriculture, Water Climate and Rural Settlement minister Anxious Masuka
Since replacing the late Perrance Shiri, a dyed-in-wool farmer who had laid a solid foundation for Zimbabwe’s agricultural re-birth, Masuka has taken to his task with admirable energy and zeal.
He is continuing to drive Zimbabwe’s ambitious plan to return to its once hallowed status of being the bread basket of the region. This year’s bumper agricultural harvests bear testimony to this good work.
Masuka, who was chief executive of the Zimbabwe Agriculture Society (ZAS) at the time of his appointment, has combined his extensive knowledge of the sector with the skills of hardworking and highly learned technocrats to drive the country towards a US$8,5 billion agriculture sector by 2025.
He is also leading a much-needed plan that will see the government coming up with measures for financial institutions to bankroll farmers without collateral.
This comes as the agriculture sector is poised to grow by 34 percent in 2021, on the back of improved rainfall and government-funded programmes, as well as private sector-driven contract schemes.
Masuka has also presided over the remodelling of the Agriculture Finance Corporation (AFC), which is a key source of finance for farmers.
And in his 2022 national budget , Ncube appears to have been mindful of the work that Masuku has done in reviving agriculture in the country.
From his $927 billion budget, Ncube allocated $124 billion to Masuka to further spur the recovery of the key sector.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa
The genial minister continues to build on the good work that she initiated when she came to the ministry.
In September, her ministry issued eight new licenses for community radio broadcasting — bringing the total number of licensees to 14.
The community radio licences mean that under Mutsvangwa Zimbabwe continues to break with the discredited traditions of the Mugabe administration which was patently hostile to media freedom in the country.
In the meantime, history continues to record that it was under Mutsvangwa’s watch that Zimbabwe ended 60 years of monopoly by the State broadcaster, the ZBC, when the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) licenced six new commercial television stations in November last year.
This was a significant milestone for the country and indeed something that the ever effable minister and her boss, Mnangagwa, can be exceedingly proud of — something that many Zimbabweans thought would never come to pass in their lifetimes.
This was all over and above the scrapping of the repressive media laws such as AIPPA and Posa, while also doing more to end mainstream media polarisation in the country.
What makes Mutsvangwa’s feat remarkable was that her ministry has always been one of the toughest to superintend over, even at the best of times — with many big-headed and egoistic men before her notable failures in the portfolio.
If we have any advice to the minister, it is not to pay too much attention to a few misguided anarchists and narcissists associated with the media industry who continue to falsely give the impression that the media scene is as bad as it was when Mugabe was still with us.
Public Service Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima
Mavima has continued to deal well with the social crisis that was created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under him, the National Social Security Authority (Nssa), which had for long been tainted by serious allegations of corruption and mismanagement, is continuing to induce confidence in its work.
Refreshingly, Nssa is continuing to improve its public engagements and communications, further signalling a new culture at this key public body.
ICT minister Jenfan Muswere
The minister and his team have built what seems like a very good understanding with mobile network companies, which is very important.
The rows that once defined the relationship between authorities and mobile network companies appears gone, with once contentious tariff increases now appearing to be satisfying both parties.
Apart from that, Muswere continued to be visible in every province, as he sought to implement projects bridging the digital gap in the country.
Crucially, Muswere has presided over the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill, which has now been passed into law. Although the law remains contentious, depending on which side one is, it seeks to curtail the rampant abuse of social media — which has seen many people’s integrity and reputations being besmirched for no good reason.
Local Government minister July Moyo
Moyo has failed to act decisively on the rot in most local government authorities. Thus, millions of residents have gone for years without clean and potable water, for example.
The profligacy and rampant corruption involving residential stands in councils should also have prompted Moyo to deal robustly with this.
But in other areas, Moyo has shown that he can deliver when he wants to. The ongoing importation of buses for mass public transportation is one case in point.
Mines minister Winston Chitando
DESPITE the heavy rains and coronavirus virus-induced disruptions to the mining indisutry, optimism remains high that the extractive sector will continue to grow. Indeed, 2021 was a great year for the sector.
The amiable minister continued with his drive during the year towards the country realising its dream of having a US$12 billion industry by 2023.
Chitando also launched the Greater Chinhoyi Copper Development Programme this year, which is set to become operational by 2023.
In June, Kuvimba Mining House declared a US$5,2 million maiden dividend to its local shareholders following a solid performance during the financial year ended 31 March 2021.
Ncube said Kuvimba is an example of the government’s thrust to reawaken Zimbabwe’s economic potential by unlocking value out of various natural resource and mineral endowments.
Chitando said increased production by Kuvimba and other extractive players would result in the country meeting its economic growth target.
Major companies currently active in Zimbabwe include Caledonia Mining, Implats, Zimplats, Sibanye Stillwater, Anglo American, Tsingshan and Sinomine Resources.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, Zimbabwe expects a further surge in foreign currency earnings from the mining sector going forward.
The mining economy growth plan is part of the government’s broader macro-economic roadmap towards an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
The multi-billion-dollar industry will be driven by gold, platinum, diamond, chrome, iron ore, coal, lithium and other minerals.
Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe
KK, as he is known in his inner circles, had recently announced that the government was outlawing current passports by the end of 2023, to pave way for electronic passports.
While many Zimbabweans welcomed the launch of the electronic passports, this triggered an understandable outcry .
Both ordinary citizens and experts who spoke to the Daily News said this decision was unfair to tens of thousands of people who had legitimately acquired new passports at high cost, and who would now need to start the challenging process all over again.
Fortunately, this misguided policy now appears to have been rescinded, although the formalities of that are yet to be followed through.
Apart from that, police continued to enforce the coronavirus restrictions with a high degree of professionalism — despite a few isolated cases involving rogue officers.
The police conduct has been especially commendable during the festive season, where they have ensured that there are very few cases of violations of the standing Covid-19 restrictions.
More importantly, and despite being hamstrung by lack of adequate resources, the police’s response to violent crime, especially armed robbery, has been excellent.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Frederick Shava
Shava replaced the late Sibusiso Busi Moyo, the articulate former senior military officer — who earned the monicker “General Bae” among his admirers during the November 2017 coup.
SB Moyo succumbed to coronavirus at the beginning of 2021.
The media-shy Shava — an ex-diplomat — has continued to press on with Zimbabwe’s re-engagement efforts despite a hardening of stance between Zimbabwe and Western powers.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi
As the leader of government business in Parliament, Ziyambi found himself at the forefront of driving several state-sponsored Bills, among them the controversial Constitutional Amendment Number 2.
The Zvimba West MP spiritedly defended the extension of the Chief Justice’s tenure in office, which ended up in court after pro-democracy groups and the opposition opposed his continued stay at the helm of the country’s judiciary upon reaching the age of retirement.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s continued stay in office was upheld by the apex court after the High Court had ruled in favour of an application barring him from continuing as the top judge.
Ziyambi is one of Mnangagwa’s ministers who continues to engage with the media openly and articulates multiple government programmes and policies without any hesitation.
* We could not rate the remainder of the ministers due to space constraints.