by Elijah Chihota
Zimbabwe’s prophets of political doom were quick to dismiss the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) as a mere grouping of politicians. Some cheeky people went a step further to say POLAD is a drama group with actors mimicking real life stories. POLAD is a grouping of 2018 presidential hopefuls, who are not mere spectators, but are really advisors to President Emmerson Mnangagwa as they proffer solutions on issues to do with country’s affairs. Thus POLAD’s role is not limited to political issues only, but anything that affects the well being of Zimbabweans.
MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa snubbed POLAD calling it all sorts of names. Chamisa wants dialogue between himself and President Mnangagwa excluding other parties that participated in the 2018 Presidential race. According to Chamisa he “wants genuine dialogue being mediated by a neutral mediator...” Contrary to Chamisa’s claims, POLAD deals with more than political issues.
In his wise counsel, President Mnangagwa saw it fit to give those presidential candidates a platform where they can interact with Government officials. POLAD therefore becomes a platform where opposition political actors are allowed to interface with President Mnangagwa, Ministers and Government departments as well as officials and to offer their advice. This is not a power sharing dialogue.
POLAD appreciated that the country was under siege from the United States and its allies which resulted in economic stagnation. As result, POLAD took upon itself to add its weight in support of Government to
Promote sustainable economic growth, peace, tolerance and unity.
POLAD members took note that there was urgent need to look at political and legislative reforms; security sector reforms and economic reforms as important in ushering a new trajectory in helping Zimbabweans to find each other politically and otherwise and move away from election mode and focus on other aspects of the economy and development.
In order to make its task well-coordinated and smooth, POLAD members set up sub-committees. These sub-committees are International Relations and Re-Engagement; Economy; National Healing and Nation Building and Governance and Legislative Agenda. The formulation of these sub-committees shows that POLAD is a serious platform where well thought out and researched national issues are tackled.
When President Mnangagwa came into office in November 2017, he announced that the country would prioritise re-engagement with the West so that the country does not continue to be secluded. Being in a community of nations, allows Zimbabwe to access lines of credit and grants through bilateral agreements.
In a nutshell, it has been seen that the imposition of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) in December 2001 resulted in the Zimbabwean economy’s GDP being reduced by US$21 billion over the last 20 years. ZIDERA also affected operations of some parastatals like National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), Air Zimbabwe and Cold Storage Company (CSC), among others.
To this end, the Dr Thokozani Khupe led- International Relations and Re-Engagement Sub-Committee has since met with EU and British Ambassadors to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkonnen and Melanie Robinson, respectively, as well as US Embassy officials in their re-engagement drive for the lifting of sanctions.
POLAD realised that Zimbabwe’s economy is agro-based and that the success of agriculture will snowball a chain reaction in various sectors which feeds into the economy. As a result of sanctions, horticulture, sugar, maize, wheat, beef and cotton production, were mostly affected. This led to loss of export earnings from beef, sugar, cotton and horticulture. The Convention on Beef and Veal Protocol afforded Zimbabwe tariff quota which allowed the country to export at least 9100 metric tonnes of beef into the European Union (EU) annually. That preference was either revised or altered as a result of restrictive measures.
For example in the agricultural sector, the exit by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) from Zimbabwe deprived the sectors of US$15.4 million.
In the absence of such funding mechanisms, POLAD has urged Government to focus on adopting and implementing modern agricultural technologies for attainment of higher yields. POLAD in the face of climate change advised on the adoption of drip irrigation which uses less water and yet the yield is very high where up to 10 tonnes of maize per hectare.
Most companies in Zimbabwe still use outdated equipment and results in high operational costs and results in the country’s products becoming highly priced and less competitive on the international market. This scenario saw end users preferring to import cheaper equivalent products. Lifting of sanctions through the POLAD spearheaded re-engagement, would result in capital financing for re-tooling industry with modern equipment to enable our industries to be competitive in the region and beyond.
POLAD members also realised that the country was lagging behind in terms of energy production which was impacting negatively on operation of the mining and manufacturing sectors due to power outages. At one point they noted that the country was only producing a cumulative 650 megawatts against national demand of 1 800MW in winter and 1 400 MW in summer. The balance was being catered for through imports. In this regard, POLAD advised Government to issues more power production licences to independent players, invest heavily in solar energy and to channel the available power to industries as the first priority.
POLAD on the use of renewable energy recommended the urgent exploitation of Lupane methane gas reserves. Use of gas which has been on the increase will significantly reduce pressure on the national grid and reduce electricity import bill.
As POLAD they welcomed Government’s plans for a US$12 billion mining sector revenue collection by 2023. Zimbabwe being home to some 60 minerals, POLAD urged Government to speed up the process of being a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Being a member of EITI guarantees transparency in the mining of minerals, selling of minerals and tin making sure those financial gains from minerals benefits the people of Zimbabwe who are the intended beneficiaries.
Upon the realisation that the election period is accompanied by politically motivated violence, POLAD unity of purpose among leaders and their followers. POLAD believes that dialogue among political players beyond electioneering. Therefore, POLAD acknowledged the efforts by a Chapter 12 institution, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) in creating peace among politicians and their followers. This can only happen if political leaders set aside their entrenched political differences and engage robustly on issues of national interest beyond power and positions.
On governance issues, POLAD applauded Government on the repealing of Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and its subsequent replacement by the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA). The repeal of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) which is set be replaced by three bills namely the Zimbabwe Commission Bill, the Freedom of Information Bill and the Protection of Personal Information Bill also got a thumps up.
The continued allocation of funds to devolution issues shows the commitment by President Mnangagwa to the decentralising developmental issues to provinces and districts was welcomed by POLAD.