One of Zimbabwe’s greatest mistakes, which is beginning to backfire, was the creation of the executive presidency in 1987 because it centralised all decision-making in one person, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Morgan Tsvangirai says.
“That’s where we made the mistake. The executive presidency weakened checks and balances. What we need is a strong parliament acting as a check on the executive president. What we have now is a situation where parliament is acting as a conveyor belt of the executive.”
Tsvangirai says another problem is that Zimbabwe has had no defined, solid economic vision.
“Firstly we had socialism, then we moved to capitalism and now we are going for smart partnership. In other words we are acting as copycats. There is no original economic vision for Zimbabwe which has been articulated and which has been followed.”
He says there has also been too much emphasis on consumption instead of on the productive sector. “Even our borrowings from the IMF and the World Bank are for recurrent expenditure and not capital expenditure,” he says.
And the solution?
“I think the only way to move forward is to have a social contract, a negotiated instrument between government, employers and labour. And this is not just consultation. You need an agreed framework which is going to be evaluated, monitored and progress assessed.
“If you don’t do that the government will move in their own direction, employers in their own direction and labour in their own direction. What you need to build is consensus. We have to agree on the levels of inflation. What are we going to do to reduce inflation?
“What are we going to do to reduce government expenditure? Which areas? What are we going to do to reduce interest rates? These are the things that are prohibitive to investment and creating an atmosphere conducive to investment.
“We have to have an incomes policy, a pricing policy, both a pricing and incomes policy which is monitored and can be evaluated from time to time.”
Tsvangirai says the initiative to establish the social contract should come from the government.
“Wherever there has been a social contract it is the initiative of government which then invites the other two parties to serious negotiations and once those parameters are agreed, workers will not go and demand something beyond what has been agreed.
“The same applies to price levels. Government has to agree to certain cuts in expenditure. Those parameters are the ones that will shift the economy to a much healthier position.”
Asked if the government had not already taken the first step by creating the National Consultative Forum, Tsvangirai says: “The national consultative forum is a rally. It consists of individuals hand-picked by the government.
“That is not negotiations because you go to that forum and they will say let’s talk and they talk and no one is committed to any particular position. The government will say we have listened to your criticism and we will try to take that criticism in our policy formulation. That is not negotiations”.
He says, if all parties are serious, the social contract could be given three years in which to transform the country’s economy. “If it is too short, like one year, you don’t see the results. If it is too long like four or five years it can be overtaken by other events,” he says.