Zimbabwe’s economic crisis will not end through quickfix solutions as the country needs major surgery for it to recover from the coronavirus
pandemic, Masawara Limited group chief executive officer
Shingai Mutasa has said.
Mutasa, who has navigated Zimbabwe’s stormy economic waters for decades, said the major problem in Zimbabwe has been government’s
inability to deal with corruption, civil service reforms and currency issues,
among many challenges.
“For me, Covid-19 is not the problem that confronts us. What confronts us is how we are going to make the next 50 years as productive for our people,” Mutasa told a CEO Africa Round Table digital meeting.
“This is an incredible base on which to build an amazingly wealthy country
for our future generations.
Many of our people say the dreams were lost and hijacked.
I understand, but one of the most important roles of leadership is to be able to look beyond the horizon.
Leadership is at the core of that challenge.”
He said while business leaders feel let down by the political class, the business class has “also let down our people” despite being the creators of wealth.
“There are two levels of corruption and theft that we need to deal with. The most dangerous one is the one caused by our own ignorance.
How do we remunerate our police officers, teachers, nurses civil servants low salaries and expect different results. There is no wonder that some manipulate the systems to make ends meet.”
Mutasa said a government minister could be earning about a tenth of salaries by executives in corporate Zimbabwe.
“My point is, once we remunerate employees at appropriate levels, we will
then be able to use the carrot and stick model. So, we should work hard to push for civil service reforms to make it strong and disciplined so that no excuses for theft and fraud in government.
“Those that do are dealt with appropriately,” he said.
The situation in Zimbabwe has been exacerbated by the eruption of coronavirus pandemic which has triggered an economic downturn.
Volatility has spiked, in some cases to unprecedented levels with many companies relooking at their business models, meaning many
workers are likely to lose their jobs. In fact,at this point, there is great uncertainty about the deadly virus’ severity and for how long it will continue to ravage Zimbabwe’s already frail economy.
Local businesses have already felt a dramatic impact caused by the virus also known as COVID-19.
Mutasa also believes Zimbabwe should embrace a full multi-currency regime.
He said the local currency would be preferred only when Zimbabweans have faith in their government and its ability to exercise discipline with the Zimbabwe dollar. Mutasa added that government should put a strong legislation which provide predictability in the economy, business, social and
internationally and sets out “how over a 10 year migration time frame for the country to have a strong local currency”.
“As long as our society doesn’t believe in our government, no amount of
legislation, no amount of communication will create stability. This is fundamental to our future trajectory,” Mutasa told the meeting.
“Also, going forward as business, what is most
important is looking after our people, whether it’s financially, psychologically or health.
“This is the cornerstone of any business and more particularly now.
“We also have to aggressively strategise on how your business will move
forward from this period.”
Sharing his country’s experience with the Ebola virus, former United Nations Under Secretary General Dr Kandeh Yumkella said Sierra
Leone was yet to recover from the effects of ebola.Covid-19, he said, has exposed the challenges of countries vulnerabilities. Yumkella
suggested that Zimbabwe should avoid quick fixes in dealing with the pandemic.
He said the country needed solid fundamentals.
“I think we have to go beyond quick fixes,” he told CEO Africa Round Table
digital meeting, adding there was need to build robust health care facilities.
“Don’t do what we did in Sierra Leone where we got aid and spent quickly on quick fixes during the Ebola crisis.
We had 14 laboratories but we now have four and we haven’t recovered from the effect of Ebola five years later.
So, think long term and build resilient infrastructure.”
He cautioned Zimbabwe against behaving like Sierra Leone which failed to save during rainy years.
“They told us we were the fastest growing economy in 2012, 2013 because of our iron ore boom. But, we over spent the money and never kept it really for the rainy days.”