What My State of the Nation Address (SONA) Would Have Sounded Like

By Takawira Kapikinyu

A meme showing the level of 'helplessness' and uncertainty after the much anticipated SONA in Zimbabwe.

A meme showing the level of 'helplessness' and uncertainty after the much anticipated SONA in Zimbabwe.

Sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who have persevered for the last 15 plus years I salute you for your patience and bravery and would like to thank you for being there for your country even though the leadership has taken you for granted. Our Great Nation is in distress, the economy is shrinking, people are losing their jobs and livelihoods in-masse, we have seen FDI levels decline, our lenders have no faith in our habitual inconsistent policies, over 90% of our budget goes towards sustaining a bloated cabinet and civil service while we are not making an meaningful investments towards infrastructure and social services, corruption is rampant and we have lost faith in our justice system to curtail this evil. Fellow citizens our problems are many and we all know them. Therefore I propose the following measures that we have to take as a nation in-order to move forward, grow our economy and reclaim our rightful place.

  1. Cut the presidential salary and allowances to a token $1 per year. The president is a servant of the people and the most important factor is love for one’s country not money. The privileges that come with being a president are way too many therefore a $1 salary is befitting. We will have only one vice president with immediate effect. Presidential travel will be limited and delegation will be limited to 20 officials.

  2. Trim cabinet and the privileges that accompany such positions; Fellow citizens there is no doubt we have a bloated cabinet that serves little purpose, therefore we will trim it to only 15 ministers with no deputies. Permanent Secretaries will act in the absence of the substantive ministers. Directors, deputy directors and service chiefs who have reached retirement age will be relieved of their duties and get their pensions. Heads of parastatals will have to reapply for their jobs on a competitive basis and go through parliamentary approval and sign new Results Based Management Contracts. Their salaries and allowances will be made public. Any citizen qualified is encouraged to apply to serve the nation.

  3. Cut the size of parliament to 150 Members of Parliament and abolish the Senate, proportional representation and non-constituency members of parliament. We cannot afford the current number of legislators we have as they are draining our resources with little results to show for it. We are a small country to have such a large legislature. Any member of parliament appointed to cabinet forfeits their position. This will give them enough time to devote to their new role.

  4. We will reduce the size of our civil service through the following measures;

    1. Retire all civil servants who have reached retirement age.

    2. Give an option to those who benefitted from the land reform program to choose either to still be in the civil service or concentrate on farming

    3. We will conduct an audit of all civil servants and weed out ghost workers

    4. All civil servants will sign Results Based Management contracts

  5. The economy:

    1. We are to re-engage with the international community, International financial institutions and other creditors. We are seeking a payment and interest rate suspension for two and half years for us to be able to first realign and grow our economy and invest in infrastructure. Under current conditions our debt level is unmanageable.

    2. We are negotiating for the removal of sanctions and a resumption of normal relations with Europe and the USA.

    3. We are abolishing the 51% policy in the mining and manufacturing sectors to 20%. Mining companies are given 3 years to build necessary infrastructure for value addition and beneficiation for the minerals. 60% of all subcontracting in the mining sector should go to local companies in-order to give our local entrepreneurs a chance to benefit. Miners and manufactures are to invest 30% of their proceeds within the country tax free or face a 30% tax if they wish to repatriate.

    4. All diamonds are to be mined, processed and polished within the country. Modalities for the ownership will be agreed with the private sector through a social contract.

    5. All new investors investing at least US$50 million/creating permanent employment for at least 200 people and paying the minimum wage will be taxed a lower corporate tax and if they are to invest in rural areas they will have an added incentive of lower 10 year fixed lower water and electricity tariffs.

    6. Local agricultural supplies manufactures will get government guaranteed loans to upgrade their factories and be able to meet international standards and supply local demand.

    7. While the parliament passed the RBZ Debt Assumption Bill, it is hereby revoked. We cannot overburden our already taxed people to pay for what a few benefitted from, therefore my people I task the RBZ within 30 days to publicly avail the list of beneficiaries showing what each person got and track each individual beneficiary who got equipment worth over US$1,500 and ask these individuals to come up with a repayment plan. A special fund will be created for this money to be used to give loans for agricultural inputs to small scale and communal farmers at concessionary rates.

    8. Government ministries, agencies and parastatals are to procure 70% of their vehicle fleet from local assemblers. There will be a freeze in the procurement of luxury vehicles and a schedule for such vehicles will be published. Also 80% of government procurement shall be done locally.

    9. We intend to privatize our National Airline and the government will have a minimal role in the airline.

    10. The ban on second hand clothes shall remain in place. Our local clothing manufacturers are suffering because of cheap imports, they employ many people and are a source of our revenue that we use in education and social services therefore need to be protected.

    11. Second hand car imports have flooded our country, it is prudent to recognize that our young people cannot afford some of the locally assembled new cars but we also have to balance that with the need to grow our economy and protect the environment, therefore we shall allow the importation of second hand cars which are not more than 4 years old. We will also allow Rapid Mass Transit Systems in our cities to allow reliable transport.

    12. We shall dualize our roads and rebuild our rail system through a Build Operate To Transfer (BOTT) system where local companies will have a contribution share ratio stake.

  6. Corruption and Rule of Law;

    1. We are aligning all the laws to the current constitution and parliament has 100 days to do so.

    2. The Prosecutor General, Attorney General, Police Chief, Anti-Corruption Commission have been relieved of their duties with immediate effect, parliament has 60 days to approve their replacements. The new chiefs will have 30 days to put in place and outline their plans to tackle corruption, rule of law and restore confidence in our justice system.

    3. All those who corruptly gained wealth through abuse of office, embezzlement of funds, unscrupulous land deals are urged to come forward and give up 60% of this wealth within 30 days or face arrest and forfeiture. Any current or former public servant with a net worth of US$500, 000 must come forward and account the source of their wealth.

    4. All public servants and their families have to declare their personal wealth each year.

    5. ZEC has been disbanded and will be replaced and composed of people with integrity and who reflect the aspirations for free fair and credible elections. With that said the Registrar General has also been relieved of his duties.

    6. Army and intelligence chiefs must choose between partisan politics or to protect and serve the nation.

    7. We are abolishing POSA and all arbitrary laws and detentions of citizens who freely express themselves. The law Society, Civil Society Organizations and responsible government agencies are to work together and find common ground

    8. Police are reminded that the rights enshrined in our constitution are fundamental and should be respected, therefore all police officers new and serving will undergo human rights training. Civil society is encouraged to work with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Justice to design the curricular for this effort.

    9. Local authorities shall make their own by laws without the interference of government.

  7. Education: It is no doubt that our education sector which was once the envy of many is now failing our youth, therefore the following measures are proposed;

    1. 20% of our annual budget will go towards education, this will involve the redesign of the curricular, training of teachers, resourcing our schools. We will review what is still relevant in the Nziramasanga Commission Report and implement.

    2. We will restore student grants for students to be able to afford higher education

    3. There shall not be any government scholarships to study abroad unless if it is for essential skills that our local institutions do not have the capacity to teach and are necessary to the government. We shall resource our institutions to the best of our ability and invest in the future of our country.

    4. We will allocate resources towards youth entrepreneurship training and universities shall run extra programs and courses for youth in vocational schools.

    5. We shall respect the right academic freedom. We recognize the concern that the late esteemed Professor Walter Kamba highlighted in his last address at the University of Zimbabwe, Government hand in academic institutions should be minimal.

    6. Teachers’ salaries and bonuses will be based on performance of students in exams.

  8. Health: We recognize the dire state of our health sector, we have few specialists and professionals left. The government is working on incentives for those in the health sector including making available the resources they need to do their work, giving them salaries is not enough. Therefore all Doctors and Nurses Unions are given 30 days to come up with proposals for how we can improve the health sector. The Health Services Board shall have a quota for Nurses and Doctors Union members.

  9. Impending Drought and Hunger in the Country: Fellow citizens while we recognize the effects of weather and climate change, we cannot keep blaming Mother Nature for our problems, we must adapt. We have had incompetent people as ministers, they have been relieved of their duties. While we will do our best to help, we need more outside help as soon as possible to avert hunger, we do not have enough resources and we call upon the international community to assist in stocking our grains. In the meantime we will also start planning for the coming rainy season and give support to our farmers.

  10. Lastly I call all those who call Zimbabwe home, Friends of Zimbabwe far and wide to come together and support the rebuilding efforts. It’s not an easy road ahead, some may not live to see the benefits but we shall leave a legacy for our children. There is no entitlement in Zimbabwe, we all deserve a fair share of the cake. God Bless Zimbabwe and its people.

Yours Truly,

Takah


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Takah is a humanitarian aid professional focusing on emergency and post conflict response. He has worked for various organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid in Africa and around the world. His main focus is refugees, displaced people and gender issues. His passion is to help Africa realize a better peaceful and equitable path to development. He is a holder of Sociology and a Masters in Rural and Urban Planning degrees from the University of Zimbabwe, and is finishing his second Masters in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis University’s Heller School (USA). He enjoys traveling and is a self-taught photographer.