1 January 2018

Zimbabwe: Enter Year of Expectations

The year 2018 brings high expectations of resurgence -- politically, socially and economically, with Zimbabweans' hopes buoyed by the ushering in of a new dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

For Zimbabwe, this year should see free and fair elections, improved health sector, enhanced agricultural production and social services delivery. Political analyst Mr Eldred Masunungure said the new political dispensation and new leadership had brought major expectations from the populace which the Government was expected to fulfil.

"It is, however, impossible to fulfil all the expectations within a short period, but already we have seen major changes within the health sector. The major expectation is free and fair elections. The new President has already spoken of free and fair elections and we hope the election process will produce tangible and uncontested results," he said.

Mr Masunungure said many people in and out of Zimbabwe and even the diplomatic corps and international financial institutions are looking forward to robust re-engagement discussions.

"We hope the issue of elections and delivery of social services will be on the zanu-pf leadership goals and manifesto. We expect improvement in education and the health sector, which was on the verge of collapsing. There has been shortage of drugs and personnel. We expect a quick turnaround.

"We are grateful that already user fees have been scrapped on hospital charges for children under five, maternity and elderly patients and we hope things will continue to improve in the health sector. We also expect physical infrastructure -- the state of roads should be improved and the projects to rehabilitate roads should be completed," he said.

Stakeholders in the agriculture industry are optimistic of the year 2018. Zimbabwe Farmers Union director, Mr Paul Zakariya said the appointment of the new minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Chief Air Marshal Perrance Shiri (Rtd) was a welcome development.

"The minister has already given hope to the agricultural industry by calling for stability on farms and encouraging both local and foreign investment. Practical measures have been made also to create space for active involvement of the private sector in the industry.

"Attention is being given not only to crops, but support has also been extended to livestock sector as well. Government has launched Command Livestock programme and farmers are very expectant," he said.

Mr Zakariya said the development of local markets through the resuscitation of Cold Storage Company would play a major role in the commercialisation of small holder agriculture. He said there was huge potential to grow the sector and the inclusive approaches that were being encouraged by Chief Air Marshal Shiri (Rtd), if followed through, would certainly bear fruit.

"Agriculture remains the backbone of the economy with very other industry deriving its life from that sector," he said.

Agriculture economist, Mr Midway Bhunu said stakeholders in the sector were expecting the finalisation of the land audit to put land to production.

"We also expect finalisation of land tenure issues, bankability of 99-year leases and issuance of leases to farmers. There should also be policies to promote investment in cash crops -- tobacco, cotton, coffee and horticulture. Prompt payments to farmers under Command Agriculture should also continue in 2018," he said.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Mr Itai Rusike said civil society was looking forward to seeing efficient use of resources allocated to the health sector by plugging the leakages. He said these leakages should be plugged through strengthening health governance structures and improvement of accountability and transparency.

"We expect to see a functional public health delivery system from the current broken health services that the people can trust and have confidence in," said Mr Rusike.

He said Government should also finalise the Public Health Act Amendment Bill, which has since been gazetted for debate in Parliament. He said the loopholes in the current Act have seen local authorities such as the City of Harare taking advantage by pumping dirty water to the residents without facing any consequences.

"We expect to see the health sector moving towards realisation of universal health coverage and not leaving anyone behind through prioritising domestic health financing, acknowledging and recognising the role of community health workers, access to essential medicines and having a clear user fee policy backed by law and adequate resources," said Mr Rusike.

In line with universal access to health, Government has since scrapped hospital fees for infants, senior citizens and pregnant women. The cost of blood has also been revised downwards to $50 a unit with effect from today. The Zimbabwe Republic Police recently admitted to inadequate supervision and unbecoming behaviour of some members as having eroded public trust, faith and confidence in the force.

Addressing senior officers in Harare, Acting Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga said they would not hesitate to resuscitate the National Development Committee and to empower the Inspectorate Unit to enhance supervision of police activities at all levels.

"There is a well-known Shona saying that, 'kugona chivi kuzvituka'. May I therefore urge all of us to self-introspect, accept that our challenges emanate from lack of inadequate supervision and unbecoming actions by some of our members, which have no doubt eroded public trust, faith and confidence in the police service," he said.

"The young police officers need our constant and regular guidance so that they do not stray and malign the good name and image of the police service."

Acting Comm-Gen Matanga said refresher, developmental and induction courses would be conducted with renewed vigour so that all officers have in-depth knowledge of police work. Customer satisfaction, professionalism, respect, courteousness and restraint, Acting Comm-Gen Matanga said, would be the epitome of all police activities.

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