EDITORIAL COMMENT: Welcome to Manicaland Cde Monica Mutsvangwa

IF the unusual reception given to Manicaland’s new Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Monica Mutsvangwa is anything to go by, she has every reason to believe that the province’s constituents have warmly accepted to work with her.

The new Provincial Affairs Minister, who on arrival probably expected to quietly walk into her office and settle down to start work, was visibly stunned to find over 500 people of different backgrounds, ranging from churches to chiefs, waiting to welcome her. The people of Manicaland were welcoming one of their own, who was born and raised in Mutare. Cde Mutsvangwa is therefore no stranger to Manicaland. She has replaced Mandiitawepi Chimene, whose whereabouts are currently unknown.

Citizens of Manicaland want to quickly forget the past where Chimene occupied the provincial centre of power in which personalised, patronage-based relationships reigned supreme. She was known to flex her political muscle in a more heavy-handed style. It is not a secret that Chimene’s style was to push through favourites and block perceived rivals when it came to provincial and district administration appointments. Once in office, with the means of her own, intimidated surrounding officials and institutions in terms that strayed beyond the formal government system. Many in the provincial Government system will certainly not miss her.

But in Cde Mutsvangwa, people seem to be putting their hope and utmost trust. The new minister has pledged to rise above party politics and provide leadership and direction to the provincial government with the support of all stakeholders in Manicaland. We therefore, expect that her leadership will be steeped in the principle of inclusivity, which truly negates political, racial, gender and religious divides.

The Provincial Affairs Minister’s role is that of an overseer and main communicator of provincial government plans and priorities with the President and Cabinet in Harare. This is a mammoth task of ensuring unison between the national development agenda and the provincial initiatives. In essence, provincial councils meet, deliberate, share various matters, programmes, experiences and expectations in such a way that enable the Minister for Provincial Affairs to feed into central Government through the Office of the President and Cabinet

Consequently, all trunk Government programmes and other social protection programmes gain momentum through the office of the Provincial Affairs Minister. Cde Mutsvangwa’s brief from the President is very clear: Unite the people of Manicaland and help in the development of the province. This further strengthens calls for a redefinition of the nation in a way that all components feel a sense of belonging and put the country on a path of development and progress.

We advise Cde Mutsvangwa to establish a 24-hour hotline that residents of the province can call to register complaints and concerns, such as the quality of a service delivery, corruption and requirements for clean water. A radio programme should also be created to provide a platform for engagement between her office and citizens.

In her welcome speech, Cde Mutsvangwa’s language was peppered with technocratic buzzwords: Transparent, accountable, effective, efficient, people-centred, quick service delivery, unleashing the energy in people, public participation in decision-making and institutional and individual capacity. All this shows intent on conveying her effort to good governance.

An effective Provincial Affairs Minister in our tradition is one who has close relations with the people. Ability to engage with and just listen to people cannot be overemphasised here. Reciprocal respect, understanding, and trust between a minister and her constituents come with high rewards.

In our view, the role of a Provincial Affairs Minister is not unlike that of local leader. A good minister, we suggest, remains engaged in the lives of her citizens, lending them sympathy and support during the highs and lows of daily life.

We also note the imperative for the Provincial Affairs Minister to earn the goodwill of those with power and influence in the province. Cde Mutsvangwa needs to recognise the degree to which the interests, demands, and actions of local power holders such as chiefs, headmen and church leaders cannot go unaddressed. These can actually be assets to her leadership in Manicaland.

Above everything else, an effective Provincial Affairs Minister requires a solid grounding in local culture as well as a good reputation. We believe Cde Mutsvangwa possesses these attributes, especially considering the fact that she was born and bred in Manicaland.

Having served as a deputy minister in at least three different ministries, should give the new Provincial Affairs Minister the advantage of having more technical understanding about the workings of Government.

We should all give Cde Mutsvangwa respect for the mammoth task ahead and believe that she can shoulder the challenges. We wish her success in efforts to turn the vision of President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa into reality.