Home » National » Zimbabwe: Building Zim On a Foundation of Trust

The story goes that following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the South Korean currency was badly affected, multitudes of people lost their jobs, businesses were going under and the economy was one the verge of complete collapse. While South Korea had managed to secure a $58 billion loan from the IMF it carried with it the regular stringent conditions that did nothing to improve the economic situation that the country found itself in.

On January 5, 1998 the fate of South Korea was to change as the people of the Asian nation handed their state a lifeline. Ordinary South Koreans donated their personal gold to the government, which then assisted the authorities in making their IMF loan repayments.

Essentially, the people, through their personal gold, had bailed out the state. A local South Korean paper reported that in the space of a few months 227 tonnes of gold valued at more than $3 billion were collected.

Ordinary people voluntarily donated their wedding rings, family heirlooms, gold medals, "luck" keys, a traditional present given when one starts a business or when they turn 60, and other such precious items. These were then melted down into ingots and sold on the international market. Within a space of three years, South Korea had recovered from the financial crisis and repaid the loan, ahead of schedule too.

This form of self sacrifice by millions of South Koreans was a massive show of patriotism and also an illustration of the faith in their government. Looking at the Zimbabwean situation, one wonders if the people would be willing to take make a similar sacrifice to the Government for the sake of the State. I certainly wouldn't advise anyone to hold their breath on it.

Aside from the fact that millions of Zimbabweans probably don't have reserves of precious minerals to donate, a huge motivating factor that encouraged South Koreans to give off their wealth was a deep trust and belief in their government.

The people of South Korea believed that their contribution to the State would be utilised correctly and to the betterment of all, not of one or one entity. In the Zimbabwean context one is sceptical as to whether the people have as much trust in their Government the people of South Korea had in theirs in 1998.

An objective commentator might even posit that in an underperforming economy and a debilitating liquidity crisis, without actually physically contributing to the State, Zimbabweans have been inadvertently asked to make some sacrifices.

The first task in building trust is being able to communicate with people. Of late Government has been a bad communicator. The manner in which pronouncements have been made, often "with immediate effect", has only resulted in panic and confusion in the market, leading to the public rejecting policies which are intended to benefit everyone.

Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 and the introduction of bond notes are two recent incidents that show the importance of good communication. These policies are intended to protect the industrial and manufacturing sector and alleviate the current cash crisis respectively.

However, the pronouncements, being made with little or no explanation, have resulted in the public responding negatively towards them. Ignorance leads to fear, and in an era of social media and instant messaging, misinformation from detracting voices can have impact.

The Government should clearly explain any instruments and policies to the people before they are enacted to prepare them for what is to come. It would be prudent for the Government to speak with one voice, through one voice, particularly on sensitive issues that affect the State.

There has been a rise of fake news stories on the Internet, which end up circulating via social media, that only serve to mislead. This misinformation campaign can only be quelled through clear and timely information coming out of State structures in a format immediately identifiable as the Government's.

When the Government starts speaking through one voice, it will improve communication between the citizens and the apparatuses of the State. Another manner in which trust is built is consulting the people and involving them to a degree in process that affects them directly.

Last year, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development sent out provincial enquires to garner stakeholder input into the National Budget. Such initiatives encourage Zimbabweans to be a part of decision making and national discourse.

When the people perceive that they have a definite stake in the affairs of the state then they are likely to be more participatory in and receptive of eventual outcomes. Consultations also allow for the Government to gain a wider perspective of the needs of the people.

One size does not fit all in any society and one can only know which policies fit best after interacting with those who the policies are set to impact. Having a buy-in from the people will go a long way in assisting the execution of government policies.

As government is elected by the people and has a mandate to serve the people, it should periodically hear from them directly. In turn, the people should also make full use of the avenues available to them to communicate with their government.

The people should engage their elected officials in their various constituencies and insist that their entreaties are taken to the relevant authorities by those chosen to do so. Participating in elections once every five years should be the minimum level of participation that one has within the state. Each individual has the ability to engage the state, but must do so through the constitutionally provided channels available to them.

How a government accommodates conflicting voices and viewpoints in society will also contribute to the level of trust that it receives. The reality of any society is that those that inhabit it will always have different perspectives and positions on all matters.

Those that do not necessarily align with the popular opinion should not be immediately rejected or ignored. These can be useful to developing better arguments and positions by providing criticism that can be taken constructively.

By creating a space for contrasting opinion and contesting convictions in national discourse government will encourage the participation of all state actors who many not necessarily fall into the political realm. This will only serve to nourish society and raise the general capacity and thinking of the people. It will also serve to hold the government accountable.

A huge factor as to why citizens lose trust in a government has to do with accountability. The successive Auditor-General reports illustrating corruption in state institutions as well as the issue of the funds missing from the diamond mining industry have resulted in citizens viewing Government with sceptical eyes.

To restore the faith of the people it will require Government to act decisively on issues of corruption, rooting out the perpetrators and bringing them to book. The actions of government going forward will greatly affect how the people respond to its policies and what sacrifices they are prepared to make towards the development of the state.

Source: The Herald.