New Cab­i­net: The rai­son d’être

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - COMMENT -

STU­DENTS of pol­i­tics and phi­los­o­phy will be fa­mil­iar with Fran­cis Ba­con, who some call the Fa­ther of Em­piri­cism be­cause of his con­tention that in­duc­tive rea­son­ing and ob­ser­va­tion of events were the road to sci­en­tific knowl­edge.

A sci­en­tist, ju­rist, or­a­tor, states­man, philoso­pher and author, he was a Jack of all trades and cer­tainly a mas­ter of many of them.

He was also an es­say­ist, pen­ning prose that was typ­i­cally scep­ti­cal as part of his quest for knowl­edge.

Amongst his more mem­o­rable pro­saic works is “Es­says, Civil and Moral”, pub­lished in 1909 as part of The Har­vard Clas­sics Vol­ume 3.

Deal­ing with the is­sue of gov­ern­ing and wise coun­sel, Ba­con opined: “The wis­est princes need not think it any diminu­tion to their great­ness, or dero­ga­tion to their suf­fi­ciency, to rely upon coun­sel.

“God him­self is not with­out, but hath made it one of the great names of his blessed Son: The Coun­sel­lor ... For the beloved king­dom of God was first rent and bro­ken by ill coun­sel …”

Hav­ing started so well, Ba­con then de­scends into a harsh crit­i­cism of the then nascent Cab­i­net sys­tem in which lead­ers roped in paid ad­vi­sors.

“The in­con­ve­niences that have been noted in call­ing and us­ing coun­sel are three. First, the re­veal­ing of af­fairs, whereby they be­come less se­cret. Se­condly, the weak­en­ing of the au­thor­ity of princes, as if they were less of them­selves.

“Thirdly, the dan­ger of be­ing un­faith­fully coun­selled, and more for the good of them that coun­sel than of him that is coun­sel led. For which in­con­ve­niences, the doc­trine of Italy, and prac­tice of France, in some kings’ times, hath in­tro­duced cab­i­net coun­sels; a rem­edy worse than the disease.”

For all his bril­liance, Ba­con could not get his mind around the con­cept of a Cab­i­net. Then again, Ba­con is the man history says died of pneu­mo­nia at age 65 af­ter re­port­edly con­tract­ing the con­di­tion while study­ing the ef­fects of freez­ing on meat. Ba­con’s fears were not un­founded.

A Cab­i­net can in­deed fall prey to the three“in­con­ve­niences” that Ba­con speaks of in his es­say.

Cab­i­net min­is­ters could con­ceiv­ably be in­ju­di­cious with priv­i­leged in­for­ma­tion, much to the detri­ment of po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­cial sta­bil­ity.

It is pos­si­ble for Cab­i­net min­is­ters to work towards weak­en­ing the au­thor­ity and agenda of their prin­ci­pal, in our case the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic.

And yes, Cab­i­net min­is­ters can give un­faith­ful coun­sel, “more for the good of them that coun­sel than of him that is coun­selled”.

We have seen these three de­bil­i­tat­ing vices in some mem­bers of Cab­i­net and other po­si­tions of ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity in the few decades since In­de­pen­dence, which is one of the rea­sons why our State bu­reau­cracy be­came un­wieldy,cor­rupt, thus play­ing a ma­jor role in our eco­nomic de­cline.

Now that Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son­fi­nally been given the man­date to cre­ate an ex­ec­u­tive in his own im­age, with the ex­press brief to be­gin the process of trans­form­ing Zim­babwe into a mid­dle-in­come economy by 2030, we humbly re­quest the team to ac­quaint it­self with the core tenets of what a Cab­i­net is.

And the fact that these are and women–many of whom chose to leave lu­cra­tive pri­vate sec­tor so as to be part of the group steer­ing the Sec­ond Repub­lic – they should have no prob­lem grasp­ing this.

Cabi­nets be­gan as groups of ad­vi­sors who met in a small, pri­vate room “used as a study or re­treat”.

They are think tanks. They are ad­vi­sors. And in the evolved gov­er­nance sys­tem of to­day, they are drivers.

Min­is­ters can­not be pas­sen­ger son the train to so­cio-eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion. They are drivers. And it is good that Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa has vowed to promptly re­place any driver who de­cides to take a pas­sen­ger seat. A Cab­i­net post­ing is not about get­ting a fleet of cars, an army of aide sand se­cu­rity de­tails, and need­lessly glo­be­trot­ting on a first class ticket.

It is about hard, hon­est work. It is about pr of­fer­ing sound advice based on care­ful study. It is about orig­i­nat­ing ap­pro­pri­ate, well-thought and far-see­ing leg­is­la­tion.

Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa, as “the first among equals”, has clearly ar­tic­u­lated a vi­sion for this coun­try.

The ex­pec­ta­tion is that as soon as the new Cab­i­net is sworn in to­mor­row, it will hit the ground run­ning to ex­e­cute this vi­sion to the best of its abil­ity.

We urge the new Cab­i­net — which brings to­gether a re­fresh­ing blend of high end tal­ent, prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, tow­er­ing in­tel­lect, youth, en­ergy and pa­tri­o­tism— to not morph into “a rem­edy worse than the disease”.

That said, the re­al­ity of the day is that Zim­bab­weans are ex­pect­ing mir­a­cles af­ter years of hard ship and bro­ken prom­ises. Well, the Pres­i­dent and his Cab­i­net are not mir­a­cle work­ers. Like you and me, they are mere mor­tals.

The na­tion should not an­tic­i­pate mir­a­cles. In­stead, let us hold the Ex­ec­u­tive to the prom­ise sit has made, and in do­ing so also lend the nec­es­sary sup­port for the es­sen­tial work of re­build­ing our coun­try — each of us in our own ways and in our own spheres.

The Cab­i­net must do what is ex­pected of it. As must we all. None of us should be “a rem­edy worse than the disease”.

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