Looks like managing public and media perception is a key priority for Mthuli Ncube. Towards the end of 2018, the minister of Finance hired Acie Lumumba (yes the controversial guy) to be Chairman of a ‘communications task force.’ There was obviously much outcry and ridicule in near equal measure. Lumumba barely lasted 24 hours in the job and the position was terminated.
In the short time that Acie was attached to the ministry of Finance and Economic Development, he had done a Facebook Live video in which he accused some Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe officials of corruption supposedly causing shortages of petrol and diesel in the country.
The officials accused by Lumumba were immediately suspended by the governor of the central bank himself. You can’t make this stuff up! A few weeks later the suspended officials were declared innocent and reinstated… Haa, zvemu Zimbabwe…
Role still needed
The ministry of finance is blasting job adverts looking for a person to fill a position they are calling, “Policy Economist – Advocacy and Communications.” This new position is quite senior, they are saying it’s at Chief Director level and will be reporting to the minister directly.
The job description sounds mostly like a description for a PR manager or director.
Is this a priority?
One of the biggest points against the appointment of Lumumba last year was that Ncube was focusing on PR when the economy is literally burning.
I definitely did not agree with the appointment of Acie Lumumba last year but I don’t necessarily downplay the importance of public relations. Economics is an interesting field. A lot of things can happen just because a good number of people believed they could. This is why being ahead of public sentiment can be important for a man in Mthuli Ncube’s job at a time like this.
Lumumba was definitely not the right bloke for the job though
Key ingredient I find missing in the Acie cocktail is maturity. One requirement of the ideal candidate, for example, is described in the job description as:
Respect for local cultures, norms and social values and a keen awareness of the impact of personal conduct and ability to adapt behaviours to different environments with sensitivity and observance of protocol
That paragraph seems to describe anyone but Lumumba.
The hope is that Ncube gets the person he’s looking for and that it will yield good results. My hope is that this person will not nor be required to be a dumb gatekeeper whose job is to ensure that we become more uninformed of what the government is doing.
Rather may this be an attempt to be more transparent and an attempt by the minister and his subordinates to really understand how the average person thinks and feels about where the economy is and how it impacts their daily lives.
I hope they don’t employ a spin doctor (which would be an insult) but that they open up a two-way communication channel.
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