Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has announced the formation of a 24-member advisory council comprising captains of industry drawn from telecoms, tourism, infrastructure, health, media and financial services.
Mnangagwa said the council would help him formulate key economic policies and strategies to advance Vision 2030, his ambitious drive to turn Zimbabwe into a middle-income country.
The chief secretary to the president and cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, was quoted by state-owned the Herald newspaper on Thursday as saying the council would be Mnangagwa's "sounding board" on key economic reforms, issues and initiatives. Sibanda said services provided by the council members would be voluntary.
"Government will mobilise funding for operations of the presidential advisory council. Members will draw some honorarium, although the expectation is that their services are voluntary," he said.
Some of the notable persons appointed include Natalie Jabangwe, a telecoms executive at EcoCash, entrepreneur Shingi Munyeza, media owner and former owner of the Mail & Guardian Trevor Ncube, chief executive of United Refineries Busisa Moyo and managing director of Old Mutual's CABS Simon Hammond.
At least one of the appointees, Kenneth Mtata, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, said he was unavailable.
"I feel really flattered to be invited to serve the nation and president in such a role. My current position will, however, limit effective functioning in such a huge role. I have therefore humbly withdrawn my name," Mtata said.
The council has a lifespan of five years, equivalent to a president's term. Mnangagwa will chair its meetings, which will be held quarterly.
The council has a wide-ranging mandate, which includes providing a situational analysis of the economy and investment climate, making suggestions on key reforms to improve the investment and business climate, and to conceive and develop strategies for transforming the country into a manufacturing and trading hub.
John Robertson, an economist and founder of Robertson Economics in Harare, told TimesLIVE that it was too early to make any assessment on what the effectiveness of the council would be on policy making, which has always been overshadowed by political interests.
"It's an open book. There have been various advisory councils set up before by unions and business to advise the government, but there is no evidence that the president has taken advice from them.
"We shouldn't get excited yet with this council, until we know what discussions and decisions will be made," said Robertson.