Despite modest recovery, Zimbabwe’s economy is literally disintegrating right in front of our eyes — the poverty figures released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) for 2011/12 bear testimony to this.
Candid Comment by Dingilizwe Ntuli
The foundations of the country’s economy have long rotted away under President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s ruinous 33-year rule plunging millions of ordinary Zimbabweans into abject poverty.
Poverty is defined by the dictionary as the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support. According to Zimstat, the overall poverty rate has reached a record high of 63% with Zimbabwe’s estimated population of 13 million vastly classified as poor and 16% living in extreme poverty.
The poverty rate in Matabeleland North province is now the highest in the country at a shocking 81,7% followed by Mashonaland Central with 75,4% and Mashonaland West 72,4%. Bulawayo has the least poverty rate in the country at 34,5% while Harare has 35,7%.
But just how did we get to these frightening levels of poverty having inherited a relatively prosperous economy at Independence in 1980?
Zimbabwe is endowed with vast mineral resources and yet the depths of poverty are increasing every year as the economy regresses. Why have we not used these rich natural resources to improve the lives of citizens?
Corruption and poor governance, which Mugabe has allowed to flourish in his successive governments by deliberately turning a blind eye, have given way to poor policies that created limited employment opportunities and ruined infrastructure resulting in poor resource exploitation.
Poverty can only be fought in the presence of strong institutions and equitable distribution of resources. Many developmental programmes have never been fully implemented because funds would end up in the pockets of corrupt government officials.
Because of Mugabe’s seeming reluctance to punish corrupt officials over the years, a culture of impunity developed and this created a society with a small influential and powerful political elite and a poor majority.
The lack of transparency in the mining and sale of diamonds from Marange is a case in point. Everything is done in secrecy with only a privileged few in the know.
Political violence, intimidation and the absence of the rule of law have also contributed to rising poverty and social decline in the country forcing the International Monetary Fund to freeze aid and many charitable organisations abandoning their operations in Zimbabwe.
Unemployment has reached about 85%, tourism has declined and hospitals and schools function on shoe-string budgets.
While there may not be many Zimbabweans dying of hunger or sleeping in the streets, the majority are languishing in an intolerable situations from which they cannot extricate themselves.
Instead of taking serious and pragmatic steps to find solutions to reduce poverty, Mugabe’s response has been to point the blame elsewhere — sanctions imposed on him and his inner circle.