HomeOpinionRevamping Zim’s success story I

Revamping Zim’s success story I

ZIMBABWE was reasonably successful in the first 20 years after Independence, but looking back on this period, it is apparent that Zimbabwe’s success was based on improved social welfare, especially education, health and a clean water supply, but the economic aspects of development were inadequately addressed.

Fay Chung

As a result the spectacular achievements of the 1980s and 1990s have been undermined because of the very limited economic growth. This article examines these successes and suggests Recommendations which can revive these successes.  It is part of a fuller study that will focus on the systems and strategies which need to be addressed to improve the country as a whole.

First 20 years

It is important to analyse why Zimbabwe was so successful in the first two decades of Independence, and became a failure in the second two decades.

One fundamental reason is that the whole nation was united in 1980: former enemies like the Liberation Forces were working hand in hand with the Rhodesian Forces. Former rival political forces, such as Zapu, Zanu, the former Rhodesian Front and UANC, decided to work together.  Euphoria was enjoyed by both Africans and Europeans.

Political consensus meant that all parties and groups agreed to the three dominant aims at Independence:  a clean water supply for all; universal primary education and affordable health care, especially in the formerly neglected rural areas.  Agreement on these three initiatives was also enthusiastically supported by donors, who brought in an additional 10% to the national Budget.

Part of the post-Independence ideology was the partnership established through State subsidies for community built institutions. Communities were also provided with technical and supervisory support from planning to completion of the construction.

The immediate Land Resettlement programme of three million hectares was warmly welcomed, and successfully implemented.

However, this magnificent success story only lasted for 20 years. It is of critical importance to work out why it was so short lived.  Some of the reasons were internal whilst others were external. Internal reasons included the violent Gukuruhundi  crisis early on from 1983–1987.

Zanla forces believed that there was an organised alliance by the Rhodesian and Zipra leadership to place their officers in more senior position than Zanla, whilst Zipra forces were seriously alarmed by the suspicion with which they were treated by Zanla forces, often ending in violence.

Western governments were remarkably silent and uncritical during this troubled period as they wanted PF Zapu to lose its political clout.

The removal of PF Zapu from the coalition Government meant that Zanu PF had achieved its aim of a “One Party State” which had been its objective all along.  Gukurahundi achieved both the British and the Zanu objectives.

In 1987, Zanu PF decided to renege on its official 1970s ideology of socialism, which was mainly derived from Maoist sources.  Instead it embraced the much lauded Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap), which was promoted by both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB), two very powerful international organisations, which promised additional funding for countries which accepted Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap).

And, indeed, Zimbabwe received US$400 million instead of the US$250 million it had received each year since Independence. Esap was promoted as a more modern form of capitalism than what the Rhodesians had followed.

However, the increased donation only lasted for two years, and all donor funds were cut off after the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zdera) imposed by the United States Congress and Senate in 2001.

The traditional Zanu PF leaders believed that by increasing the power of the recently selected executive president Robert Mugabe, they could undermine former PF-Zapu’s contribution to decision-making, as now the executive president had become the sole decision maker. The new form of Executive Presidency was established by Parliament in 1988.

At this stage it is necessary for Zimbabwe to question the identification of “democracy” as an election held once every five years. Political patronage is very important for elections, but can be identified as “corruption” in modern political terms.  In Zimbabwe, patronage has been confined to utilisation of State power and funds by the ruling Party, or by the utilisation of donor funds by the opposition.

Another form of patronage is the power wealthy politicians have over the poor, who are prepared to give their vote for a bag of fertiliser.

Esap led to the establishment of the first highly popular opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999, which was soon able to challenge Zanu PF’s hegemony.

MDC was spurred on by the rising unemployment as workers were dismissed through Esap; and by the rising cost and unavailability of food.

The removal of State subsidies for communal and small-scale farmers through the previously very efficient Grain Marketing Board (GMB) in 1996 was part of the Esap recommendations and led immediately to a shortage of maize, the staple diet.

The removal of building grants which had enabled communities to build their own schools and clinics; grants for textbooks and medicines and for water purification; and lack of funds for practical subjects reduced the quality of education, health care and clean water supply, forcing parents, the sick and the general population to pay for these necessities.

Meanwhile, government continued to pay staff, and the number of civil and security staff doubled after 2001 for various reasons, particularly to enhance the political strength of the ruling Party, Zanu PF, but the economy did not grow. This meant that government staff were paid less. Meanwhile, the population had also doubled, and were moving into urban areas.

Since the removal of food subsidies for communal and small-scale farmers in 1996, Zimbabwe’s food self-reliance has been jeopardised. Food security is an important foundation for democracy. Without food security it is not possible to have democracy. The provision of donor food has not strengthened democracy because it does not empower the recipients.

Lancaster House agreement

The main feature of the Lancaster House Agreement was to entrench nationalist political power through universal suffrage, while retaining the settler-colonial economic and financial systems.

The removal of the young Zipa contingent before Independence meant that the feared socialist-communist influence had been effectively overcome. This was the main aim of Britain and other Western powers during the Cold War. The traditional nationalists elected in 1964 and 1973 also supported the removal of “Socialism” as the party ideology. The nationalists achieved their ultimate goal of “one person one vote”.

A very important contribution of Lancaster House Agreement was the introduction of the Declaration of Rights. The Lancaster Declaration emphasised individual rather than group rights. For example, no mention is made of the fact that 6 000 Europeans owned 16 million hectares of land (about 2700 hectares per capita), whereas at Independence 7,5 million Africans owned 16 million hectares of land (about two hectares per capita).

Protection of individual property rights meant that those who had privileged rights, for example, the right to land would retain these rights. It was well-recognised that the European owned land was much better than the African owned land both in terms of soil and rainfall.

By omitting economic rights, the constitution omits critically important rights which affect the achievement of the political rights. For example, poor people, and more than 70% of the population are said to be impoverished by the government itself, can vote, but because they are so poverty stricken they are very liable to sell their vote for food or for petty sums of money.

Governments are also very much responsible for the economy of the country.

Refusal to accept such responsibilities leads to a laissez faire situation where economic growth is unlikely. Indeed, neglect leads to economic deterioration rather than the growth promised by Esap.

The deliberate separation of political rights from economic rights has led directly to the situation where the inherited economy, wonderful as it was for a tiny minority, has been retained as sacrosanct. This has led to the increase of poverty in the country. Poverty itself undermines democracy.

Chung was a secondary school teacher in the townships (1963-1968); lecturer in in polytechnics and university (1967-1975); teacher trainer in the liberation struggle (1976-1979); civil servant (1980-1987); former Education minister (1988-1993); UN civil servant (1994-2003)

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