ZIMBABWE was reasonably successful in the first twenty 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 l:EDUCATIONIST
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.
A number of important achievements marked the first two decades of Independence. These were supported by seven policies and the seven recommendations covered below.
Re-establish a stable currency
Great care should be taken to ensure that the value of the currency is stable. Unstable currency began with the 1998 War Veterans Rebellion against the fraudulent award of huge sums of money taken from the War Veterans Pension Fund to the political elite. To solve this problem Government began printing money, bringing about hyperinflation. Hyperinflation has continued up until now.
The fluctuating exchange rate caused by the dominance of the street forex market makes it difficult if not impossible for the market to work efficiently as speculation rather than investment dominates. Yet the street market is useful both to citizens and to the Government.
For citizens who receive diaspora money or who are paid in USD, it is useful to exchange in the street market at a very much higher exchange rate. It appears that the Government was also utilising the street market to exchange USD for Zimbabwean dollars (Zimdollars) according to an influential Africa Confidential Report in October 2019.
The urgent action required by Government and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is to confine money expansion whether by printing or by Treasury Bills (TBS) by at most 10% per annum of the GDP, the lower the better in terms of controlling the inflation rate. Accepting the World Bank estimate that Zimbabwe’s GDP is US$17,5 billion, it would mean expanding by US$1,75 billion a year. RBZ and Government restraint and action are critically fundamental without which it will remain difficult to control the street market.
In addition, it is essential that this increased money supply is spent on economic investment rather than only on political criteria.
Re-establish education for all
Primary education for All was achieved within the first three years of Independence through a partnership between Government; provincial Governments; district councils and municipalities; schools and communities. Enrolment trebled within three years.
Government’s contribution was the policy of “Free Primary Education”, although parents were able to charge themselves reasonable fees through the School Development Committees (SDCs) established after Independence. This wonderful partnership enabled the number of primary and secondary schools to flourish. Universal Primary Education was established, and 65% of the relevant age group were at secondary school.
But in the new millennium these admirable achievements have deteriorated. These challenges are relatively simple and straight forward to resolve, but requires both the State and the electorate to insist on it. It is not a high cost item, and the coalition between the State and communities will ensure that the success story is renewed.
Re-establish health care for all
Government, again through partnership with provincial and local governments, and communities, established for the first time government and local government clinics and hospitals in rural areas, which had subsidised medicines for all.
Presently government and district clinics and hospitals lack drugs and their equipment has not been well maintained. It is important to make medicines available to the whole population: the fact that Zimbabwe has more than six national pharmaceutical companies offers a great opportunity for State and private enterprise partnership to allow these companies to have increased capacities to produce generic drugs, which can be partially subsidised for rural and high density clinics and hospitals.
Re-establish clean water supply
Again through partnership it was possible for Government to assist in providing a clean water supply throughout the country. Clean water is an essential human right, and the State can play an important role in ensuring that every local authority can provide it cost effectively and efficiently. This requires not only subsidisation but also planning and close supervision.
Re-establish bureaucratic efficiency
The civil and security services doubled at Independence, to enable Government to serve Africans and African areas better, these were generally neglected before Independence. Zimbabwe was recognised by the international community for its bureaucratic efficiency. However, this efficiency deteriorated as a result of the expansion of the civil and security services occurred due to political and security problems during these periods, but the economy did not expand. As a result bureaucrats are seriously underpaid. Also there was lack of in-service training, transport, materials and equipment. As a result many officers could not receive adequate training and supervision compared to the earlier period. It is absolutely essential to improve the bureaucracy.
This applies both to the civil and security services. It is also important to provide a system of voluntary options for State personnel to opt to join other Job Creation programmes, including utilising the State’s enormous agricultural land holdings as an incentive.
Ensure fertiliser is affordable
The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) extended its services and loans to African farmers after Independence, including to peasant farmers, by providing them with seeds and fertiliser, which would be paid for through their harvests. But in 1996 this facility was removed. Most Communal farmers did not have sufficient resources to purchase seeds and fertilisers. They were also denied marketing facilities that used to be provided by the GMB. At present the cost of fertilizer is too expensive for all farmers, but particularly for the poor (70% of the population is estimated to be poor by the Government itself). The poor can only rely on the presidential gift of seed and fertiliser to enable them to survive, but this has enabled peasant agriculture to deteriorate into only survival farming.
It is essential for the State to support Zimbabwean fertiliser companies to produce fertiliser for all at affordable prices. A State subsidy of US$100 million such as was done by neighbours Malawi and Zambia made fertiliser affordable and led to bumper harvests.
Construction of low cost housing
This ambitious and high quality programme enabled tens of thousands of urban dwellers to construct houses. This programme needs to be revived by the State to enable those who wish to own housing and flats to be able to do this.
These achievements were substantial and measurable, and gave the Government a sound and popular reputation for being an excellent government. These are the traditional and well established roles of government.
It is very important to strengthen the seven policies and achievements cited above as they provide the actual foundation of future development, particularly economic development.
Economic development requires stable social welfare and political policies, such as those that were dominant in the first two decades of independence. Neglect of social welfare and the policies that were initially established hinders the possibility of successful future development, particularly socio-economic development, which must have a stable and satisfied local population.
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). This opinion piece is coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge an Independent Consultant and past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES) Email – email@example.com and Mobile +263 772 382 852