41 years after Independence: A critique


Independence day should be a day of celebration and remembrance but it should also be a time  for a nation to review  its progress. We should ask ourselves as a nation at 41 years what we have achieved, what have we failed to achieve and what can we change to better in the years to come for the future generations.

Since 1980, a number of economic policies have been formulated and implemented. Some policies short lived their success stories while the majority of the policies did not have the chance to realise their potential. A number of factors have influenced the past and current state of affairs in Zimbabwe. Economic policies may fail due to lack of funding, improper implementation strategy and lack of credibility, corruption, lack of political will, lack of commitment and lack of strong enforcement measures  as well as external forces such as global economic crises and draughts amongst others. This article seeks to briefly analyse Zimbabwe’s policy journey from independence to date.

  • The Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) (1981-1983) and the First Five Year National Development Plan (FFYNDP) (1985-1990)

The TNDP and the FFYNDP were the first formulated and implemented policies after independence. According to a paper by T  Nyoni (2018) these policies were put forward in the context of a command economy and  were basically anchored on post war reconstruction. With these two policies, the post war reconstruction agenda was generally achieved because at that time, Zimbabwe was successfully recapitalised and integrated into the world economy. However, the success of the FFYNDP was negatively affected by the severe drought during the 1986-1987agricultural season that significantly reduced farmers’ yield . The TNDP which had targeted an economic growth rate of 8% and low inflation rates of around 15% failed to meet its targets.

  • Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) (1991 – 1995)

Wellington Garikai Bonga (2014)  in his paper describes how Esap sought to transform Zimbabwe’s tightly controlled economic system to a more open market-driven economy. The restructuring sought to promote higher growth and to reduce poverty and unemployment. Unfortunately, the performance of the economy under ESAP was not as expected. Although there were some  positive changes in the economy, the objectives of Esap were not met. The underlying factors being the drought in 1992 which diverted funds to food shortages. In addition, too many reforms were done in a short period of time worsened by corruption by officials, policy uncertainty and lack of policy support by the business community.

  • Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation [ZimPrest] (1996 – 2000)

(ZimPrest)’s main objective was the creation of a stable macroeconomic environment which allows increased savings and investment in order to achieve higher growth and improvement in the standard of living for all Zimbabwe. There was an outstanding achievement during the first three years of ZimPrest  which was mainly the marked improvement in Zimbabwe’s fiscal performance. According to Bonga(2014)  Zimbabwe managed to reduce its budget deficit as percentage of GDP from 12,9% in fiscal year 1994/95, to 9,7% in 1995/96, 6,7% in 1996/997 and 6,4% in 1997/8. This improvement in fiscal performance was due to improved revenue collection and enhanced expenditure management which was the major focus of the ZimPrest. From 1998 to 2000 the country started to witness low growth rate levels. The factors that negatively impacted the policy were lack of fiscal discipline, slowdown in global economic performance in 1998 as well as a sharp depreciation of the Zimbabwean dollar in 1998.

  • Merp (2000–2003) & Nerp (2003 – 2006) Millennium Economic Recovery Programme (Merp) and the National Economic Revival Programme (Nerp)

Merp was basically hinged on the fiscal policy adjustment targets under Esap, ZimPrest and the Millennium Budget announced on October 21, 1999.  The target of MERP, in line with the 2000 budget, was to reduce the budget deficit to 3,8% of GDP. MERP aimed at allocating at least 25% of total expenditures to capital projects. In apparent contrast, in the 2000 budget, the capital budget was only allocated 8% of total expenditures, down from 11% in 1999. After the government decided that Merpwas not a good policy, in February 2003, Nerp was launched. The main objective of Nerp was to provide humanitarian support in the face of a long-term drought that had already ensued in the year 2000. Both Nerp  and Merp failed largely due to loss of macroeconomic balance as a result of a highly constrained budget.

  • Macro-Economic Policy Framework (MEPF) (2005-2006)

Mamvuma et al (2006) underscored that  the  policy  succeeded  in achieving  some  of  its  objectives  since  there  was  increased  support  to  the  agriculture  sector, though targets were not wholly achieved.

  • National Economic Development Priority Programme (Nedpp) (2006-2008) and Zimbabwe Economic Development Strategy- Zeds  (2007-2011)

Chikukwa (2013) indicated that, the Nedpp was  a  remedy  meant to  reverse  the  severe  effects  of  the 10  years of  recession within  nine months. However Nedpp died a natural death given the fact that the government was drafting another five-year development strategy that succeeded it. The Zeds was aimed to  achieve  sustainable,  balanced  economic  growth  (Bonga 2014). This policy was introduced when the country was experiencing acute shortages of basic commodities, fuel, electricity and  foreign currency but struggled to make much progress.

  • Sterp I (February– December 2009) & Sterp  II (2010 – 2012)

The year 2009 was met with drastic changes in the political arena, with the inclusive government taking centre stage. The inclusive government took office in the context of an economy that had myriad problems. The government came up with the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme (Sterp I: February – December 2009). As an emergency stabilisation framework,

STERP 1 was basically aimed at stabilising the macro- and micro-economy, recovering the levels of savings, investment and growth and laying the foundation for a more transformative mid-term to long-term development policy framework. The failure by the government to raise adequate financial resources to facilitate the implementation of the programme resulted in its failure. Sterp 2  was also introduced but needed more support to succeed .

  • Zimbabwe Agenda for  Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset)

ZimAsset was based on four main clusters, namely: Value Addition and Beneficiation cluster; Infrastructure and Utilities cluster; Social Services  and Poverty Eradication cluster and  Food  Security and Nutrition cluster (Bonga,  2014).  The  ZimAsset policy  was  a  result-based  agenda  meant  to  ensure  sustained socio-economic transformation. Its implementation was guided by the Office of the President and Cabinet with the support of various line ministries, government departments, development partners and the private sector. Several achievements were realised during the ZimAsset era such as the dualisation of the Mutare-Harare highway, the establishment of various community centres across the country and food security was enhanced through the introduction of the Command Agriculture. ZimAsset  policy  failed  to  meet  the  target of constructing 20 million houses and creating two million jobs by 2018. This caused the policy a lot of criticism from policy experts and analysts that considered it a failed policy.

  • The Transitional Stabilisation Programme TSP (2019)

According to a review paper by The Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), a major critique of the TSP is that there were no effective consultations and dialogue with key stakeholders to reach a consensus and to achieve buy-in and support. A major reason for policy stillbirth and failure is the lack of effective participation by key stakeholders and the citizens in policy formulation. The TSP was also based on shock therapy (a big bang structural adjustment approach). Such an approach may however not be desirable for a country like Zimbabwe that has serious capacity constraints in a number of areas.

The problems in Zimbabwe  both in its economy and its political environment have accumulated over  decades. They have been predominantly driven by political conflict, fiscal and economic, policy inconsistencies, mismanagement and deeply-ingrained corruption. This has resulted in a deep regression in the structural transformation of the economy.

The human cost of these problems is high. Today at 41 years, as much as there have been a few short lived strides, it  is disappointing  to see that the social contract between ordinary people and the government has been undermined and civil society has degenerated. Poverty levels have risen sharply and health and educational provision have fallen, industry is struggling  and with the Covid-19 pandemic the turmoil in the country has  worsened.

Mapungwana is a local independent economist. These weekly New Horizon articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society  and past president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in Zimbabwe. Email: kadenge.zes@gmail.com/ cell: +263 772 382 852