BY FAY CHUNG
ZIMBABWE was seen as the foremost independent African country at Independence in 1980, and retained this reputation for about 20 years.
However, since the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zdera) and sanctions in 2001 and the drawbacks in the GDP growth, this reputation has been tarnished. Yet Zimbabwe still has the potential to be one of the leading countries on the African continent.
It has to re-invent its reputation in line with the new events taking place. This article concentrates on what Zimbabwe needs to do on its policies. The next article will concentrate more on the economy.
Zimbabwe began Independence as a “Socialist” country.
This was abandoned in the 1990s when the country changed its policies to the Economic Structural Adjustment Policy (Esap), enthusiastically promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
From the beginning, Zimbabwe was able to join together political and economic policies, which were diametrically opposed to each other.
This tendency has continued throughout. This paper tries to reconcile these opposed policies.
Renewing the early achievements
It is quite possible for Zimbabwe to recover these achievements, bringing the possibility of a revitalisation of the Zimbabwe political, economic and professional/technical policies. All these achievements are replicable, and the cost is affordable.
Some of the reasons for this early success included national unity, especially where all political parties agreed to work together.
At present, there are two major parties, Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance. In addition, there are a hundred other parties. It would be good for Zimbabwe if a few of them were to emerge as serious parties.
Zimbabwe accepted a multi-party democracy at Independence, and there is little likelihood that this will change, although there have been some attempts at a one party state. Neither is obviously better than the other. Multi-party democracy has shown serious weaknesses as well, in particular the tendency to reduce itself to tribal groupings.
The first step is to look at the successful policies of the first 20 years after Independence. We should build on these success stories. These include:
- Renewing the early achievements including maintaining a stable currency. The currency was so stable that it was possible to buy a week’s groceries for US$10. Domestic servants who had been paid less than US$10 a month suddenly found themselves with a salary of US$30 a month, a princely amount. Currency stability was one of the characteristics of the period, guided by the careful monetary supply and careful utilisation of State funds. These modest increments, keeping in mind that the average European wages was about US$300 a month was enough to satisfy workers. Goods were cheap and affordable.
- Free primary education was introduced, together with co-operation with parents and communities. It would not have been possible to provide free primary education for all without this close community co-operation: Parents were delighted, and offered to pay additional fees to supplement what the State could do. All parents paid some fees, some as low as US$1 a month. They did so willingly and proudly.
- Government also made serious adjustments to enable this policy to become a reality, imposing a teacher pupil (TP) ratio of 1 teacher to 40 pupils at primary, the then standard TP ratio for Africans, but now applied to all races, but Europeans could voluntarily employ extra teachers if they wished to pay for them, which nearly all of them agreed to in order to reach a TP ratio of 1:25. This introduced differential TP ratios. According to the Ministry of Education the TP ratio was only one of many indicators which influenced the quality of education, these including the qualifications and training of teachers, the availability of textbooks and teaching materials, in-service training for teachers, better promotion prospects. All these improvements were introduced, slowly but surely, and were accepted by all.
- Most African primary teachers only had Grade 7 qualifications at the time, but they were the most dedicated of teachers, and although only paid a fraction of what the more qualified European teachers were paid, steps were taken to upgrade African teachers.
- The trebling of the enrolments within three years was made possible by employing unqualified teachers, who were however, in-serviced and provided with textbooks. The introduction of the Zimbabwe National Integrated Teacher Education Course (Zintec) introduced a four year training programme, only one term of which was in college at the beginning, The four year programme included distance education, holiday and weekend courses, school based teacher training, and all teachers helping to upgrade each other. Zintec eventually became the standard teacher education course in Zimbabwe.
- The Ministry of Education provided grants to schools. These grants were of critical importance to the majority of schools, which were registered mainly as parentally owned schools under district councils and municipalities. The grants stimulated a strong partnership between the State and the community through communities, churches and donors.
- A similar policy was followed in Health and Water Supply. Communities took responsibility for their services, and charge reasonable and affordable fees to their clients.
- Democracy is one of the main achievements of Independence. Despite these success stories there are an important number of obvious weaknesses. These include the disparity between wealthy and poor voters, with the wealthy being able to influence the voting through their money. Serious reform is needed to the One Person One Vote system as instituted in Zimbabwe. This requires very serious debate, consideration and actual decentralised action. The qualifications and experience of candidates and of voters are important. Candidates require detailed training into what their responsibilities will entail, in particular their understanding of the State Budget which is often passed without detailed scrutiny.
- Political corruption is linked to voting patterns, particularly the centralisation of decisions and of funding, with most corruption being based on contracts provided by Ministry and Parastatals. Central government should be the planner, monitor and evaluator. Instead it is the implementor as well as the planner, monitor and evaluator.
- Populism has become identified with voting, with voters highly influenced by the media, and popularity becoming mistaken for voting strengths. Voter education is of critical importance. Candidates should, first and foremost, identify what jobs the community can benefit from through these policies. If the land were utilised constructively we could create millions of jobs, millions of hectares of crops, and millions of dollars from replacing imported food to start off with. We can also find exportable crops.
- The One Party State – despite the failure of the one-party State as witnessed under Gukurahundi, the concept of the one-party State keeps returning. Yet history has shown that rather than uniting as a one-party State there is the opposite tendency to break up into smaller and smaller factions.
- One reason for the attraction of the one-party State is that it is based on the idea of one-party one-nation. Africa is full of so called “tribes”. Zambia once said it had over 70 tribes, Zimbabwe has an 80% Shona majority, but you will not be surprised how many Shona tribes there are! Zimbabwe can break up into dozens of little Shona tribes. However it is important to learn the lesson of Zambia. It has gone for multi-party democracy and one result is that its per capita income is double that of Zimbabwe. Kaunda resigned as a one party state in 1991 and Zambia has gone from strength to strength.
- Let us look beyond race and tribe. Let farmers look at what unites us as farmers. Let us as manufacturers regard our profession as what unites us. If we can regard our professionalism rather than our race or tribe we will be better off as a nation.
- The 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is one of the foundations for Zimbabwe’s political policies. Unfortunately the Lancaster House Constitution places a greater emphasis on the ownership of wealth and property to other Human Rights. It is appropriate that we in Zimbabwe should look critically at human rights. We should look at what shelters we have to live in, including the mud and grass huts so common in the rural areas. We should look at how good our education and health systems are compared to what they could be.
- Minimising Government Secrecy. One of the major weaknesses of Zimbabwe is its love of secrecy. Much of the corruption that plagues this country is based on secrecy, so that we do not know who provides contracts or corruption.
- The Position of Women is one of the strongest achievements of the first two decades, especially providing voting rights to women and guaranteeing protection of children.
The early policies were weak in the area of economic growth, and this has remained a serious weakness over the second two decades.
Chung was a secondary school teacher in the townships, lecturer in polytechnics and universities, teacher trainer in the liberation struggle, Civil servant , UN civil servant and former minister of primary and secondary education.These weekly New Horizon articles published in the Zimbabwe independent are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES) Chartered Secretaries & Administrators in Zimbabwe (ICSAZ). Email address- email@example.com and Mobile No. +263 772 382 852.