HomeAnalysisCan teachers get their US$540?

Can teachers get their US$540?

Fay Chung
CAN Teachers get the US$540 per month they are demanding? The answer is yes and no, depending on the timing.  Yes, if teachers are ready to wait at least two years.  No, if teachers want this pay immediately.

This crisis has been with Zimbabwe for more than 20 years, in fact since the fast-track land resettlement programme (FTLRP) in 2001.

So we have had plenty of time to solve this problem.  We have done nothing except beg the West under the United States (US) and Britain to remove sanctions from the country.

This is because the US and Britain had promised to pay for land resettlement in 1976. Only Britain has  done so, and only for one year. Both Britain and the US  have refused to do more for over 20 years, and have just renewed the sanctions this year.

Both face strong resistance from their governments, the US Senate refusing to pay for land they had never taken.  Begging for 20 years is a long time and it is obvious that all the begging will lead to nothing.

The West has nothing to lose through their sanctions, whereas Zimbabwe has lost a lot and will continue to lose.  There was a brief respite in 2009, when the Government of National Unity was formed between Zanu PF and the MDC, but this only lasted about three years, after which sanctions were resumed,  especially after the huge victory of Zanu PF in the 2013 elections.

Why have the two countries, and their Western allies, refused to remove sanctions?  The main reason is the government’s refusal to grant legally valid land rights, both to the former Rhodesian owners, and to the 32 000 new utilisers of the land, under “Offer Letters”.

Offer letters do not give ownership rights. It means the government can take away the utilisation of this land without notice.

Twenty years after the land reform programme, it is essential for Zimbabwe to grant legal rights, of course over a number of years, because it is impossible to do so overnight.

A first step would be to grant leasehold rights to the successful small-scale farmers settled under the resettlement programme.  Twenty thousand of them were settled.

Over the 20 years, 500 of them have been researched by Zimbabwean teams inspired by  Ian Scoones, a British researcher.  Their research has found that this group has been highly successful, reaching not only food self-sufficiency, but gaining up to nine times in cattle ownership.

It would be appropriate and wise if the government would provide proper ownership to this small number of successful settlers:  it would be a sign that the government is willing and able to solve this problem.  These farmers could pay one head each for the registration, especially if it were combined with borehole and dam provision, very much needed all over Zimbabwe.

Many of these farmers would welcome the opportunity to register and gain water as well, a very useful combination. Government has ample capacity to do this for these few farmers.

It would be an important sign of the government’s intentions.  The political opposition should totally drop its early rejection of land resettlement and support the proper registration of these small-scale farms. More detailed land registration will take place over the next few years.

 Cost details
Zimbabwe suddenly obtained enough forex to earn a slight profit: We earned about US$9 billion last year, and owe about US$6 billion in import costs.  That leaves Zimbabwe with a profit of about US$3 billion.

If this profit were  divided amongst 550 000 state employees, it would mean an additional US$5 454 per year for each, just enough to pay each US$540 per month.

However, this would mean not only difficulty in paying our debt, but also further difficulty in obtaining  essential imports, such as fertilisers, agricultural and manufacturing equipment and materials.

It is essential to invest not only in paying the large number of state employees, but also to invest in the economy as a whole.  The economy will deteriorate drastically if we utilise our profits only on paying State employees, leaving nothing for economic growth.Note that most of the imports are from diesel and petrol on the one hand, and basic food on the other.  It is quite possible for Zimbabwe to limit its very expensive fuel costs, made more expensive by high government taxes.

It is also very possible for Zimbabwe to grow its own basic food, especially maize, which we did from 1980 to 1996.

Why have we been importing basic food since 1996, mainly from South Africa?

Answer:  We decided not to grow our own food. This was because the government stopped funding communal and small-scale farmers, who were growing most of the maize, an essential but not very profitable crop. Small-scale farmers now have to depend on free seeds and fertiliser from the state.

The government instead began to support large-scale farmers.  Most white farmers stopped farming when their farms were taken over.  Meanwhile the new large-scale farmers were not able to receive bank loans, as the offer letters did not give them ownership rights.

Result: Zimbabwe has to import nearly all of its food.  Last  year was an exception because of the exceptional rains, but this and future years are likely to repeat our 1996-2021 experience.

 What Can Zim Do?
One essential move is to settle the land ownership system as soon as possible. If we begin with the limited number of successful resettled small-scale farmers, this will be a very important starting point.

The legislation has been in place since 1992, and the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture has been carrying out an excellent survey of all land use over the last two years.

It is likely to complete this study within a year.  A  few thousand small-scale farmers can  enjoy proper land rights within a year:  this would be an enormous achievement.  This could add up to about 100 000 hectares over a  couple of years.

Nearly all of the middle- and large-scale farmers have been farming some of their land over the past 20 years:  if they were given property rights over what they have utilised, paying at least one ox each to obtain registration for a minimum of  five hectares,  this would soon entail at least  another 100 000 hectares.

Payment would be the same as for the small-scale farmers: one cattle; payment to be combined with some water development.  Farmers who have managed to do more than five hectares should also be given the right to pay for land registration of the additional hectares.

Such registration would entail only a small percentage of the 11 million hectares taken over under the land reform programme.  Nevertheless this small percentage will be a very important success.

A few thousand middle- and large-scale farmers have also made a success story of some of their land, and they should be given the right to register this land as soon as possible.

This will enable Zimbabwe to look forward to a settlement of the land ownership programme.

The question of the white farmers whose land was taken must be settled.  Most of these farmers are over 65 years of age, and would really appreciate sound pension rights for all the years they spent farming.

These should be worked out as speedily as possible.   We should be fair and just to these farmers who did so much to make Zimbabwe an important agricultural development and export sector.

A small number of their offspring and some new white farmers would like to join in farming, and they should be allowed to do so.

There is sufficient and accurate data on how much land was utilised by these farmers;  half of them were highly successful, whereas the other half only  just managed to survive.

Their land use has been estimated at 1-3% of land holdings.  They should be given back the land they were successfully utilising.  The illegal capture of machinery etc should be addressed.

What to do about the large civil and security service?

Zimbabwe has a very large civil and security service of about 550 000.  This has increased from about 20 000 civil servants and 45 000 security personnel in 1980, an eightfold increase.

The number of teachers for example increased from about 20 000 to the present 140 000, a sevenfold increase. Teachers and medical personnel were employed by missionaries, not as civil servants until after Independence.  This has led to a situation where 60% of the formal economy employees are state employees.

  • Chung was a secondary school teacher in the townships; lecturer in polytechnics and universities, teacher trainer in the liberation struggle, UN Civil servant, civil servant and 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) and past president of the Chartered Governance and Accountancy in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe. Email – kadenge.zes@gmail.com and mobile No. +263 772 382 852.

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