by Fay Chung
The long struggle for freedom, for more than a century, politicised as well as polarized society. In order to belong one had to adopt the ethos and values of the rulers. Those who wanted to be part of colonial society, adopted the values of the settlers and colonialists, whilst those who opposed settlers and colonialists looked to the values of the past, the values of Nehanda and Kaguvi, who were killed by the white rulers because of their opposition to the take over of their country. This polarization has lasted right up till today.
In Zimbabwe, having different views from others can lead not only to exclusion but can place you in dire straits. Those who hold different views are often called “traitors” or “sell outs” by many of those who fought in the Liberation Struggle. There are reports of incidents of political critics of ZANU PF being ostracized, damned as traitors, or even killed. Violence and bloodshed followed Morgan Tsvangirai’s narrow victory in 2008. Some former Liberation fighters see MDC followers as equivalent to the “sell outs” and “traitors” they had fought against in the 1960s and 1970s.
Yet when the MDC was formed in 1999 it soon took over many of the values and attitudes of ZANU PF followers. In the recent Elections in July 2018 we witnessed Thokozani Khupe, a prominent MDC leader, being attacked by MDC youths, known as the Vanguard, for challenging Nelson Chamisa. They were apparently ready to burn her alive in a grass hut.
We have witnessed the two leading political parties in Zimbabwe not only ready to attack each other, but also ready to use violence to silence those within their own parties.
This history of violence inherited from the colonial past continues to haunt Zimbabwe. For Zimbabwe to move forward there is urgent need to address these forms of political analysis and political activity. It is not good enough to say “Since Smith did it so can we”. Repetition of the past is not a solution for the future. Yet it seems that politicians, activists and youths believe violence is an integral part of elections, when they are free to express their frustrations and undertake activities which would be regarded as criminal at other times.
Can Violence Solve the Challenges?
The Lancaster House Agreement brought about political power to Nationalists, but ensured that the economy, the civil service, the armed forces and the judicial service remained as they were before Independence. This was the peace and stability that every body yearned for. The tragedy of Gukurahundi (1983 – 1987) demonstrated that political party rivalry, as well as tribal loyalties, could so easily scar the face of the nation. The peace which was brokered in 1987 was a top-down peace where the top leaders agreed to cooperate, but it did not filter down to the grassroots who had suffered the destruction.
Most important of all the 1987 Unity Agreement did not entail a systemic change, and as a result the majority of Africans remain as paupers. Today more than 70% of Zimbabwe’s population live in poverty. And only 816 000 people are employed in the Formal or modern economy, 12.5% of the working population. In contrast 5.7 million people are employed in the Informal economy. What changes are needed to address these fundamental problems?
In some ways the answers are simple and straight forward. These simple and straight forward answers include:
Devolution and large scale decentralization. Zimbabwe inherited a highly centralized system of government, suitable when targeted at providing good governance to 250 000 white people, but this system is highly unsuitable for a large population of over 15 million. The inherited system gave massive powers to central government and cabinet, which controlled almost the whole of State decision making and Budget. The inherited bureaucracy has ballooned to 550 000, eight to nine times what it was at Independence. Increasing the size has not improved their efficiency and effectiveness as there are insufficient funds for training, administration and supervision. Re-training and re-deployment of the existing bureaucracy to serve at provincial and district levels would be a first step. Decisions regarding local issues should be decided at local levels, not at central government level. It would require the larger part of the Budget to be decentralized. Central government would then be left with the critically important roles of coordinating policies and supervising implementation. It would unite the nation rather than try to do all things themselves.
An important area of devolution and decentralization is the control of foreign exchange. We inherited this centralized system where the Reserve Bank could control all of it, and we have continued to enjoy such centralization. Whilst it is important for the State to retain some control of its foreign reserves, the huge wastage of this scarce resource has had frightening consequences for the country. We now have millions of cars, but little investment into our industries. It has also seen the refusal of the diaspora and of foreign investors to bring in its money: they know that they will lose control of it to an over-heavy and inefficient bureaucracy which is slow and favours the politically powerful. We have been told by the Ministry of Finance that an additional US$2 billion of forex is available to the country, yet we can’t enjoy this because of distrust of the authorities. The State’s role in the utilization of its forex should not only be transparent, but should be open to discussion and debate. It is clear that forex should be utilized for economic expansion rather than for luxury items.
Agriculture and the rural areas remain the foundation of the economy. 68% of the population still live in rural areas and earn their living through the land. Yet they are not able to access technical and professional training, supervision, modest loans or mechanization. For some of them even their land tenure is not guaranteed or stable. The price of fertilizer and seeds has become unaffordable. The government policy of free gifts of fertilizer and seeds provides the minimum for survival, but not sufficient for them to make a profit or to improve their standard of living. In fact they must remain subsistence farmers. Their average maize output is 0.8 tonnes per hectare compared to an average 2.5 tonnes per hectare for better resourced farmers. Policies and action required include the subsidization of domestic producers of seeds and fertilizer so that it becomes affordable to this hard working population. If they were able to treble their output, it would mean an enormous growth of the GDP. It would also mean that these farmers can produce a surplus for export. Marketing has been a problem. The weaknesses of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) have to be addressed so that Board and staffing are based on technical and professional criteria rather than by politicizing appointments at every level. The decentralization and partial privatization of this key marketing system would be essential. Once Communal and other small scale farmers begin to make a profit they will be able to invest in increasing their own productivity both in farming and in local industrialization.
Zimbabwe needs to develop new industrialization models. At present Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector cannot compete with either South Africa which provides most of the middle class foods or China which produces engineering and electrical goods and even clothing. Zimbabwe’s manufacturing industries are still rooted in the technologies and management systems of the 1950s and 1960s. They cannot serve either the enormous home market or the rich neighbouring markets. A good example is that Zimbabwe has two million farmers, and yet Zimbabwe does not manufacture any tractors, not even those with motor cycle type engines or indeed tractors of any size or specialization. Neighbouring countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, the DRC, Angola also have millions of small scale farmers who would welcome mechanization, but cannot afford the expensive imported models.
The very large Informal economy urgently needs to be recognized as one of the major engines of industrial and therefore economic growth in Zimbabwe. By analyzing this large sector of 5.7 million owners and workers, it is possible to formalize a number of sections, such as the successful steel and other manufacturing industries. As the informal economy at present has no labour laws and regulations, it provides ample opportunities to innovate. The big trap would be to replicate the present laws and regulations of the Formal economy into the informal economy. The present formal labour regulations, made during past regimes to solve problems which no longer exist, would make it impossible for the Informal economy to progress. The Finance Ministry’s Zimbabwe Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP) 2016 – 2018 provides a lot of information such as the Food Poverty Line of US$32.70 per person per month and the present per capita GDP of US$1064 per annum, or US$88.67 per month. Thus the present trade union demands require salaries to be about nine or ten times the per capita GDP, an impossible feat for any government at any time. Upgrading Informal industries could provide a bonanza in job creation as well as to export earnings.
Zimbabwe can well resolve its own problems, but it has yet to do so after four decades. The continued practice of political violence cannot solve these problems. It only prolongs the agony and tragedy of poverty. The new dispensation has a wonderful opportunity to open a new trajectory for Zimbabwe. This new trajectory is to ensure economic growth and work creation. The aim should be to provide everyone with the basic right to work so that everyone can earn a useful and rewarding livelihood. We are yet to see if the New Dispensation will succeed in undertaking these straight forward and simple challenges.
Freedom through Violence? 10 Dec 2018