New perspectives: Why Zanu PF is not so successful after 2001

Zanu PF Headquarters

Last Sunday I tried to answer the question, Why Was Zanu/Zanu  PF so successful in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. 

This week I concentrate on why is Zanu PF  not so successful after 2001. Both are extremely important questions for Zimbabwe. 

The answers are very straightforward in simple terms, but complicated in its details.

In the first two decades of Independence, Zimbabwe tried to cover all aspects of the liberation struggle objectives, including education, health, a clean water supply, maintenance of the national infrastructure, the economy, employment and work for all.

In the second two decades after 2001, Zimbabwe concentrated mainly on the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme, ESAP, in which government was regarded as relatively successful by those who supported ESAP, but many of the first aims of Independence were now not considered important.

For example whilst primary education for all and secondary education for the majority, and a clean water supply for all were achieved for two decades, they were seriously undermined by the second decade.

In the first two decades, the economy increased by 2-3% of GDP a year, regarded as very low at the time.

It was believed that ESAP would enable it to grow at 7% per year, a major increase.

This would entail less investment by government on education, health, water and infrastructure. 

Thus government deliberately weakened itself in the second decade as per ESAP.

Instead, it was expected that the private sector would invest in these areas. 

However, the fact that Zimbabwe had a tiny private sector, then still dominated by the white population, was not taken into consideration, and many whites were sceptical about the national and socialist ideologies of the new independence government. 

They were, therefore, less likely to generously invest their own money to increase the employment of Africans in the economy.

Note that the private sector of the economy is still very tiny, after more than 40 years of independence, with only 39 000 companies up to date, about the same as before independence.

The number of people employed in the formal economy is less than 1 million out of an adult population of at least 8 million. 

Most people are unemployed or employed on very low wages or no wage at all in the Informal Economy.

A major difficulty of ESAP was that it was very enthusiastically approved by government,  especially by politicians but not necessarily by civil servants, as civil service jobs were to be decreased. 

ESAP was also  not understood or enthusiastically welcomed by the population:  the population had  welcomed the independence government, but believed that the removal of the colour bar and the welcoming of one person one vote, majority rule, would solve all their problems.  

Most people did not have a deep understanding of the economic realities other than the need to provide land to African people, as the White population had held more than half of the agricultural land, and that the better half with the better water supply for a hundred years. 

Land resettlement remained a key aim of independence.

Land resettlement is still a major concern of Zimbabwe today.

Moreover the population has doubled from 7½ million in 1980 to more than 15 million today.

The number of jobs has not increased during this period, particularly the jobs in the productive sector, through parastatals and the private sector.

Jobs did increase in the first two decades, but through the Civil Service. Whereas there were 40 000 civil servants in the 1980s, predominantly Whites, today there are more than 550 000 civil servants, predominantly Africans, a 14-fold increase. 

However, increase of the civil service does not necessarily entail an increase in the productivity of the economy. 

Civil servants earn salaries, but do not increase the amount of crops, food and goods produced in the country. 

The economy is increased through the food and goods produced, rather than only by the number of civil servants employed.

Civil servants are employed in service and administration, rather than in economic work.

Civil servants comprise more than 60% of formal economic employment.

It is very possible to reduce the number of civil servants, for example by giving salary grants to responsible authorities in charge of schools, hospitals and clinics and to local government, as was done in the first twenty years of independence, but these grants were stopped after 2001. 

If the grants were resumed, new staff could be employed by Responsible Authorities and local government, and not as civil servants.

This would reduce the number of civil servants gradually over 5-10 years as retirements take place. Civil service salaries took up as much as 90% of the state budget a couple of years ago, leaving no funds for other areas.

Meanwhile, government began to neglect the national infrastructure, such as the roads, railways, water, dams, bridges, electricity, etc

ESAP ideology said the private sector would pay for infrastructure.

Neglect of infrastructure meant that the economy could not function as efficiently as before.

Raising the prices meant that the ordinary population could no longer afford many of these facilities as they were now too expensive for them.

The parastatals or state-owned companies used to produce half of the GDP, but they became markedly weakened as the political system could appoint not only their leaders but also their directors, and these tended to be political favourites rather than technically, professionally and experienced managers.

They were also expected to fund their political bosses, which they generously did. 

Parastatals became an economic loss rather than an economic power. 

The recommendation that they should be “privatised” meant they would be sold to politically powerful personalities, not necessarily increasing their viability.

What’s the solution? 

Zimbabwe’s weakness today is that its economy has not improved, developed further or increased in size.

Zimbabwe has continually blamed “sanctions” for its failures. 

“Sanctions” include removal of donor funds and investments, once coming to US$5 billion a year. 

However, donors and investors cannot be forced to provide funds. 

But is it possible for government itself to provide such as amount of money for expansion of the economy?

An amount US$5 billion a year is not a lot of money, and probably accounts for the amount illegally utilised by individual politicians and parties today. 

Note that the Rhodesian was able to do this from 1927 up until the 1970s, and that the Rhodesian economy, including agriculture and manufacturing industries, were funded not by donors and investment, but by the government itself. 

Low interest loans were provided, but only for whites, on an ownership basis.

Settlers were allowed to “own” their businesses, and had to give up these business properties if they were unsuccessful. Ownership was very important. 

One of the main problems after independence was the inability of both urban and rural personnel to own their businesses. 

The new agricultural land is owned by the state and provide for use through “offer letters” for limited periods: they can be taken away with no notice. 

Urban land is highly expensive and unaffordable. 

This is not the case in the West or in China where ownership by entrepreneurs is allowed. 

About 80% of Chinese agricultural land is now owned by small-scale entrepreneurs, utilising the plots inherited from their parents. 

Only 20% today is owned by large scale entrepreneurs. 

If Zimbabwe is to overcome its problems it will need to change the system of not allowing ownership of the means of production.

Chung was a secondary school teacher in the townships; lecturer in the polytechnics and universities ; teacher trainer in the liberation struggle; civil servant and UN civil servant and minister of primary and secondary education.

*These weekly articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance and Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe. Email- [email protected] and Mobile +263 772 382 852

Related Topics