When is enough, enough?

I thought it was time to conduct an audit of the activity of the State since Zanu PF won a majority in the 1980 elections and secured our full Independence from Britain in April 1980.

Perhaps the first port of call should be the average quality of life of the people who live here. In 1980, we had the second highest income per capita in Africa – did not mean much because of the inequalities in our society and the generally low levels of income that prevailed in Africa at the time. Today I am told we are at the very bottom of the pile and have the honor to be one of the poorest people in the World.

Last week the UN Agencies working in Zimbabwe rated us as having 30 negative indices and only 9 positive indices – among the negatives, undernourishment, stunting, child mortality, maternal mortality, tuberculosis, subjective wellbeing, life expectancy, homicides, corruption, government efficiency and property rights.

Among the positives – Tax revenue as a percentage of GDP, Municipal waste management (we are all surprised by this) and CO2 emissions (we no longer have much of an economy left).

Then there is the physical evidence of our population – in 1980 our population was estimated at 12 million and the rate of growth was just under 4 per cent per annum. At this rate by today, 37 years later, our population should have been doubling every 20 years and should have reached 22 million. Instead it stands at 14 million. That means there are 8 million people “missing”. Just what has happened? Our live birth numbers have not slowed down and we still have over 400 000 live births per annum, but infant mortality rates have risen and life expectancy has declined. In fact, in 1980 our death rates were about 100 000 per annum, today they are three times that level with almost the same population.

In recent weeks, we have seen blanket coverage on TV and Radio of a few terrorist incidents in Europe. No one looks at the deaths and the associated suffering arising out of simply bad government and lousy policies. If you assume that for 37 years we have had 200 000 people a year dying from preventable diseases and poverty, then the total number of deaths here exceeds genocidal levels at 7,4 million. Of course, in the early years mortality was nothing like this rate, which on its own would explain the “missing” millions, so some of the disappeared must be due to other factors. However, from my own calculations, the deaths from preventable causes since 1980 have been at least 3 million or 25 per cent of the population at Independence in 1980. That leaves 5 million unexplained disappearances and in my view, this can only be explained by forced migration to other countries.

After Independence, you had the flight of white Zimbabweans to other countries – at Independence we had about 280 000 whites, today there are about 50 000, then came Gukurahundi – the “storm that washes clean” when Mr. Mugabe decided to wipe out the only significant opposition to a one Party State in the form of ZAPU. In a savage campaign that lasted 4 years, tens of thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands fled the country – mainly for South Africa. By 1987 his “one Party State” was secure and ZAPU eliminated.

It is impossible to know how many people fled the country in this first wave of migration post-Independence, but it could have been over a million. Many spoke Ndebele and were simply absorbed into South African society.

Then came the emergence of the first real opposition to Mugabe in the form of the MDC. Formed in 1999, it led a campaign to defeat the Zanu PF Party in a national referendum and then subsequently nearly beat Zanu in the national elections, Zanu’s majority was just over 1 per cent. There was panic in Zanu circles and a campaign was launched against the MDC spearheaded by the farm invasions and a program of violence against the small group of remaining white farmers and their 350 000 staff and their families. The objective had nothing to do with “Land Reform” and everything to do with suppressing the MDC in areas where they were most vulnerable.

This was followed in 2005 by a campaign called Murambatsvina or “clean out the rubbish” directed at the absolute poor in urban areas – many displaced people from the farms. In the process 1,2 million people were forcibly displaced from the towns in the middle of winter. Mortality rates soared. Forced migration rose to new heights.

Then the economy. In 1980, we took over a small diversified economy that was virtually debt free (total national debt $700 million), more or less free of corruption and employed nearly 2 million of our population of 5 million adults. We were nearly totally self-sufficient and 95 per cent of what we bought in a supermarket was locally grown or manufactured. This position was maintained up to 1997 when several macroeconomic shocks disabled the State and pushed the Zimbabwe economy over the edge.

Today our GDP is only $14,6 billion and we import the great majority of what we consume. Our national debt (local and international) is now perhaps $18 to $20 billion, making us one of the most indebted poor countries in the World. Foreign aid is about 8 per cent of GDP – mostly directed to health and humanitarian needs, half our population is on food aid and remittances from the millions who live abroad is equal to about 21 per cent of GDP. Employment in the private sector is now down to perhaps 250 000 – half of the numbers employed in the public service which is now 7 times larger than in 1980 and absorbs over 95 per cent of all State revenues.

In 2016, revenue to the State was $3,4 billion, expenditure $4,8 billion, the fiscal deficit was $1,4 billion or 41 per cent of revenue and 29 per cent of all expenditure. To fund this the State issued $2,6 billion in Treasury Bills, wiping out the cash balances in all Banks and resulting in the cash shortages which now threaten to cripple the rest of the economy. In the middle of this progression we saw the economy collapse from 1997 to 2008, from $15 billion to $1,3 billion in 2008, masked by inflation which reached record levels by 2008 resulting in the total collapse of the local currency which had been worth US$2 to one Z$ in 1980.

This collapse launched the third major flight of population with millions seeking refuge from the widespread, politically motivate violence, sanctioned by the State and deepening poverty and hunger. Families across the country sent sons and daughters out to other countries to earn money to send home, others simply packed their bags and walked across the borders. Today I am not surprised that we have a third of our population living abroad, in terms of the G20 “Compact with Africa”, another 5 million are “siting on their suitcases”.

Coupled to this shambles in our local affairs, we are isolated from most of our potential friends and our country is classified as a pariah State with a corrupt Government. In the region, we are a joke.

I think the Zimbabwe Government deserves a qualified opinion from our auditors, don’t you. The question remains when is enough, enough?

Eddie Cross
Harare, 21st June 2017