I am not an economist or financial fundi – neither was I good (nor enjoyed) such subjects as, Economics and Accounting, in high school – but, to use a cliche, it does not need a rocket scientist to lose all confidence in someone who has continually failed to deliver on his promises, and who has always sought to clutch at any excuse, no matter how flimsy and unsubstantiated, to justify these failures.
Honestly, how would we describe a wife and children (for instance) – whose husband/father has repeatedly cheated on them, and misused family finances for his own enjoyment (including, drinking, partying, and on his numerous ‘small houses’), leaving his wife and children in dire poverty, scrounging for something to eat, and even forced by circumstances to beg for food and spare clothes from neighbors – yet, they still give him ‘another chance’, believing his endless unfulfilled promises of ‘change’, as he always blames untraceable thieves, who seem to possess an uncanny ability to repetitiously ‘steal’ his money?
Would we not say there was something gravely wrong with this family – which refuses to see through this man’s deception, uncaring, and cruelty – but, instead, always harbours some inexplicable belief that ‘this time he will change’, or ‘it wasn’t really his fault the last time’, or ‘this time he is serious’?
The same applies to our beloved Zimbabwe – as we appear like the dysfunctional family – whose leadership has proffered seemingly endless economic blueprints, ever since coming into power at independence in 1980, yet achieving nothing tangible, but instead, excuse after excuse (the next being more ridiculous and unbelievable that the last) have been thrown around, in order to justify every dismal failure.
Who can forget the enthusiasm and optimistic excitement of the ‘Five Year Development Plans’ during the formative years of post-independence Zimbabwe – characterized with the fervour and gusto brought over from the liberation struggle days, with promises of an equal society for all, leadership codes (whereby, the country’s leaders where not permitted to own vast unexplainable wealth, and were compelled to declare every cent), free education and health, and promises of ‘health and education for all by the year 2000’?
With the introduction of diesel-electric trains, traversing the Gweru-Harare route – we can all guess why the line did not reach Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city (something that should have been the logical thing to do) – who, would have not been stung by the ‘this is what independence means’ bug?
However, less that a decade into this hard-won independence, there was already talk of the need for economic structural adjustments – since, the country was clearly on a very dangerous slippery slope.
Enter ESAP (the Economic Structural Adjustment Program) in 1991 – that was designed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund – and, adopted by the Zimbabwe government, under the pretext of re-aligning and reorienting the economy, in order to encourage growth and development.
I remember this period vividly, as I had just commenced (in 1989) my social justice writing in local newspapers, and was now doing Lower Sixth at Kwekwe High School in 1991 – and, immediately became unpopular with the local ruling ZANU PF leadership, due to my vocal opposition to this blueprint – which, only brought misery and pain on the people of Zimbabwe, most notably in my home town of Redcliff, where hundreds of Ziscosteel (Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company) employees were retrenched, as we witnessed numerous families having to endure untold hardships.
The situation in the country swiftly went from bad to worse, highlighted by wanton price increases, and unavailability of some basic commodities – with songs by the likes of Edwin Hama (‘Have you send today’s paper’, and ‘Money problems’), Karikoga Leonard Zhakata (‘Mugove’), and Leonard Dembo (‘Chinyemu’), whose lyrics, that aptly captured the masses’ suffering, suddenly became ‘national anthems’ of despair.
From that time till today, I have lost count of subsequent endless economic policies introduced by the government – in fact, I seriously doubt if those in authority, if asked unexpectedly, would know the number, either – yet, all of them having two common denominators…they were a huge failure (only managing to make the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Zimbabweans more treacherous than before), as well as the characteristic tendency by the authorities never owning up, and taking responsibility for their massive mismanagement, but only seeking to cover up their culpability through colourful excuses – ranging from conspiracies by former Rhodesians, in collusion with apartheid South Africa, and droughts, to the more recent accusations against white commercial farmers (at the dawn of the new millennium), ‘sanctions imposed by the West’, opposition parties, and sabotage by business people.
Who can honestly say that they have forgotten the promises of millions of jobs during the 2013 harmonized elections? Can we, please, see those millions who were employed?
After the November 2017 coup d’etat, there was talk of an upper middle income economy by 2030 – with grand promises of ‘hitting the ground running’ in building 400,000 houses in the first eight months of the so-called ‘new dispensation’ (with the setting up of the usual ‘interministerial task teams).
Before that pipe dream was even commenced, the government proceeded to promise another 1.5 million houses to be constructed between 2018 and 2023 (translating into 300,000 per year, 25,000 per month, 6,250 a week, and 822 a day) – none of which has been forthcoming, with only two years left.
Over the past two years alone, how many promises has the government made – from currency and inflation stabilization into single digits by the end of 2019, to food sustainability – yet, nothing of that nature has been achieved, even having given them another year.
Why, then, when we hear about yet another economic blueprint – the National Development Strategy One (NDS-1) – should the government overwhelming expect enthusiasm and optimistic excitement at the new promises?
The long-suffering people of Zimbabwe already expended all their enthusiasm and optimistic excitement in the 1980s, and we are now weary, dejected, and fed-up – as, we are sick and tired of the endless unfulfilled promises, and we can not take it anymore.
Having patience is one thing, but permitting ourselves to be lied to, and taken for fools by the same government, for 40 years, is something else. I may not be an economist, or finance guru, but I surely know when I am being taken for a ride.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263733399640 / +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org