When Tendai Biti was appointed the Minister of Finance in 2009 he walked into a ministry with no resources at all. Total tax receipts were about $25 million a month and civil servants were getting $5 a month in the local currency. In year one he raised revenues to $75 million a month, year two it was $140 million a month, year three $200 million a month and in year four $250 million a month. This was 10 times what was available to the state at the start of the GNU.
But just as significantly he rebuilt the team at the ministry, got the systems working again and began the long process of reengagement with the multilaterals and restoring confidence in the ministry and the government.
By 2013 these goals were largely achieved – in the process 70 per cent of all new legislation adopted by the State since 2008 was generated and negotiated through the system by Biti. He never missed a payroll in four years. This was a remarkable achievement and reflected his personal capacity as an intellectual, outstanding lawyer and strategist.
In the Ministry of Health Henry Madzorera took over and when he did we had 150,000 cases of cholera, 60,000 deaths from TB, 30,000 deaths from Malaria, 17,000 deaths of mothers in child birth and 150,000 deaths a year from Aids. The death toll had risen to over 300,000 a year and life expectancy fallen to 34 years on average from over 60 in 1997.
State Hospitals were hardly functioning. Clinics were closed and medical supplies almost unobtainable. The flight of trained personnel was endemic and massive. This quiet, unassuming doctor from KweKwe had an immediate impact – in the following year cholera deaths fell to zero, all other indictors slowly began to improve.
The minister rarely made a speech but worked solidly with his team in the ministry on resolving the many challenges he faced. New boards were appointed to all State Hospitals and corrupt and negligent staff dismissed.
A similar transformation was seen in education – in 2008 3,2 million children in State schools saw their classrooms for 23 days in the year, virtually all failed their final exams when they were set and conducted, those that did sit did not have their papers marked and graded. Two thirds of all girls of school going age were not in school.
Tens of thousands of experienced and qualified teachers left the country for greener pastures. Those that went to school had no textbooks and learning materials. In the decade prior to 2008 a whole generation of children graduated from school being neither literate nor numerate.
The Minister, David Coltart, took over a Ministry where 80 per cent of his Head Office staff was not coming to work and the Head Office was virtually derelict and dysfunctional. I visited the Ministry with a query in 2009 and wandered through 4 floors of the building before I found a single officer on duty and present.
In two years 96 per cent of all primary age children were in school on a full time basis. 80,000 trained teachers were back in the class room supported by another 30,000 untrained teachers. Pass rates improved and in four years they were almost back to where they had been 20 years earlier.
This was the direct result of MDC leadership being placed in charge of government Ministries. A similar countdown for ministries administered by Zanu (PF) reveals no changes and few advances in any field. In fact for four years the Zanu (PF) team in the Cabinet did everything they could to impede progress and reform in every field. Of the 37 line item reforms agreed in the GPA only the new Constitution was achieved and even that was heavily compromised and was not implemented before the elections that terminated the GNU.
Now we face another five years under Zanu (PF) leadership, is there any hope for us? The reality is that their team is unchanged from the team that virtually destroyed the economy from 1997 to 2008. This is the same old tired and corrupt gang that we have had to contend with for 33 years. With one big difference, they now have to perform. Should they fail to deliver what they have promised, the consequences for them are dire and they know it.