The Cost of the Mugabe Era

The Cost of the Mugabe Era

Source: The Cost of the Mugabe Era – The Zimbabwean December 22, 2017

A subtitle to this article could be the “Price of Tyranny” or the “The impact of bad Government”. Whatever you call it in statistical terms, Zimbabwe resembles a country that has been at war.

Most people have difficulty grasping the impact of statistics and I am more than aware of the adage that statistics can lie, but right now, a month after the Old Man of Zimbabwean politics stepped down “voluntarily” from power, it’s time to do a quick review of the cost to Zimbabweans of his 37 years in power.

At Independence in 1980, the country was growing at about 5 per cent a year and had done so for quite a long time. If this rate of growth had been maintained for the next 37 years, Zimbabwe today would have a GDP of US$52 billion, instead it has a formal sector GDP of only US$14 billion (2016). That is a cost of US$38 billion in lost growth in the formal sector.

At Independence our population growth was among the highest in Africa at about 3,5 per cent per annum – doubling every 21 years. Astonishingly – had this growth been maintained our population today would be 31 million. Instead it is about 12 million – where have 19 million people gone? I think about 5 million are in the Diaspora and that leaves 14 million “disappeared”. Life expectancy has halved because death rates have trebled while fertility levels have been maintained. Up to 1980 annual deaths of adults were about 100 000 a year. That explains another 7,4 million leaving 6,6 million people.

But before we leave that statistic – we need to ask ourselves why so many early deaths? We have had one of the highest rates of death of infants under 5 years old in the world for much of this period, maternal mortality during birth has been at genocidal levels and far exceed the estimate of deaths during Gukurahundi from 1983 to 1987. Stress is a major contributor and one piece of research I have seen found that half of all the males displaced forcibly in 2005 during Murambatsvina, died in the following two years that they were monitored. Overall, due to family planning, communicable disease and urbanization, coupled to better education of girls, fertility rates have declined, and this probably explains the remaining shortfall although deaths because of politically motivated violence probably exceeds 100 000 people since 1980. Any regime that deliberately causes the deaths of 7,5 million people in 37 years is a human calamity.

200 000 premature deaths a year being laid at the door of any administration is surely a cause for action by the International Courts.

Then there is the accumulation of debt. At Independence our total national debt was just US$700 million or less than 5 per cent of our GDP. By 2016 our national debt was probably close to US$30 billion – 215 per cent of GDP. The debt is made up of State international debt of US$9 billion, private sector international debt of US$2 billion and domestic debt of about US$11 billion with compensation owed to commercial farmers that were forced off their land of about US$10 billion.

Despite this massive accumulation of State liabilities and some US$13 billion in aid since 1980, we have very little to show for all this expenditure – not one kilometer of new railway lines, no new roads to speak of except maybe the road through Chivi (funded by Kuwait). No new farm estates, not a single high rise building in the past 30 years, no major industries and no new power stations.

Where has it all gone – basically on consumption. Much of it corrupt and the rest based on patronage and the search for political power in the face of declining popularity within a State where democracy was being steadily eroded and all human rights abused.

When it comes to corruption, I think we can say that up to 1980, our civil administration was honest. Certainly, the senior Civil Servants with whom I rubbed shoulders would never have considered taking a bribe let alone the sort of corruption we have seen in recent years. Transparency International estimates that corruption in the past 37 years could have accounted for over US$60 billion. This does not take into account the Marange diamond discovery in 2006 which produced over US$22 billion in revenues – nearly all of it simply vanishing. The specter of Mr. Mugabe admitting that US$15 billion could not be accounted for probably accurately estimates the stolen funds from the diamond mines between 2008 and 2015.

No State of our size could expect development and progress under a regime that shamelessly steals money on this scale from State Corporations, shady deals and simple bribes (US$10 million for an interview with a Minister). Our Cities are littered with homes that would do Hollywood proud – vast houses on acres of land, many with features such as a helicopter pad on the roof and heated inside pools. Politically connected people drive around in luxury cars that would turn heads in London or New York. A Month ago, one of Mr. Mugabe’s sons was seen in Bulawayo driving a brand-new Rolls Royce convertible with friends – drinking in public with radio blaring out music. He had never worked in his life. The image of Gucci Grace spending US$150 000 in cash on a single visit to a store in a major City – screaming obscenities at a journalist who tried to capture the scene on camera, will not be forgotten.

In 1980, Mr. Mugabe owned nothing except a few suits purchased in London from his favorite tailor. Today he owns several luxury mansions in South Africa as well as homes in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai. In Zimbabwe he owns a massive multimillion dollar home in Harare and at his village in the rural area. Nearly all these assets are in other people’s names and that could be a problem for him and Zimbabwe in the future. His cash assets must run to billions.

The legacy he leaves to his successor is going to be a tough nut to crack, especially if the Zanu PF regime continues to be isolated internationally and operating under financial restrictions. He leaves a Government with a bloated Civil Service which is 5 times larger than it was in 1980, a Treasury that is broke with a fiscal deficit in 2017 that could reach 15 per cent of GDP (a sustainable deficit would be 3 per cent). A legacy of State Owned Enterprises that are nearly all technically insolvent and incurring US$250 million a year in new losses.

The economy is perhaps 70 per cent informal with only about 10 per cent of all adults in formal jobs – three quarters working for the State. We owe money to everyone – for fuel, food and power. We have a quarter of our population on food aid and we import 70 per cent of everything we eat. Our children come out of State schools unable to read or write and most are not numerate. Our hospitals are mortuaries and cannot even afford cleaning materials. Our Banks are insolvent, and cash is almost impossible to get. Our National airline is down to 2 operational aircraft that are poorly maintained.

But what the heck, Mr. Mugabe is again in Singapore for a “checkup” at the most expensive clinic in the world, his wife is fuming at home in Borrowdale and the new regime is housecleaning on a big scale. Zimbabweans are recovering from the hangover left by the days of celebration when RGM stepped down and are cautious about what lies ahead. The one thing we do know is it cannot be any worse than what we have had to cope with since 1980.


  • comment-avatar
    Mackenzie 4 years ago

    Looking at these stats it hurts me the fact that that’s why some people kept on keeping this old man in power they were doing it to benefit just a few

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    njalo 4 years ago

    An enjoyable article.
    A damn good summary of The Story Of A Failed State.

    Hey !!! the photo of Mugabe and UGrace is OH SO COMICAL !!!!!

    • comment-avatar
      Flick 4 years ago

      I fully agree with you njalo and the pair would make a great circus act!!! They certainly put some clowns to shame A!

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    Bo kaLinga 4 years ago

    No matter the adjectives and sophisticated phrases he used on the world stage masquerading as the sole hero of Africa, I always knew he was a hypocrite. He should have been the one paying us those millions. He simply got away with murder and I think its now too late for justice.

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    John Madzunga 4 years ago

    Dont you see all these statistics are coming from the Whites who lost from Mugabe.Nomatter what they say,Mugabe will be the hero till death.Even this new Government will show what they mean in ZANU PF.Zanu PF is still intact only that they had taken a bit long to let Mugabe rest and they continue with the button.

    Wait and see,there is more to come even your masters in UK/America will be quiet.

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      @John Madzunga… have you been walking around with your eyes closed since 1980? In 1980 Mugabe inherited a functional country with a huge skill base that was and could have been again the envy of Africa. He has single handedly transformed it into a basket case. And in case you are wondering I am white and did not leave at independence, I gave it 22 years but then gave up. there are less than 30 000 whites there now, there were 300 000 at the peak in 1975, compared to the 12 million Blacks. Can so few whites wreck a country that blacks control? Please!! Mugabe did that on his own. I’d say 95% of black and 95% of whites in Zim get on quite fine. You’re one of the 5% who live in the past. Can I suggest you try growing up?

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    Fallenz 4 years ago

    Excellent article… or maybe the basis for an extended summary that should be required in History text books. The text should also include the names and actions of cohorts and Bootlickers. Of course, none of this would be allowed by ZANUPF… for they would be center-stage at every turn of events and course of action, and their atrocities and liability exposed for future generations. ZANUPF can not stand the truth. “Truth” is zanupf’s Kryptonite.