Islands of Excellence
by Eddie Cross
(Harare, 16th August 2011)
My two recent postings – the first on why I would invest in Zimbabwe and the second titled “Marvellous Zimbabwe” caused quite a stir in the Diaspora. Many people attacked me for presenting a misleading picture of life in Zimbabwe. They are quite happy to get a steady stream of miserable stories from Zimbabwe, but the small snippets of good news are not that welcome. But I stick to my guns – both are accurate views of Zimbabwe.
We have achieved a great deal since we went into the Transitional Government under the GPA. It was a deliberate decision – we in the MDC felt that even though it was a lousy arrangement and that we had been short changed by both South Africa and the SADC region as a whole, we had to do something to save the country from complete collapse.
Let me just remind everyone of the situation at the end of 2008: inflation was doubling prices every day – our money was worthless, a billion dollars would not buy you a loaf of bread. All State schools were closed and had only functioned for 23 days in the year. All hospitals were just glorified mortuaries – without electricity, drugs, cleaning materials and basic services. Despite good seasons we had a near total crop failure and the majority of the population (eventually over 70 per cent) were in need of food aid.
Revenues to the State had fallen to 4 per cent of GDP – a mere $200 million a year – civil servants were earning less than $20 a month and were unable to get to work or feed themselves. 150 000 people had Cholera which was sweeping through the urban areas where water supplies had failed and sewerage systems were in a dire state. The railways had collapsed, power supplies were down to a few hours a day and most of it was imported. Shops were empty, we were buying bread and milk in South Africa and fuel was in short supply everywhere.
At the same time a small minority with access to foreign exchange through the Reserve Bank was living the life of a multimillionaire – shopping sprees to Dubai and other glamorous destinations were weekly events, luxury cars could be purchased for the price of a packet of cigarettes. Diamonds at Marange had been discovered and a diamond rush was on with fortunes being made on a daily basis – but only by the criminal and the connected.
All savings were wiped out; the total stock of cash in the country’s financial system was worth $6 million by the end of the year. A total collapse of the Zimbabwe economy and society as we know it was imminent.
Since that time the MDC in Government has achieved the following:
Stabilised the economy, stopped inflation which is now averaging about 3 per cent per annum, ring fenced the Reserve Bank and stopped the wholesale theft of State resources that was taking place through the Bank.
We have restored water supplies and waste disposal systems in all urban areas, halted the spread of Cholera, got over 105 000 teachers back into the classroom and over 3 million children are back in school, got all hospitals and clinics – 1700 institutions in all, open and functioning normally. We have got all power stations back into production and ZESA now delivers at least 1400 megawatts to customers in Zimbabwe from local sources.
Food is in free supply and all supermarkets and other stores are fully stocked – we now operate in one of the most open and free economies in the world. Exports rose 56 per cent in the first six months of 2011, GDP has doubled from $4,7 billion in 2008 to $9 billion this year, tax revenues have risen to 32 per cent of GDP and now yield $2,7 billion dollars a year in revenue, civil service salaries have risen for $20 a month in 2008 to their present level of some $285 – with senior staff now receiving a near liveable wage.
Where the dead hand of Zanu PF remains in control we have seen no progress – Air Zimbabwe is bankrupt and no longer flies to many destinations and even then is unreliable. The National Railways have made no recovery, cannot pay their staff and have no plan as to how to get themselves back on their feet. The Justice system is still totally subverted, the Police still ignore their responsibilities and fail to protect private property rights and human rights violations. Agricultural output is still in decline and we are importing 70 per cent of our food needs, including 120 000 tonnes of grain a month.
Politically inspired violence, much of it state sponsored is widespread and deadly. The GPA is some two years behind schedule – because of Zanu PF deliberate delaying tactics. Although we are in a commodity boom with record prices for gold, platinum, nickel and food products – international investors who want to make substantial investments in all fields to take advantage of the high prices, are gun shy and threatened by Zanu PF in the form of indigenisation and nationalisation threats.
Despite the efforts of the region to get us back into the world community, we remain a pariah State with our diamonds banned from formal markets and many of our leadership subjected to travel restrictions and the threat of prosecution in the Hague for human rights abuse and violence.
In this situation we have islands of excellence – our private schools, our sports teams, our young people still striving to excel. We have many new medical care facilities now offering a world class service, organisations like MARS now meet our needs in an efficient and cost effective way without subsidy. I take pride in all of this and in what we have done despite the dead hands of Zanu PF on our daily lives. We are winning this struggle and eventually we will throw off the mantle of despair and failure that Zanu PF has thrown over all of us.
When we do, it will be our own achievement – the quiet efforts of ordinary men and women in Zimbabwe, working in their small patches, striving for excellence in what they do and seeking to change the situation in the rest of the country to everyone’s advantage.