How Zimbabwe Will Break Through! Current Developments and Future Prospects.
Once a breadbasket of Africa was turned into a bagging basket due to policy inconsistencies and political polarization. In my view, Zimbabwe has tremendous potential, with rich natural resources and one of the most educated populations in Africa. Since the turn of the century, the country has been going through several rounds of an interlocking multi-dimensional crisis characterized by economic collapse, worsening livelihoods, and political polarization. Politically, the country remains in gridlock as it goes toward the 2023 election. The “main” opposition party, Citizen Coalition for Change, formerly the MDC Alliance (MDC-A), continues to raise the current president's illegitimacy based on allegations that the elections were rigged. Nelson Chamisa, formerly the President of the MDC Alliance and its Presidential Candidate in the 2018 election, formed a new party on 24 January 2022 for the By-Election slated for March 2022. The political impasse in Zimbabwe has led to a highly cartelized and patronage-based economy, which has led the country into the current socio-economic crisis.
To help the country recover from decades of mismanagement, corruption, political polarization, and state violence, the state and government must reform from within. Peace, healing, and reconciliation must be the driving force in uniting the Zimbabwean population. Zimbabwe's history of violence, political intolerance, and polarization is rooted in partisan politics and the colonial legacy. After 37 years in power, President Robert Mugabe was toppled via a military coup termed the military-assisted transition in November 2017. His successor and former Vice President, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, promised a break from Mugabeism to a developmental democratic Zimbabwe, which remained a pie in the sky. He declared a “new Zimbabwe” or “new dispensation” that is “open for business” across the global axis. The critical factor and an impediment to achieving this is the impact of partisan politics and the toxic polarization of the people of Zimbabwe. ZANU PFs project power continually monopolizes state power while denying political rights and opportunities to other political actors to compete for political influence and participate in policy dialogue.
The question “how Zimbabwe will break through” remain a critical and national question. Fundamentally Zimbabwe has a vast potential to regain its breadbasket status again. Will the implementation of economic reform be able to transform Zimbabwe? Addressing this question needs a clear understanding of how Zimbabwe landed where it is today. The Zimbabwean economy has continued to experience turbulence, despite weathering a devastating spell of hyperinflation, which peaked in 2008. To date, the volatile currency remains a thorn in the flesh of ordinary Zimbabweans. The country has struggled to sustain a stable currency. The Zimbabwean dollar (ZWD) was the official currency of Zimbabwe between 1980 and 2009. In the wake of hyperinflation, in 2009, it was retired, and the country transitioned to a basket currency regime. In early 2019, the multiple currency regime was replaced by a new currency renamed the Zimbabwe dollar by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. It has been operating as the only legal tender in the country.
Economic policies by the second republic have been implemented. However, ordinary citizens are still suffering, and unemployment is still rife despite the government´s two million job promise during the run-up to the 2018 elections. I believe economic reforms alone cannot end the country’s financial and economic crisis. Instead of more economic interventions, Zimbabwean society needs to self-introspect and assist in resetting the country’s ethical compass. To kick-start the much-needed moral regeneration of Zimbabwean society, political leaders need to take the lead in the fight against corrupt and speculative activities. Either within the government ministries run by the ZANU-PF or the local councils, now dominated by CCC. Rhetoric purports to denounce corruption and put economic measures to alleviate Zimbabwe’s monetary woes will not suffice. The task at hand requires Zimbabwean to unite with one front to push the agenda of national reformation and address the current national question, which goes beyond addressing the bread-and-butter issues and looking into peace, healing, and reconciliation of the Zimbabwean populace.
The Zimbabwean constitution legislated the creation of several commissions and institutions to rebuild the country from years of polarization and economic mismanagement. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission is one of the two Chapter 13 institutions specifically mandated ‘to combat crime and corruption. It is a body that has the constitutional mandate against corruption. ZACC is administered under the Office of the President and Cabinet. In the past, it was under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The ZACC has generally been viewed as largely ineffective in fighting corruption primarily because of government and political interference in its work and financial suffocation, reducing its institutional independence. Being under the Office of the President and Cabinet can be viewed as some political influence as there may be a lack of objectivity in investigating their parent ministry. Thus, to topple corruption effectively and ensure transparency and accountability in public sector organizations, ZACC should be given the capacity to execute optimally.
The notion of a lack of ethical leadership in Zimbabwe, or what I would term a leadership curse in Africa, has received much attention in the last few decades in post-colonial Africa. Zimbabwe, in particular, lacks what l termed “the Sankara phenomenon of leadership.” We seldom hear of great African thought leaders like Thomas Isadore Sankara and his ethical leadership in Burkina Faso. Sankara continues to be a source of inspiration in many African countries, especially for the youth on the continent and abroad. Despite the affection and adoration for Sankara, he is one of the great African leaders who has not been sufficiently recognized, considering the impact he had on the lives of the ordinary working-class people of Burkina Faso. Zimbabwe, for its transformation, needs the Sankara leadership style. For decades, the socio-economic and political crisis bedeviling Zimbabwe resulted from leadership crises within the ruling and opposition political parties. Lack of ideological clarity has been a driving force behind the current situation in Zimbabwe and is the backbone of policy inconsistencies.
Zimbabwe´s breakthrough and its return to a breadbasket status in Africa need the Sankara leadership style. Thomas Sankara was a military officer, revolutionary and anti-imperialist born on 21st December 1949 and was assassinated on 15th October 1987. He served as the President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. He was a strong opponent of neo-colonialism and imperialism and expressed his opposition through his teaching and the implementation of his national policies. Sankara orchestrated national policies that promoted self-sufficiency and independence and suggested foreign policies that discouraged imperialism and neo-colonialism. Instead, he advocated for African unity and joint prosperity of African countries. At home, we have witnessed the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Ncube, promote his homegrown structural adjustment program, the Transition Stabilisation Programme, bragging that the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) had just given the plan a warm endorsement.
Ncube´s homegrown neoliberal market-driven approach had yielded little in national and local economic development and decreased food production, unemployment, and increased starvation since 2018 when he was appointed. The privatization of the agriculture sector and its opening to market mechanisms have complicated the lives of the peasantry, especially women and children, making them subject to volatile markets and fluctuating prices. To many, neoliberalism is the antithesis of democracy, but the democratic path is questionable.
The most crucial bailout lender and the enforcer of neoliberal policies are still the much-feared IMF, to which Mugabe’s regime questionably repaid all arrears in late 2016. The IMF remains the global policeman for the entire financial world, and since 1984 it has pummeled Zimbabwe into austerity and structural adjustment. In early 2018, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice endorsed the neoliberal path the second republic in Zimbabwe had chosen. The republic re-imposed budget discipline, reformed and opened the economy, and engaged with the broader international community. The recent uptick in month-to-month inflation in Zimbabwe from 7.7% in March to 15.5% in April 2022 and the increase in annual inflation from 72.7% in March to 96.4% in April 2022 clearly shows the impact of the neoliberal policies implemented by the government. However, the increase in inflation can be attributed to global shocks and inflationary pressures emanating from the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. The neoliberal policies the government implemented have contributed considerably, and the recent exchange rate depreciation on the parallel marked a vast significance.
Thomas Sankara's ethical leadership is essential in Zimbabwe; as a President of Burkina Faso, he made numerous breakthroughs in economics, education, healthcare, transportation, women’s empowerment, and many other sectors that helped Burkina Faso thrive. He desired a country that could rely on itself for its economic needs. Regarding healthcare, Sankara’s polio and meningitis vaccination program was one of Africa's most successful vaccination campaigns. This program saw “2.5 million Burkinabe people getting vaccinated in a week, a breakthrough for health care on the continent. Unfortunately, we rarely see efficiency in African healthcare, particularly in Zimbabwe, where nurses and doctors have been numerously in the streets protesting for a living wage and improving working conditions. Over the past few years, we have seen the COVID19 pandemic rampage. Implementing such vaccination and health care policies would be necessary considering the dispersion of the COVID 19 vaccine.
In the broad political discourse in Zimbabwe, the state needs the Sankara leadership style to rebound and map the political economy of the state. Sankara, in my opinion, remains one of the most outstanding leaders Africa has had. He set a new status quo for himself as a leader and did not subject himself to the shackles of submission to the colonizers through neo-colonialism and continued imperialism. He also showed everyone in Africa at the time and even now that it is possible to achieve great things like mobilizing the labor force, afforestation, gender equality, self-dependence, and self-sufficiency on the African continent. He created a new reality for the continent. I think all leaders need to implement and set higher standards for themselves and break boundaries across the political divide in Zimbabwe. Like other influential socialists of the 21st century, Sankara´s life and anti-colonial and decolonial legacy continue to inspire anti-imperialist and Pan-African youth movements across Africa and beyond. Sankara can be the Che Guevara of Africa with his charismatic yet notably humble figure. Zimbabwe needs one like him for it to break through.