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Abraham Lincoln and building national unity in Zim

By Fay Chung There is a national consensus that the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), imposed on Zimbabwe in 1991 by donors led by the IMF and the World Bank, has been one of the leading causes of the deterioration of the Zimbabwean economy after 2001, although the economy was also seriously affected by the […]

By Fay Chung

There is a national consensus that the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), imposed on Zimbabwe in 1991 by donors led by the IMF and the World Bank, has been one of the leading causes of the deterioration of the Zimbabwean economy after 2001, although the economy was also seriously affected by the adventurist undertaking in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC 1998 onwards) and the fast-track land resettlement programme (FTLRP 2001 onwards).

The United States sanctions, the Zimbabwe Democratic Economic Reform Act was followed by most Western investors and donors, and the subsequent hyper-inflationary policy of the government followed, worsening the situation.

Zimbabwe had touted itself to be a socialist state in the 1980s, even claiming to be a Marxist-Leninist socialist state, but these vociferous statements died down by 1991, when ESAP became the dominant ideological statement, in line with most of sub-Saharan African and other developing countries.

Franz Fanon has claimed that in his view the most important impact on development is the ideology of the governing state. Zimbabwe’s swift transition from socialism to ESAP without a change in government should be analysed in some detail within this perspective.

The late Robert Mugabe understood that the socialist ideology of the Zanla freedom fighters in the 1970s was wildly popular, not only amongst the freedom fighters but amongst the population at large, representing nationalist egalitarianism, with free education and newly available health services.

This was the ideology promoted by the young Zimbabwe People’s Army (Zipa) in power in 1969-1971.

It was not surprising that he adopted this ideology whole-heartedly, promoting free primary education, and accessible health and clean water supply.

These were the well-understood goals of the 1980s.

These three important policies remain as a foundation for the future.

The first signs of the new ESAP ideology was the removal of the maize-meal subsidy for peasant farmers from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) in 1996.

Immediately Zimbabwe had to import maize-meal, its main food, at a cheaper price than locally grown maize.

This was in line with ESAP ideology.

Cheaper imported foods and goods were preferable to locally-produced food and goods. Zimbabwean agriculture and manufacturing were not “competitive” globally.

Local farming and manufacturing were soon grossly affected.

Thousands of communal and resettlement farmers were affected. Hundreds of local Rhodesian companies were closing down, resulting not only in unavailable and expensive urban food, but more than a 100 000 additional unemployed, mainly in urban areas.

Urban bread riots followed, with harsh repression by the military.

Ambitious plans to ensure that ESAP was advantageous to the country were made during this period, but it appeared that for various reasons they could not be carried out, due to poor planning and management.

This could be due to poor civil servants, as many of the more experienced ones had been removed through ESAP as part of the deliberate enfeeblement of state control.

Agriculture, except for tobacco, which continued to flourish due to the keen export markets and support, declined dangerously.

This was particularly so for maize and wheat — the two key food products.

This overview of the impact of ESAP on economic and other policies in Zimbabwe reflects accurately on what Fanon has predicted, that Zimbabwe’s change of ideology slowly but eventually seriously affected what was happening in the country.

At this stage it is essential to review the ideology which is in place for Zimbabwe.

Beginning in the earliest days of the country, there was a consensus that the ideology should benefit all the people.

Before Independence there was a clamour that rights available to whites such as free education and health, should also be available to Africans.

Salaries which were reserved for whites should be available to every Zimbabwean who had suitable qualifications.

It is essential to go back to its origins, which is the development of a unitary, nationalist state, where racist and tribal loyalties would be firmly dominated by national values.

In evaluating these nationalist values, it is worth looking at one of the great historical leaders of the world, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).

A conservative politician who brought an end to slavery and strengthened the unity of the country which was divided between the free North, which supported industrialisation and freedom; and the Southern States which supported the expansion of slavery.

Slavery provided free labour to agriculture.

Lincoln is the acknowledged leader of national leadership and in the development of the United States of America, on the foundations of the end of slavery; bolstering and strengthening the unity of the country at a time of great division; and modernising the economy.

He has much to offer Zimbabwe in terms of both his intellectual political leadership and his humanitarian values.

His Gettysburg speech (1863) remains a land mark.

He said America was born as “a nation in 1776 (their beginning of Independence) …conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

His words herald nationalism and democracy for all countries, including Zimbabwe.

For Zimbabwe one of Lincoln’s greatest achievement was that of national unity, between the South and the North, which were in danger of secession and division.

His skilled political policies managed to stop further extension of slavery, whilst providing economic gains through unity. Unity was achieved.

Zimbabwe today faces division between two gigantic political parties,  Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Zanu PF has traditionally had the support of the dominant peasantry who comprise about 70% of the population, as well as of the powerful Security forces formerly of Zanla and Zipra;  whilst the MDC has managed to gain the support of the urban workers who have been drastically undermined by ESAP.

Zanu PF is assumed to have the support of China, which has continued to fund its economic growth; whilst the MDC has continued to have the support of Western and international monetary organisations.

They also had the support of the white commercial farmers for the Referendum which they won, defeating Zanu PF’s rival constitution.

For the sake of the people of Zimbabwe, these two fundamentally opposed parties need to find the basis for unity.

They were united for a brief spell under the coalition government, sponsored by former South African president Thabo Mbeki (2009-2013), but this has not survived.

Lincoln managed to find ways to unite the two disparate parties.

He compromised by not abolishing slavery, but by stopping its spread.

He used economic growth to win over support from the South, who depended on slave labour for their economic growth.

Zimbabwe’s two opposing movements, with their opposed urban and peasant and military based support, also need to find policies which can bring them together.

Elections separate the rural and the urban areas into their inherited divisions. Yet both divisions have a majority of poor and unemployed.

The poor and unemployed face the same problems of under-financed families and food.

Both urban and rural areas have vast under-funded under-developed infrastructure such as roads, railways, water works, electricity, schools, clinics and a clean water supply.

State focus on urban and rural infrastructure would not only create much needed employment, but could be the focus of unity.

This would be a unitary utilisation of state finances, which presently is utilised for motor cars and other ways of pleasing electoral leaders.

This is an area that Lincoln utilised, especially railways and other ways of modernising the economy.

The private business sector has had little political or financial support. Most of them struggle to find loans from banks, which are reluctant to lend out in a stagnant economy.

The state could provide banks with funds which could boost private sector businesses.

These are mainly small and medium sized African-owned businesses.

The growth of the private sector would certainly boost both African empowerment and job creation in Zimbabwe.

Chung was a secondary school teacher in the townships; lecturer in polytechnics and university; teacher trainer in the liberation struggle; civil servant and UN civil servant and minister of primary and secondary education.

These articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators  in Zimbabwe. Email: kadenge.zes@gmail.com and Mobile No. +263 772 382 852

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