Development Challenges in the Context of Zimbabwe

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DISCUSS THE DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES IN THE CONTEXT OF ZIMBABWE. Zimbabwe as a developing state has a number of developmental challenges that emanate from different quarters within the parameters of its political, social, economic, technological and environmental set ups. This factors which are both historical and current intermingle in arresting development as to be discussed.

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To begin with, the past corporate driven global economic policy termed the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme of 1991 and the ratification of various trade agreements like the SADC Trade Protocol, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), among others are the starting points for discussing the development challenges that Zimbabwe faces today because their implementation had a long term negative contribution to the social, political, economic, political and environmental challenges that we are faced with today.

Prior to ESAP, the government subsidized commercial food production, provided agricultural infrastructure, inputs and credit directed mainly for maize production. With the introduction of ESAP in 1991, the government opened the agricultural sector to a market forces as dictated by the trade liberalization policies. Its introduction marked a paradigm policy shift from the state led development of the 1980s to market based economic system. This resulted in massive cuts on government expenditure and its support for essential service in the fields of education, health. It also eliminated support for producers and consumers.

Due to lack of government support in the agricultural sector, which was the backbone of the country, the sector started to dwindle in performance and this together with successive droughts and an agrarian reform that was poorly planned which commenced in 2000, the country had to rely on food imports which created a big budget deficit and took away the resources which could have otherwise been channeled towards development. ESAP created a large pool of unemployed people due to company closures and this was the initial start up of the problems the country is reeling from presently.

The country has not had a stable political environment emanating from the problems of ESAP. Victims of ESAP associated its effects to poor planning on the part of the ruling ZANU PF party and voices of dissent grew culminating in the formation of a labour backed party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which was formed in 1999. The party presented a big challenge to the ruling ZANU PF government. There started to develop intolerance and political polarization in the country as a result of the ideological differences between the two parties.

After successive elections, the two parties, ZANU PF led by President Robert MUGABE, MDC Tsvangirai faction together with another splinter group of the original MDC, which is led by Arthur MUTAMBARA finally formed an All Inclusive Government (AIG) in February 2009 through efforts of the regional bodies and the African Union as a way to stabilize the deteriorating socio-political and economic situation that was now obtaining in the country due to the polarization among the parties.

This development was aimed at bringing stability and rebuild the country which had suffered at all fronts. While the AIG had some successes in its objectives, the mistrust and lack of tolerance among the working parties is threatening to wash away the little confidence that the international donor community had started to develop in Zimbabwe and thereby retarding the receipt rate for foreign direct investment to create employment in the country.

Lack of direct foreign investment has led to high unemployment levels and lack of viable foreign business partnership in key economic fields like electricity generation where the sole generator of electricity, ZESA is failing to supply the market thereby subjecting the country to constant power cuts which have led to low productivity in the industry which ultimately translates into low profits and low salaries for employees. Such a scenario gave rise to the persistent labour disputes cutting across both the private enterprises and the civil service.

This leaves the majority of workforce with low disposable income such that it would disable them to fend for their dependents in critical areas like health, education and basic utilities which are the primary factors in achieving development. The issue of bitter inter personal conflict between the ZANU PF principal President Robert MUGABE and MDC T leader Prime Minister Morgan TSVANGIRAI is also derailing the passing of key decisions that affect development. The

Zimbabwe Independent edition of 5 to 11 February 2010, page 1, reported that Prime Minister TSVANGIRAI had rejected a directive from the Presidency directing all Ministers to report to the country’s two (2) Vice Presidents, not to TSVANGIRAI as stated in the initial agreement of the working modalities of the AIG as stated in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that the parties signed in September 2008. As such, the process of getting executive authority to undertake key projects will be prolonged due to such fights for power and control within the government structures.

This could be because each party would be after pursuing the credit for coming up with any particular positive project. Furthermore, the MDC Tsvangirai party claims that there are many outstanding issues that ZANU PF should fulfill as per the GPA agreement to which ZANU PF said that it would not cede to any demand from the MDC T until it shows commitment towards removing economic sanctions that were imposed by the Western powers at the behest of the Land reform programme.

Another noted example was the decision by the MDC Tsvangirai to temporarily pull out of the AIG in 2009. All this bickering undermines investor confidence in the country and make investors hold on to their funds until a time when the situation will be conducive. The issue of undermining investor confidence can also be read in the context of irresponsible public policy announcements that the country’s political leadership has been making in regards to the return of the local currency as the legal medium of exchange.

This sent a wave of uncertainty in the present and would be investors such that the present investors and players in the country’s economic field have resorted to keeping their money in external accounts in preparation for any eventuality as they view the banking sector as unstable. As such there has not been a significant growth in terms of savings and deposits while business is booming on the other hand. This also had an effect on government revenue inflows as tax payments are evaded.

Western interference in the political system of the country remains another huge obstacle to the attainment of development in Zimbabwe. In 2001, the United States Government passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act which imposed financial sanctions on the government of Zimbabwe and its state enterprises on allegations of misgovernance. The act makes it impossible for Zimbabwe to access financial assistance for development from the Bretton Woods Institutions.

Additionally the European Union (EU) officially imposed economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. These measures, which the government says was in response to the country’s land reforms which ran contrary to the west’s imperialistic foreign policy, made it difficult for the industry which had already been ravaged by the effects for ESAP to recover. Massive company closures and retrenchments followed and household incomes were eroded and the sanctions still stand today, despite the progress the country made in addressing the political problems.

Zimbabwe cannot access any funds from the major international financers outside the scope of humanitarian funds like infrastructural development. Zimbabwe remains isolated on the international scene and it has not benefited from debt relief programmes that were undertaken by the Bretton Woods Institutions. What further compounds the situation is the 19 January 2010 pronouncement by the British Foreign Secretary David MILLIBAND that the MDC Tsvangirai should advise the British government on the appropriate time to dispose the sanctions since they are the ones who instigated for their imposition.

While the sanctions could have worked in favour of the MDC to obtain protest votes form the electorate they are actually affecting development on large scale due their effect on the macro and micro economic status of the country. It has also been noted that the sanctions coupled with international isolation were responsible for the failures of government initiated economic recovery programmes which were implemented since 1996 to present namely the Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation (ZIMPREST), Millennium Economic Recovery Programme and National Economic Revival Programme.

In 2000, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) with assistance from the international community that was opposed to clauses that were incorporated in the draft constitution that allowed the government to compulsorily acquire land without compensation successfully campaigned for the rejection of the draft constitution in the 2000 Constitutional Referendum. In response, the government then embarked on a fast track land resettlement programme in response to the political dictates that were prevailing at the time and also to evade the legal constraints that were hindering the quitable land redistribution programme which was necessary and to also reduce the majority’s vulnerability to the structural economy. While to a greater extent the programme managed to resettle over three hundred thousand (300 000) families under its different models, not much planning had been done in regards to measures to ensure sustained production on the farms. The newly resettled farmers lacked the technical expertise and other related resources to kickstart farming. This development coupled with the droughts that followed greatly compromised the country’s food situation.

Influential politicians took advantage of their posts to effect multi farm allocations for themselves which defeated the purpose of the programme which was among other things to decongest the communal areas. Also the majority of the resettled farmers did not surrender land they held in the communal areas, such that the communal areas remained congested, allowing the environmental degradation associated with the congestion to continue. This noble cause failed to address the environmental needs of land management, which was one of its purposes due to the corrupt tendencies in the exercise.

The government tried to assist the new farmers with inputs and farm equipment but the inputs were in majority cases sold on the parallel market, abused and exported to neighbouring countries in search of quick foreign currency returns by the beneficiaries while the farming equipment did not benefit the majority poor farmers but instead went to those who were politically influential. The targeted new farmers did not benefit and as such food security was not guaranteed.

The programme to release the seeds and fertilizer was poorly timed such that the inputs would reach their beneficiaries long after the planting and fertilization periods. As a result a lot of money was lost in the exercise which otherwise could have benefited the nation had the arrangements been done in a more transparent and orderly manner. The international community also did not support the land reform even though requests were made at many times to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assist. Furthermore the 2010 budget was viewed in many circles as not having availed enough funds to the agricultural industry.

While the sector represents about twenty six percent (26%) of the economy, the Finance Minister only allocated fifty million dollars (US$50 Million) to the sector and he failed to avail the funds early thereby increasing the chances of the sector failing to pick up. The country has no food reserves after the budget failed to avail funds to the Grain Marketing Board to purchase maize from farmers. This puts the sector into further doldrums. The land reform did not properly address the plight of farm workers and the majority of them were left homeless and jobless.

Farms which were not meant for human habitation were even listed for resettlement through the influence of politicians who were part of the Lands Distributing Committees and these overrode advice from technical experts on proper allocation using their political muscle. This led to such ills like poaching since some people had been haphazardly resettled in animal corridors, like at Matetsi in Hwange, gold panning in Zederburg Farm in Mberengwa and Naunetsi ranch in Mwenezi. The government incurred domestic debts in trying to uplift its people but due to poor policy planning the goal was not achieved in totality.

The programme had a negative bearing on the national fiscus and presently the government is still relocating some people who were improperly resettled. Also a lot of money was recently channeled to conduct audits to unearth the corrupt land allocations which could have been otherwise used for proper development projects. Additionally, Zimbabwe was also classified on the international scene as a country that do not fully protect property rights judging by loss of farms by former commercial farmers, hence an unsafe investment haven.

After the devastating effects of ESAP and the recurrent droughts that followed, a large number of retrenched workers started to operate small to medium scale enterprises which included vending, flea markets. Furthermore, the able bodied rural population migrated to urban areas to escape from rural hunger, since their mainstay, agriculture had been incapacitated by droughts. Also their breadwinners in urban areas were no longer sending any income as they had been rendered jobless by ESAP.

This rural-urban migration put pressure on urban areas resulting in the mushrooming of illegal settlements, vending stalls, overcrowding, and straining of the social utilities like sewage systems. This development came with associated vices like high crime rates, corruption and prostitution. To deal with this menace the government came up with Operation Restore Order of 2005 which saw the destruction of illegal structures both for vending and residential. According to UNDP estimates over seven hundred thousand (700 000) homes were estroyed and about two point five million (2 500 000) people were left homeless. The operation destroyed the income base of the most small scale business people, their residences and created mobile vulnerable people. Household incomes fell and poverty levels shot up. Property was lost in the operation. The government tried to come up with an exercise to build low cost houses and vending stalls for the victims of the operation but they were however in most cases corruptly hijacked by those who already owned houses and had political links at the expense of the real victims.

The exercise also failed to reach its intended target because the government had a limited financial capacity to fund the exercise and it never reached full completion. Up to now the majority of the houses were never completed and they do not have sewerage and water reticulation systems in place. An example can be that of the Victoria Falls Operation Garikayi compound. It also put Zimbabwe into further international isolation on allegations of human rights violations. Victims of the operation resent the government for being inconsiderate and their consent to participate in any government initiated development project is limited.

Victims of the operation lost their livelihoods and they never got any compensation from the government neither were they ever later mainstreamed back into the formal economic system. The operation also consumed a lot of money in its execution and exacerbated poverty levels with the affected groups thereby creating a pool of yet another section of vulnerable people who need economic integration. The country’s investor policies are not favourable to western investors. Cited can be the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act.

While it seeks to empower the majority blacks in the economic playfield, the Act has the potential to be hijacked by the elite few rich proletarian blacks while ultimately scaring away investors. Observers say the country currently does not have the capacity to involve its locals in such ventures due to lack of capital since the economy is still to fully recover. As such the enactment is premature and not very attractive to foreign direct investors. Recent World bank surveys covering a total of one hundred and eighty one (181) countries to determine favourable investment protection policies ranked Zimbabwe at one hundred and nineteen (119).

The problems of global warming caused by poor international environmental management methods had a devastating effect on the region in which Zimbabwe is situated. The country has been experiencing recurrent droughts due to climate change. The country on its own has been contributing to global warming through its ills. Cited is the constant power cuts which cause people to resort to fossil fuels as an alternative. The Seke Communal areas of Mashonaland East have been deforested due to illegal tree cutting in search of firewood.

The same scenario is developing in Emganwinini extension of Bulawayo where locals are nearly encroaching into the Matopos National Park area in search of firewood. The by-products of the firewood combustions contribute to the emissions of greenhouses gases. The effects of deforestation can also be viewed in the context of land degradation due to soil and gulley erosion after the felling of trees. This destroys land for agriculture and infrastructural expansion thereby retarding development since the majority of Zimbabweans live in rural areas and are dependent on farming. It also costs the government a lot of money to reclaim such land.

Siltation of dams resulted out of soil erosion and it is limiting the availability of both irrigation and drinking water. Irrigation water is crucial for agricultural development. This problem is more pronounced in Matabeleland North province where due to high temperatures dam dry up fast. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is another major hindrance to development in Zimbabwe. Its social, economic and political effects have the capacity to retard development to a very large extent. With over twenty five percent (25%) of the adult population infected with the virus, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures 2008 the country is in dire straits.

The June 2001 UN General Assembly Special Session of HIV/AIDS, the it was declared that the spread of HIV/AIDS constituted a serious obstacle to the realization of global development goals and in that regard Zimbabwe is no exception. Due to the widespread poverty, which presents an ideal environment for the spread of HIV virus, the disease is eating away the country’s productive age groups thereby resulting in the increase in the number of orphans, the elderly and homeless children.

The epidemic is also taking away both skilled and unskilled labour force from the fragile industry which is trying to pick up. Since the most vulnerable group in exploring effects of HIV/AIDS is the productive age group, household income are eroded such that poverty levels remain high. Household viability is also compromised by the epidemic. It also has an impact on food security per household especially in rural areas where they will be no energetic young people to do farming leaving the elderly and inexperienced children to do the tilling.

Government sectors namely health, education and security which are crucial for creating viable human resource base for investment and secure investment environment are also being decimated by the epidemic with most teachers and health staff dying due to AIDS. Furthermore the rate of staff turnover due to HIV/AIDS impact is high in security forces namely the defence forces and ZRP such that it is difficult to replace them and to cover for their experience. According to USAID 2001 report on impact of HIV/AIDS, Zimbabwe Defence Forces had an infection rate of over fifty five percent (55%) as per 1999 statistics.

This greatly limits the capacity of the defence forces to defend the country and render it unstable. The ZRP even lowered its training curriculum for recruits from one year to six months to cover up for the effect of the epidemic. This however compromises the quality of cadres produced. This reduction of staff has reduced the police to community ratios and leaving certain sections more vulnerable to crime. Insurance payouts claims are also increasing due to the impact of the disease such that the industry is now operating at high costs. Medical aid schemes have incurred high costs due to need for medical services by the infected.

The government has also incur high ,medical budget costs in purchasing medication for those infected. The stagnant economic growth in Zimbabwe has in the past years forced flight of skilled labour force to regional and international markets where remuneration was far off better than that which was being offered locally. Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures of 2009 indicated that over four million Zimbabwe are in the Diaspora where they escaped economic problems. The major areas affected by this distress migration are education, medical and manufacturing sectors.

A lot of medical staff, teachers, artisans and engineers left the country at the onset of economic problems. This left the country with employees who lacked experience and expertise to run strategic entities and institutions, hence greatly compromising service delivery. The country is very short of doctors, teachers and engineers. Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) Hwange Power Station according to their annual report of 2007 lost at total eleven (11) engineers, fifteen (15) technicians to South Africa’s Eskom. The company further lost a total of thirty five (35) artisans to South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

The same scenario also obtained at the Hwange Colliery Company (HCC) which in 2008 lost thirty four (34) employees, twenty one (21) of them in management, six (6) technical and three (3) from medical services. These are just some of the noted cases of brain drain within some strategic corporations and their replacements are hard to come by. The country is currently facing a severe skills crisis and several companies are failing to recruit locally since most technocrats left the country. This has an effect on resuscitating industry and the social services sector which are necessary to kickstart the economy.

Worse still these people would have been trained using state’s resources in crafting future development of the country but then they will use their expertise to develop other countries. The issue of low salaries that do not match the regional and international levels of remuneration remain a big threat to skills retention. The Sunday mail edition of 14-20 February 2010 page 1reported that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was facilitating the recruitment of Zimbabwean doctors and other highly specialized medical staff to be sent to Lesotho.

The medical personnel would be given salaries ranging between one thousand seven hundred dollars (US$1 700) and two thousand seven hundred dollars (US$2 700) monthly plus other very attractive fringe benefits. In Zimbabwe the same staff earn between one hundred and ninety dollars (US$190) and three hundred dollars (US300). Static cultural practices have also contributed to the stagnation of development in the country.

Currently the Ministry of Health is embroiled in a problem with members of the Johane Masowe sect over the church’s refusal to have infants within their congregations immunized on the argument that they are catered for by divine protection. According to the UNICEF Zimbabwe representative, Peter SALAMA quoted in the NewsDay edition of 5 February 2010 page N1, from November 2009 to present, a total of sixty two (62) children died due to measles which could have been prevented through immunization. Of those who died ninety eight percent (98%) were from the Johane Masowe sect.

Such religious beliefs increase child mortality rate which is an inhibiting factor in development. Another area of cultural practices that have the potential to retard development that still exist in Zimbabwe in the circumcision ritual that is conducted by the Baremba people who reside in parts in Midlands. This tribal group circumcises boy when they reach puberty age but the way they conduct the process exposes the boys to risks of contracting HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Besides their methods do not fully protect the boys from excessive blood loss such that at times deaths even occur.

When such death occurs, they tribe blame it on the mother of the particular victim. It is believed that it would be because that the mother was a witch or was in some bad satanic business. These has been a practice that is very magnified within Matabeleland region of both legal and illegal cross border movement to South Africa and Botswana. This practice started long back to the days of booming gold and diamond mining in South Africa in the early 1920s and up to now it has been regarded as a norm that whenever a male child from the region reaches maturity age, he has to cross the border to search for money.

Furthermore, the picture that is painted by those returning from South Africa and Botswana with flashy cars and a lot of disposable income tempts those who would have been left behind to go a try their luck also. That explains why there is a high number of Zimbabweans living is South Africa in many parts of Matabeleland North and South provinces. This has led to high school drop outs in the region and also parents leave for South Africa leaving child headed families in the country. Furthermore, since most of the migrants leave their families behind, they will be high risk for HIV/AIDS.

The children would be expected to supervise each other in areas of schooling and morality and this gives rise to immoral behaviour among such children and high failure rates in schools. While this is not an outright cultural practice it was being socially acceptable as the norm. Poverty remains one of the major factors hindering development in Zimbabwe. It is very high in Zimbabwe with 2004 UNDP estimates putting it over eighty five percent (85%). Poverty disables those affected to access such essential drivers for development like education, proper health care, basic infrastructure and their life expectancy is low.

Poverty creates a fertile ground as it makes community vulnerable to all vices that are associated with it such as crime prostitution. The recent increases in armed robberies in Zimbabwe could be attributed to increasing poverty and frustration in the people particularly those with access to firearms. Poverty thus makes a country unstable and it can give rise to such situations like riots, demonstrations and violent elections. While the country enjoys a high level of adult literacy, it has not done much in technological inventions. This could be attributed to the education system that is in operation at present.

It was observed that after writing Advanced Level, students are admitted into degree programmes largely judging by the number of points one will have attained, disregarding one’s real choice. As such a person who will have aspired to be a doctor as his life will find himself being a mining engineer due to points. Students should be allowed to pursue an academic curriculum that is designed for their fields of desired profession after Ordinary Levels. This case works well in the United States of America where students are admitted into high school focusing on studies which link with their intended areas of study.

Even the employment system is driven by the one’s desire to have a sustainable income than by one’s love for the trade/profession. Nepotism and corruption also characterize the employment system in the country. Through such tendencies the country finds itself employing wrong people in wrong professions. This more magnified in the civil service, where you find that even though one does not aspire to be policeman, by the virtue that he/she has a contact in the recruitment system, he/she might find himself/herself in the job which he will not be committed to.

This leads to inefficiency and poor service delivery. The secondary education curriculum should at least be designed in way that allows people to choose and prepare for their desired profession at an early stage so that the right people with dedication and interests in particular jobs land them. This however can only be feasible when the government and the private sector rationalize the remuneration systems in their sectors together with the conditions of service so that there will not be great disparities. The media in Zimbabwe is a threat to development in its own dimension.

The media in Zimbabwe is divided along political lines with the independent media aligned with the MDC Tsvangirai while the state media is aligned to ZANU PF. It is quite observable that the goodness or badness of a report in the media is determined by which particular political party it benefits and which paper it is reported in. That has even led to polarization in the audience of the media groups with some people viewing everything in state media as lies while others see anything in the independent media as incorrect.

Worse still the country has some foreign radio station which beam directly into Zimbabwe such as Voice of America and Studio Seven. While it is necessary for media freedom to have a multi media environment, journalists in these two media sector are not advancing the interests of the people but rather of the different political groups they support. As such the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity Webster was reported to have on 04 February 2010 resolved to meet editors from the state and independent media in order to remind them that they should report responsibly.

The independent media has been on the onslaught attacking government in all circles with impunity while the reverse is true for state media as it attacks activities that emanate from the opposition camps. This issue of negative and partisan reportage always puts the country on regional and international spotlight and it creates an impression that Zimbabwe is a country that is disorganized such that investors, tourists and other benefits that are suppose to come to the country will not be realized.

In summing up the above it can be noted that Zimbabwe has some great challenges in attaining development. If these factors could be addressed, then Zimbabwe with its vast human, infrastructural and natural resources can be indeed the jewel of Africa. In will take co operation of all the sectors of the country to achieve this goal where national interests are put to the fold ahead of individual, partisan and greed tendencies which characterize the present scenario. REFERENCES 1. Zimbabwe Human Development Report 2003.

Redirecting our responses to HIV/AIDS: Poverty Reduction Forum. Institute for Development Studies: University of Zimbabwe 2003. 2. Report of the Presidential Land Review Committee: Dr Charles UTETE 2003 3. Environment and Pollution and Control: Zimbabwe Open University: I NHAPI 2000 4. My Socio-Economic Rights: Labour and Economic Development Research Institute 2008. 5. The Zimbabwe Independent: 5-11 February 2010. 6. The Sunday Mail: 14- 20 February 2010. 7. NewsDay: 5 February 2010 8. Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia. www. wikipedia. com.

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Development Challenges in the Context of Zimbabwe. (2017, Sep 11). Retrieved November 26, 2022 , from
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