The Matabeleland region has been a victim of well-orchestrated strategy of alienation, subjugation, under development and economic strangulation. This can be traced back to the first 7 years after the independence, period 1980 – 1987. The Zimbabwe economic history began with the transition to majority rule in 1980 and Britain’s ceremonial granting of independence. The new government under Prime Minister Robert Mugabe promoted socialism, partially relying on international aid and sang equality for all. The new regime inherited one of the most structurally developed economies and effective state systems in Africa. The government propagated a whole range of new economic policies, introducing a minimum wage and virtually eliminating the right to fire workers, total spending on education nearly tripled (from Z$227.6 million to Z$628.0 million), as did government spending on healthcare (from Z$66.4 million to Z$188.6 million), between 1979 and 1990, The new government maintained much of this intervention such as restricting the use of foreign currencies, whilst increasing taxation and government spending to reduce poverty and inequality.
Matabeleland suffers vindictiveness and lags behind from the onset
Despite all this rapid growth experienced by the country, Matabeleland remained stagnated and plagued by indiscriminate violence against citizens, crimes reported during early 80s to mid-80s by some journalists, medical practitioners, missionaries were such as arbitrary searches, destruction of essential infrastructure, looting of shops, rape, torture and massacres and also denial of family members to bury or mourn their loved ones as the prize for defiance was death. A study by the Swedish government revealed that the period between 1980 – 1989 Zimbabwe had 4500 primary schools, a number of high schools and colleges all over the country and the majority of these were in Mashonaland regions, one will argue that it is a reflection of demographic figures in Zimbabwe but empirical evidence proves that there are no colleges in Matabeleland region in particular in the northern parts of the province. It further gives credence that Matabeleland did not benefit from the rapid growth experience a few years post-independence and even up to date.
Inherited debt, lack of foresight and its implications
Moreover at Zimbabwe’s birth in 1980, the country inherited a $700 million debt from the Rhodesian government of Ian Smith. The loans had been used to buy weapons in the 1970s, breaking UN sanctions. The new government came under international pressure to take on the debt, whilst being promised over $2 billion by western governments for reconstruction and development. This debt grew through the 1980s due to drought, questionable development loans, and ‘aid’ loans from western governments tied to buying exports, including military aircraft. By 1990, to keep paying the debt, Zimbabwe had to take out bailout loans from the IMF and World Bank. In return, the economy was liberalized and public spending cut. Growth slowed, a trade deficit was created and poverty and unemployment increased. The government could have focused on beneficiation and value addition to produce primary products and created jobs than to get loans to purchase military aircrafts and falling for economic structural adjustments programmes.
The lost plot and betrayal
Between 1981 – 1989 the Zimbabwean received 14 banks loans and four Infrastructure Development Aid credits, totaling to US$ 657 million, US$51million towards agriculture, what comes to mind is the drought of 1982 -84 what happened to the loan if people starved with such huge sums of aid meant food and agriculture. The other US$136 million was meant to support the rehabilitation and expansion of exports. US$ 141 million was channeled to the transport sector and again I wonder if the region benefited from the funding since many roads and transport infrastructure has not been developed since independence. In my view I think this where the government lost the plot to believe the British. This also speaks to complicit of the British in Gukurahundi massacres. One begins to suspect that parts of the loans were used to fund the militia announced by the then prime minister to combat malcontents in Matabeleland regardless of the claims made by the then minister of state who told parliament that North Korea had given Zimbabwe a grant of 12.5 million pounds towards purchase of military hardware. Perhaps these are loans that are still hanging on Zimbabweans people necks that came guised as grants and have ballooned into billions of dollars. My conclusion is that loans that were taken by the government did not benefit the region; instead it appears they were used to fund the war against defenseless citizens. Up to date the region still suffers from underdevelopment and it is feeling the pinch of the debt that never brought positive change to their lives. For example schools and other infrastructure were destroyed during the period under review when loans and development aid was flowing to the Zimbabwean government.
Display of dwarfism, wrong turn and foolishness
The government of Zimbabwe was also fooled by the UK which gave ‘aid’ loans and tied Zimbabwe to buy products from British companies such as General Electric and Westinghouse. I find this as absurdity at its highest level that the government was that drunk to accept such an offer and it even borrowed money to fund planting of tress from the World Bank, so that local people could use cheaper wood rather than expensive coal, what if the government had borrowed to increase coal production. And having planted the trees the government discovered that locals already had plenty of wood. What a sick joke is this. The UK backed further loans for the Zimbabwean government to buy British made Hawk aircraft and the government accepted, which were later used in the war in Congo in 1998 which also contributed in the destruction of the economy. This proves beyond reasonable doubt the cluelessness of our government since independence, some decisions did not need advice from a rocket scientist not be made. It is just exhibition of foolishness and lack of foresight albeit with such high literacy rate that Zimbabweans flaunts everywhere. Interestingly since 1980 Zimbabwe has been lent $8 billion but repaid $11 billion. Despite this it is still said today to have a debt in excess of $7 billion, from loans for structural adjustment to Land Rovers and planting trees. In addition, research by various organizations indicates that the Zimbabwean government has been in default on most of its debt owed to the rest of the world, currently estimated to be around US$7 billion. Like seriously, to be a country notoriously known for defaulting when it is richly endowed with natural resources and even alluvial diamond that were discovered lately, how embarrassing.
It is our time to be the beacons of hope
This is the moment for people in Matabeleland to converge and begin to find lasting solutions to socio- economic and political problems that are bedeviling the region. There is need to work together and create opportunities for the young generation to empower themselves and take the region forward since the old generation has failed. Skills development will be useful for the youths to create their own jobs and have their own wealth. Matabeleland business people both local and beyond the borders must find ways support with seed capital so that youths do not end up being used by selfish politicians and other soulless infidels whilst begging for capital to start their initiatives. There is also the need to identity ways that can support the education for those that have the potential to be game changers in the communities. And lastly civic education on socio- economic and political rights remains an integral tool for critical conscientization.
By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni