Most Zimbabweans would say no, it was a false start, but I want to counter that and say that in many ways Zimbabwe is a much better country than it was and that perhaps for the first time we can start to see our way forward.
First we have to deal with unrealistic expectations. Whatever the significance of the November revolution, our expectations and the expectations of the international community were never going to be realistic. We were in a mess, a deep hole, and whoever was in charge, was going to have a long haul ahead of them to get back on the road. The list of our challenges in December 2017 is so long it is difficult to recite:
- We had destroyed our accumulated savings of a 100 years of enterprise and hard work. Every bank, every financial institution, every pension fund was basically bankrupt;
- We had destroyed our agriculture and were importing three quarters of our food, our industry which did so much to give us economic independence, was putting just 5 per cent of the goods that were on our shelves, we were importing bread;
- The only records we were breaking were the negatives – highest infant mortality, highest maternal mortality, collapsed health and education institutions, millions migrating to greener pastures;
- A fiscal deficit that was breaking records, an overvalued currency that could not be sustained, subsidies and distortions in prices that were emasculating what remained of our economy; and
- Broken infrastructures of roads, railways, air transport, water supplies and waste management.
In the field of diplomatic and international relations we were completely isolated except for a residual connection to China and Russia that was one sided. Regionally, where once we had held almost pride of place, we were a laughing stock and a stark example of simply how not to do things. In a continent where the economy of Africa was now expanding and living standards rising, we destroyed our own and saw life expectancies crash. What made it all worse, is that it came after the brief flirtation with sanity during the Government of National Unity from 2009 to 2013.
To all of the above, we might add that the new Government that took over from the Mugabe regime was deeply divided and conflicted and this made decision making difficult and arduous. The revolution had not touched the ingrained corruption that had so tainted the last years of the Mugabe era. Many of those responsible for the mess we were in were still part of the system. I was reminded of that European scribe who wrote that revolutions seldom change the societies they are supposed to.
But in reality the process of change really only began after the July 2018 elections. The first sign of change was the publication of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme immediately after the appointment of the Cabinet. It was clear that a great deal of work had gone into this document, most people did not bother to read it and few gave it any credence. But the fact is that the Government followed its dictates and when the program was closed down at the end of 2020, about 80 per cent of its targets had been met.
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