Review of Zimbabwe's Plunge - Business Tribune

Zimbabwe's Plunge
Exhausted Nationalism, Neoliberalism and the Search for Social Justice
Patrick Bond and Masimba Manyanya
2003: (pp: 324) 230 x 150 mm
ISBN: 1770220057

Business Tribune
24 October 2003
Reviewer: Kamurai Mudzingwa

Zimbabwe's Plunge is a rare and unique book about Zimbabwe's geo-political and economic situation. The book, with consistent objectivity and the precision of a butcher's cleaver, analyses the link between finance and politics and the way these have contributed to the economic predicament in Zimbabwe.

The simple and dynamic style appeals to a wide readership including politicians, economists, historians, academics, secondary school students and ordinary people who want to have knowledge about Zimbabwe's current socio-economic problems and their possible solutions.

There are 5 chapters and 4 appendices, all of which are packed with comprehensive information that is complemented by simple statistical representations and excerpts of interviews with notable politicians like Nathan Shamuyarira and former finance minister Simba Makoni.

The book's central argument revolves around 90 years of colonialism that engendered uneven development 'around which debt bubbles rose and burst'. The book depicts how the same economic and political problems were replayed after independence, this time led by a government that 'talks left and acts right'.

The authors trace the macroeconomic policies from 1920 where protection for local manufacturers (white) stimulated industrial growth, to the present, where there is a return to dirigist policies that encompass foreign debt default, uncontrolled budgetary growth, a currency peg, etc.

Pre-independence political economy is given as a comprehensive background. This includes primitive settler acquisition that was characterised by finance from excess capital from London, the forcible removal of black peasants from fertile land and the creation of petit white bourgeoisie on colony land.

World political events such as the Great Depression that resulted in dry foreign markets, engendering 'import-substitute industrialisation' that paradoxically saw the booming of local manufacturing industries with a very small market base because of uneven development, are chronicled. (The manufactured goods were luxury goods targeted at whites who constituted a very small market base.)

The book also portrays the relationship among the multinational corporations, colonial governments, the IMF and the World Bank. The multi national corporations benefited, through loans, from this complex relationship.

The colonial governments' manner of defaulting on loan repayment is portrayed and how these debts were subsequently passed on to the government of ZANU at independence.

Having traced the pre-independence's uneven development and its consequences on the economy, the book then analyses the process of uneven development after independence.

First, the book tracks how the new government maintained the bulk of neo-liberal policies and other pre-colonial regulations while it displayed an unsure hand on economic matters. Then there was ESAP, which was aggravated by drought, but the book makes an interesting analogy and analysis. Drought, as the authors argue, is not the major issue because the economic boom of the 60s and the 70s was against the backdrop of drought.

Critically, the advantages that would have ensued from defaulting on the colonial debt are analysed. An analysis of how the government was sweet-talked into paying the debt that colonial governments had defaulted on is also made.

The writers portray how the 1997–2001 period marks the beginning of the general collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, with the precise date given as 14 November 1997 when over a half-hour period, the Zimbabwe dollar lost 74 percent of its value against the US dollar.

An analysis is also made about the effects of the Democratic Republic of Congo war, the challenge of the Movement of Democratic Change to the ruling party, that made the government less and less concerned with economic integration and concentrate on political crises.

With objectivity, the authors look at how the implementation of the Land Designation Act and war veterans' unbudgeted for gratuities led to the collapse of the economy.

Apart from local and economic factors, the book analyses global influences on the collapse of the economy, including the World Bank's push for neo-liberal policies and Thabo Mbeki's 'soft stance', which must be viewed against his government's 'subimperialist investment/trade policies, applied to both the region and to the continent through the New Partnership for Africa's Development' (NEPAD).

The authors go beyond simple critical realism. Having analysed the flawed economic policies of both the colonial and post-independence governments, they then analyse weaknesses of the proposed MDC policies before offering possible, practical solutions. Among the solutions proposed are anti-apartheid global strategies, concrete financial strategies, domestic self-reliance and Zimbabwe's options.

Zimbabwe's Plunge is definitely a book that must be read by anyone interested in an unbiased view of the global and domestic geo-politics and the manner in which they have destroyed the once vibrant economy of the country.

© The author/publisher

Review of Zimbabwe's Plunge - Gwaze

Zimbabwe's Plunge
Exhausted Nationalism, Neoliberalism and the Search for Social Justice
Patrick Bond and Masimba Manyanya
2003: 230 x 150; 324pp
ISBN 1 77022 005 7

22 May 2003

Zimbabwe's Plunge is a book that analyses the country's unfolding economic and political tragedy and offers the challenge of constructing alternative politics to Zimbabweans struggling for democratic change.

Co-authored by Patrick Bond, a teacher at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and Masimba Manyanya, a former chief economist in the finance ministry, the book is the second edition to the one published last year.

In five easy-to-read analytical chapters, the authors explore the economic, political and globalisation constraints that have plunged the country into its worst crisis since independence from Britain 23 years ago.

'In spite of the intervening parliamentary and presidential election campaigns, the subsequent months witnessed intense social turmoil, a massive increase in state repression and severe economic deterioration,' says the book's foreword. 'But to our regret, there have been surprisingly few public debates over the linkages between financial and political phenomena, whether past, present or future.'

The authors try to investigate the legacies of the pre-independence debt, which the Rhodesian government incurred when it borrowed funds from the World Bank for the construction of the Kariba dam.

'More than US$65 million was required in debt servicing in 1980. Could the first democratic government not have done more to question the Odious Debt inheritance?' the authors probe the reader's mind in chapter one.

Zimbabwe's Plunge explores how the concept of free education and free markets, introduced by the government as post-war development strategies, failed to work and their repercussions on the current economic situation.

The authors also highlight how the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's (MDC) macro-economic model was a replica of the government's failed Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) that carried with it devastating socio-economic imbalances.

For them, the differences between MDC's Economic Stabilisation and Recovery Programme (ESARP) and ESAP are far greater than subtracting 'adjustment' and adding 'recovery' but the similarities are striking – empty promises and donor-funded policies.

The authors propose solutions to the country's crisis and leave them for the readers' discretion.

These include the repudiation of the foreign debt, deflation of the domestic debt, regulation of the foreign exchange system and the existence of a benevolent state.

However, for a timely and provocative account of the crisis currently unfolding in the country, Zimbabwe's Plunge is the book to read.

© The author/publisher