|Republic of Zimbabwe|
|Flag||Coat of Arms|
|Prime minister||Morgan Tsvangirai|
|Area||150,871 sq. miles|
|GDP 2006||$30.581 billion|
|GDP per capita||$2,607|
Zimbabwe, formerly the Republic of Rhodesia and the colony Southern Rhodesia, is a nation in south-central Africa. It has borders with South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. A dispute exists whether Zimbabwean territory touches that of Namibia at the extreme westernmost point of Zimbabwe. The country has an area of 150,873 square miles (390,759 sq km) and a population of 12.3 million (2007 est). The capital city is Harare.
Primarily of the Bantu group of south and central Africa, the black Zimbabweans are divided into two major language groups, which are subdivided into several ethnic groups. The Mashona (Shona speakers), who constitute about 75% of the population, have lived in the area the longest and are the majority language group. The Matabele (Sindebele speakers), representing about 20% of the population and centered in the southwest around Bulawayo, arrived within the last 150 years. An offshoot of the South African Zulu group, they maintained control over the Mashona until the white occupation of Rhodesia in 1890.
More than half of white Zimbabweans, primarily of English origin, arrived in Zimbabwe after World War II. Afrikaners from South Africa and other European minorities, including Portuguese from Mozambique, also are present. Until the mid-1970s, there were about 1,000 white immigrants per year, but from 1976 to 1985 a steady emigration resulted in a loss of more than 150,000, leaving about 100,000 in 1992. Renewed white emigration in the late 1990s and early 2000s reduced the white population to less than 50,000. English, the official language, is spoken by the white population and understood, if not always used, by more than half of the black population.
The literacy rate is estimated at 90.5%. Primary and secondary schools were segregated until 1979 when racial restrictions were removed. Since independence, the educational system has been systematically enlarged by the Zimbabwean Government, which is committed to providing free public education to all citizens on an equal basis. As of the late 1970s, some 50% of the African children (5-19 years old) were listed officially as attending rural schools. Today, most African children attend primary school. Primary through post-secondary enrollment has expanded from 1 million to about 2.9 million since independence. About 40% of the rural primary schools were destroyed during the Rhodesian conflict, which delayed improvement of the rural education system. Higher education, offered at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare, the new National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, the new Africa (Methodist) University in Mutare, the new Midlands State Universuity in Gweru, the new Solusi University in Bulawayo (Seventh Day Adventist), the new Bindura University of Science in Bindura, fourteen teacher-training colleges, and twelve polytechnical institutes and industrial training centers, is being expanded with assistance from several donor countries.
- Population (2005 est.): 13,010,000.
- Annual growth rate (2003 est.): 0.83%. (Note: the population growth rate is depressed by an HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate estimated to be 18% and a high level of net emigration.)
- Ethnic groups: Shona 71%, Ndebele 16%, other African 11%, white 1%, mixed and Asian 1%.
- Religions: Christianity 75%, offshoot Christian sects, animist, and Muslim.
- Languages: English (official), Shona, Sindebele.
- Education: Attendance--mandatory for primary level. Adult literacy--90.5% (2004 est.).
- Health: Infant mortality rate--51.7/1,000 (2006 est.). Life expectancy--men 37 (2006), women 34 (2006).
- Work force (2006 est.): 900,000 in formal sector.
According to Zimbabwe's constitution, the president is head of state and head of government, and is elected for a 6-year term by popular majority vote. Parliament is bicameral and sits for up to a 5-year term. The 150-member house of assembly consists of 120 elected seats, 10 chiefs elected by their peers but influenced by the president, eight provincial governors and 12 non-constituency MPs appointed by the president. The parliament elects a speaker from outside its membership and a deputy speaker from among its members.
In September 2005 the government used its two-thirds majority in parliament to pass a constitutional amendment that established a 66-member Senate. The Senate consists of 50 elected seats, 6 seats directly appointed by the president, 8 chiefs elected from the 8 rural provinces (excluding the metropolitan provinces), and the president and vice president of the Council of Chiefs.
The Zimbabwean constitution institutionalizes majority rule and protection of minority rights. The elected government controls senior appointments in the public service, including the military and police, and the independent Public Service Commission is charged with making appointments at lower levels on an equitable basis.
The judiciary is headed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court who, like the other justices, is appointed by the president on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. The constitution has a bill of rights containing extensive protection of human rights. The bill of rights could not be amended for the first 10 years of independence except by unanimous vote of the parliament.
Zimbabwe is divided into eight provinces, each administered by a provincial governor appointed by the president. The provincial administrator and representatives of several service ministries assist the provincial governor. In 2004, the Mugabe government declared Bulawayo and Harare to be provinces with their own respective provincial governors even though there is no constitutional provision for these newly created positions.
Zimbabwe is governed by President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwean African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), which has dominated the legislative and executive branches since independence in 1980.
Principal Government Officials
- President--Robert Mugabe
- Prime Minister-- Morgan Tsvangirai
- Vice Presidents--Joseph Msika and Joice Mujuru
- Foreign Minister--Simbarashe Mumbengegwi
- Ambassador to the U.S.--Machinvenyika Tobias Mapuranga
Since independence, Zimbabwe has enunciated and follows a policy of "active nonalignment." In practice, this has meant that Zimbabwe usually adhered to positions established by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union; or, until it withdrew in 2003, the Commonwealth. Zimbabwe took a particular interest in the search for independence for Namibia (South-West Africa) from South Africa. In addition, as chairman of the front-line states in southern Africa, Zimbabwe spoke out vigorously against the policies of apartheid in South African and frequently called for the imposition of economic sanctions against Pretoria. In November 1982, Zimbabwe was chosen by the OAU to hold one of the non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council for the following two years, which brought it onto the center stage of world events and gave it much-needed experience in international affairs. In 1986, Zimbabwe was the site of the NAM summit meeting; Prime Minister Mugabe became chairman of that organization, giving both Mugabe and Zimbabwe added international visibility and responsibility.
Zimbabwe maintains embassies in the United States, United Kingdom, Egypt, Angola, Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria, India, Sweden, France, China, Malaysia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Swaziland, Belgium, Tanzania, Botswana, Serbia, Mozambique, Switzerland, Cuba, Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany, India, Italy, Russia, and South Africa. Sixty-six countries are represented in Harare as are several international organizations including UN institutions, the European Union, and the World Bank. Zimbabwe is a member of many international organizations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF); African Development Bank; The World Trade Organization; Southern African Development Community (SADC); Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA); African Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP, in association with the EU); Group of 77 (G-77); Group of 15 (G-15); NAM; African Union (AU); Customs Cooperation Council (CCC); and the World Federation of Trade Unions. The IMF Executive Board in July 2004 postponed until January 2005 deliberations on a recommendation for Zimbabwe's compulsory withdrawal from the institution. The IMF closed its Zimbabwe office in October 2004 in a decision not linked to the country's considerable arrears. Shortly after the March 2002 presidential election, the Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe from leadership councils for one year after the Commonwealth's election observer team found the conduct of the election seriously flawed. After this suspension was upheld in December 2003, Mugabe withdrew Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth.
Historically, Zimbabwe's closest links have been with the U.K.; however, in the past six years, this relationship has been very strained. The government has demonized Britain in the press, blaming the country for Zimbabwe's problems, and claiming that Britain reneged on promises made at Lancaster House to provide money for land reform. As with the U.S., thousands of Zimbabweans studied in the U.K., and private links remain close; however, official relations are strained.
Other West European countries have ties with Zimbabwe. The Scandinavian countries share certain philosophical affinities and have provided much assistance, as have France, Canada, and the Federal Republic of Germany. Portugal and Greece maintain links partly because of the sizable Portuguese and Greek communities in the country. Similar historical ties have led to the establishment of relations with India and Pakistan, and to a lesser extent, with Bangladesh. The government's "look east" policy has led to closer diplomatic relations with East Asian countries such as Malaysia and China.
Zimbabwe maintains diplomatic relations with virtually every African country, although some ties are closer than others. African nations with embassies in Harare are Algeria, Angola, Botswana, D.R.C., Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Ruled continuously by a liberation party, Zimbabwe developed and maintains close ties with a number of revolutionary states and organizations. Among these are the People's Republic of China, Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Libya, and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
At independence, then-Prime Minister Mugabe declared that integrating Zimbabwe's then three armed forces would be one of his government's top priorities. The existing Rhodesian forces were combined with the two guerilla armies--the 20,000-strong ZANLA forces of ZANU-PF and the 15,000-strong ZIPRA forces of PF-ZAPU. In July 1994 the combined Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) Headquarters was created. Currently the armed forces of Zimbabwe are completely integrated and are composed of an army (ZNA) and an air force (AFZ). In 1999, the Government of Zimbabwe sent a sizeable military force into the Democratic Republic of Congo to support the government of President Laurent Kabila. Those forces were largely withdrawn in 2002.
Although as of late 2004, the ZDF had an active duty strength of 33,000 and the air force about 4,000 men these numbers have come down substantially because of resignations due to poor pay and working conditions. Today, the ZDF is largely immobile and beset by shortages of supplies, including food. The U.S. Congress terminated support for military cooperation programs in 2001.
Properly managed, Zimbabwe's wide range of resources should enable it to support sustained economic growth. The country has an important percentage of the world's known reserves of metallurgical-grade chromite. Other commercial mineral deposits include coal, platinum, asbestos, copper, nickel, gold, and iron ore. However, for the country to benefit from these mineral deposits, it must attract foreign direct investment.
In the early 1970s, the economy experienced a modest boom. Real per capita earnings for blacks and whites reached record highs, although the disparity in incomes between blacks and whites remained, with blacks earning only about one-tenth as much as whites. After 1975, however, Rhodesia's economy was undermined by the cumulative effects of sanctions, declining earnings from commodity exports, worsening guerilla conflict, and increasing white emigration. When Mozambique severed economic ties, the Smith regime was forced to depend on South Africa for access to the outside world. Real gross domestic product (GDP) declined between 1974 and 1979. An increasing proportion of the national budget (an estimated 30%-40% per year) was allocated to defense, and a large budget deficit raised the public debt burden substantially.
Following the Lancaster House settlement in December 1979, Zimbabwe enjoyed a brisk economic recovery. Zimbabwe inherited one of the strongest and most complete industrial infrastructures in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as rich mineral resources and a strong agricultural base. Real growth for 1980-81 exceeded 20%. However, depressed foreign demand for the country's mineral exports and the onset of a drought cut sharply into the growth rate in 1982, 1983, and 1984. In 1985, the economy rebounded strongly due to a 30% jump in agricultural production. However it slumped in 1986 to a zero growth rate and registered a 3% contraction in GDP in 1987 due primarily to drought and foreign exchange crisis. Growth in 1988-90 averaged about 4.5%.
Since the mid-1990s, this infrastructure has been deteriorating rapidly, but remains better than that of most African countries. Poor management of the economy and political turmoil have led to considerable economic hardships. The Government of Zimbabwe's chaotic land reform program, recurrent interference with the judiciary, and maintenance of unrealistic price controls and exchange rates have led to a sharp drop in investor confidence. Since 1999, the national economy has contracted by as much as 35%; inflation vaulted over 7,634.8% (year on year) in July 2007; and there have been persistent shortages of foreign exchange, fuel, and food. Direct foreign investment has all but evaporated. In a desperate attempt to control inflation, the government forced firms and supermarkets to reduce prices by half in July 2007, which resulted in severe shortages of basic and other commodities.
Agriculture is no longer the backbone of the Zimbabwean economy. Large scale commercial farming has been effectively destroyed over the course of the last five years under the government's controversial land reform efforts starting in 2000. Corn is the largest food crop and tobacco had traditionally been the largest export crop, followed by cotton. Tobacco production in 2006, however, slumped to its lowest level--about 50 million kg--since independence, off from a peak in 2000 of 237 million kg. Gold production, another former key foreign currency source, slid by about 48% in the first half of 2007 to 4.54 metric tons compared to the corresponding period in 2006. Poor government management has exacerbated meager corn harvests in years of drought or floods, resulting in significant food shortfalls every year since 2001.
Paved roads link the major urban and industrial centers, but the condition of urban roads and the unpaved rural road network has deteriorated significantly since 1995 for lack of maintenance. Rail lines connect with an extensive central African railroad network, although railway track condition has also worsened in recent years, along with locomotive availability and utilization. The electric power supply has become erratic and blackouts are common due to low generator availability at the Kariba hydroelectric power plant and unreliable or nonexistent coal supplies to the country's large thermal plants. Telephone service is problematic, and new lines are difficult of obtain.
The largest industries are metal products, food processing, chemicals, textiles, clothing, furniture and plastic goods. Most manufacturers have sharply scaled back operations due to the poor operating climate and foreign exchange shortages. Zimbabwe is not a member of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and a number of textile businesses have migrated to other African countries in a bid to benefit from the opportunities offered by AGOA. Zimbabwean producers still export lumber products, certain textiles, chrome alloys and automobile windscreens to the U.S.
Zimbabwe is endowed with rich mineral resources. Exports of gold, asbestos, chrome, coal, platinum, nickel, and copper could lead to an economic recovery one day. No commercial deposits of petroleum have been discovered, although the country is richly endowed with coal-bed methane gas that has yet to be exploited.
With international attractions such as Victoria Falls, the Great Zimbabwe stone ruins, Lake Kariba, and extensive wildlife, tourism historically has been a significant segment of the economy and contributor of foreign exchange. The sector has contracted sharply since 1999, however, due to the country's declining international image.
As of 2008, the economy is in complete collapse. A decade ago, President Robert Mugabe said he was reclaiming ancestral lands from white farmland owners for poor black peasants. At the time Zimbabwe was a net exporter of food. Some land went to Mugabe's Cabinet ministers and generals, who left the fields untended, although a significant number of the 'resettlements' involved the rural poor, albeit initially in a highly disorganised manner . Hundreds of thousands of farm laborers and their families lost their jobs and homes. Now the country is dependent on foreign food aid. Eighty percent of the work force is unemployed and many with jobs don't earn enough to pay for bus fare. Inflation is the world's highest at 2.2 million percent. Independent economist say inflation is at 12.5 million percent. Due to inflation, a good costing $1 at the beginning of a month may cost $20 by month's end.  The situation has been stabilised somewhat thanks to a power-sharing agreement between the MDC and ZANU-PF. Inflation has been brought under control thanks to the scrapping of the previous currency, and political violence has decreased. However, tensions between the governing parties remain and the dire economic situation of the previous decade will make rebuilding a long and arduous process.
With considerable hydroelectric power potential and plentiful coal deposits for thermal power station, Zimbabwe is less dependent on oil as an energy source than most other comparably industrialized countries, but it still imports 40% of its electric power needs from the DRC, Mozambique and South Africa. Only about 15% of Zimbabwe's total energy consumption is accounted for by oil, all of which is imported. Zimbabwe imports about 1.2 billion liters of oil per year. Dependence on petroleum is managed through the price controls for vehicle fuels, the use of gasohol, and the substitution of diesel-electric locomotives on the railway system. Zimbabwe also has substantial coal reserves that are utilized for power generation, and recently discovered in Matabeleland province are coal bed methane deposits greater than any known natural gas field in Southern or Eastern Africa. In recent years, however, poor economic management and low foreign currency reserves have led to serious fuel shortages.
- GDP (2006 est.): U.S. $407.4 million (World Bank est).
- Real GDP growth rate (2006): -5.1%.
- Real per capita GDP (Reliable estimates of current GDP and population size are unavailable.)
- Avg. inflation rate: 7,634.8% (year-on-year, July 2007, by official accounts; private sector estimates are rougly triple the official figure).
- Natural resources: Deposits of more than 40 minerals including ferrochrome, gold, silver, platinum, copper, asbestos; 19 million hectares of forest (2000).
- Agriculture (15% of GDP): Types of crops and livestock--corn, cotton, tobacco, wheat, coffee, tea, sugarcane, peanuts, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs.
- Industry: manufacturing, public administration, commerce, mining, transport and communication.
- Trade (2006): U.S. exports--U.S. $47.58 million. U.S. imports--U.S. $103.28 million. Partners (2000 est.)--South Africa 22%, U.K. 10%, Germany 9%, U.S. 8%. Total imports (2004)--U.S. $1,989 million: most of these imports were construction and agricultural machinery, transportation equipment, data processing equipment and software, industrial machinery, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, and general manufactured products. Major suppliers--South Africa 34%, U.K. 10.8%, Germany 7.3%, U.S. 6%.
Archaeologists have found Stone-Age implements and pebble tools in several areas of Zimbabwe, a suggestion of human habitation for many centuries, and the ruins of stone buildings provide evidence of early civilization. The most impressive of these sites is the "Great Zimbabwe" ruins, after which the country is named, located near Masvingo. Evidence suggests that these stone structures were built between the 9th and 13th centuries A.D. by indigenous Africans who had established trading contacts with commercial centers on Africa's southeastern coast.
In the 16th century, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to attempt colonization of south-central Africa, but the hinterland lay virtually untouched by Europeans until the arrival of explorers, missionaries, ivory hunters, and traders some 300 years later. Meanwhile, mass migrations of indigenous peoples took place. Successive waves of more highly developed Bantu peoples from equatorial regions supplanted the original inhabitants and are the ancestors of the region's Africans today.
British Settlement and Administration
In 1888, Cecil Rhodes obtained a concession for mineral rights from local chiefs. Later that year, the area that became Southern and Northern Rhodesia was proclaimed a British sphere of influence. The British South Africa Company was chartered in 1889, and the settlement of Salisbury (now Harare, the capital) was established in 1890. In 1895, the territory was formally named Rhodesia after Cecil Rhodes under the British South Africa Company's administration.
Following the abrogation of the company's charter in 1923, Southern Rhodesia's white settlements were given the choice of being incorporated into the Union of South Africa or becoming a separate entity within the British Empire. The settlers rejected incorporation, and Southern Rhodesia was formally annexed by the United Kingdom that year. Until 1980, Rhodesia was an internally self-governing colony with its own legislature, civil service, armed forces, and police. Although Rhodesia was never administered directly from London, the United Kingdom always retained the right to intervene in the affairs of the colony, particularly in matters affecting Africans.
After 1923, European immigrants concentrated on developing Rhodesia's rich mineral resources and agricultural potential. The settlers' demand for more land led in 1934 to the passage of the first of a series of land apportionment acts that reserved certain areas for Europeans.
In September 1953, Southern Rhodesia was joined in a multiracial Central African Federation with the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in an effort to pool resources and markets. Although the federation flourished economically, the African population, who feared they would not be able to achieve self-government with the federal structure dominated by White Southern Rhodesians, opposed it. The federation was dissolved at the end of 1963 after much crisis and turmoil, and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland became the independent states of Zambia and Malawi in 1964.
Unilateral Declaration Of Independence (UDI)
The European electorate in Rhodesia, however, showed little willingness to accede to African demands for increased political participation and progressively replaced more moderate party leaders. In April 1964, Prime Minister Winston Field, accused of not moving rapidly enough to obtain independence from the United Kingdom, was replaced by his deputy, Ian Smith. Prime Minster Smith led his Rhodesian Front Party to an overwhelming victory in the 1965 elections, winning all 50 of the first roll seats and demoralizing the more moderate European opposition.
Although prepared to grant independence to Rhodesia, the United Kingdom insisted that the authorities at Salisbury first demonstrate their intention to move toward eventual majority rule. Desiring to keep their dominant position, the white Rhodesians refused to give such assurances. On November 11, 1965, after lengthy and unsuccessful negotiations with the British Government, Prime Minister Smith issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the United Kingdom.
The British Government considered the UDI unconstitutional and illegal but made clear that it would not use force to oppose it. On November 12, 1965, the United Nations also determined the Rhodesian Government and UDI to be illegal and called on member states to refrain from assisting or recognizing the Smith regime. The British Government imposed sanctions on Rhodesia and requested other nations to do the same.
On December 16, 1966, the UN Security Council, for the first time in history, imposed mandatory economic sanctions on a state. Rhodesia's primary exports including ferrochrome and tobacco, were placed on the selective sanctions list, as were shipments of arms, aircraft, motor vehicles, petroleum, and petroleum products to Rhodesia. On May 29, 1968, the Security Council unanimously voted to broaden the sanctions by imposing an almost total embargo on all trade with, investments in, or transfers of funds to Rhodesia and imposed restrictions on air transport to the territory.
In the early 1970s, informal attempts at settlement were renewed between the United Kingdom and the Rhodesian administration. Following the April 1974 coup in Portugal and the resulting shifts of power in Mozambique and Angola, pressure on the Smith regime to negotiate a peaceful settlement increased. In addition, sporadic antigovernment guerilla activity, which began in the late 1960s, increased dramatically after 1972, causing destruction, economic dislocation, casualties, and a slump in white morale. In 1974, the major African nationalists groups--the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which split away from ZAPU in 1963--were united into the "Patriotic Front" and combined their military forces, at least nominally.
In 1976, because of a combination of embargo-related economic hardships, the pressure of guerilla activity, independence and majority rule in the neighboring former Portuguese territories, and a U.K.-U.S. diplomatic initiative, the Smith government agreed in principle to majority rule and to a meeting in Geneva with black nationalist leaders to negotiate a final settlement of the conflict. Blacks represented at the Geneva meeting included ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo, ZANU leader Robert Mugabe, UANC chairman bishop Abel Muzorewa, and former ZANU leader Rev. Nadabaningi Sithole. The meeting failed to find a basis for agreement because of Smith's inflexibility and the inability of the black leaders to form a common political front.
On September 1, 1977 a detailed Anglo-American plan was put forward with proposals for majority rule, neutrally administered with pre-independence elections, a democratic constitution and the formation of an integrated army. Reactions were mixed, but no party rejected them. In the interim, on March 3, 1978, the Smith administration signed the "internal settlement" agreement in Salisbury with Bishop Muzorewa, Rev. Sithole, and Chief Jeremiah Chirau. The agreement provided for qualified majority rule and elections with universal suffrage. Following elections in April 1979, in which his UANC party won a majority, Bishop Muzorewa assumed office on June 1, becoming "Zimbabwe-Rhodesia's" first black prime minister. However, the installation of the new black majority government did not end the guerilla conflict that had claimed more than 20,000 lives since 1972.
Shortly after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's conservative government took power in May 1979, the British began a new round of consultations that culminated in an agreement among the Commonwealth countries as the basis for fresh negotiations among the parties and the British involving a new constitution, free elections and independence.
The British and the African parties began deliberations on a Rhodesian settlement at Lancaster House in London on September 10, 1979. On December 10, 1979, in preparation for the transition under British authority to officially recognized independence, the "Zimbabwe-Rhodesia" reverted de facto to colonial status. On December 12, British Governor Lord Christopher Soames arrived in Salisbury to reassert British authority over the colony. His arrival signaled the end of the Rhodesian rebellion and the "internal settlement," as well as the beginning of Zimbabwe's transition to independence. The United Kingdom lifted all remaining sanctions against Zimbabwe that day. The United States lifted sanctions effective December 16.
On December 21, after 3 months of hard bargaining, the parties signed an agreement at Lancaster House calling for a cease-fire, new elections, a transition period under British rule, and a new constitution implementing majority rule while protecting minority rights. The agreement specified that upon the granting of independence, the country's name would be Zimbabwe. The same day, the UN Security Council endorsed the settlement agreement and formally voted unanimously to call on member nations to remove sanctions.
During the transition period, nine political parties campaigned for the February 27-29 pre-independence elections. The elections were supervised by the British Government and monitored by hundreds of observers, most of whom concluded that, under the prevailing circumstances, the elections were free and fair and reflected the will of the people. Robert Mugabe's ZANU (PF) party won an absolute majority and was asked to form Zimbabwe's first government.
In a series of public statements during the transition period, Prime Minister Mugabe indicated that he was committed to a process of national reconciliation and reconstruction as well as moderate socioeconomic change. His priorities were to integrate the various armed forces, reestablish social services and education in rural areas, and resettle the estimated one million refugees and displaced persons. Mugabe also announced that his government would begin investigating ways of reversing past discriminatory policies in land distribution, education, employment, and wages.
Mugabe stated that Zimbabwe would follow a nonaligned foreign policy and would pursue a pragmatic relationship with South Africa. He noted that while Zimbabwe opposed apartheid and would support democratic change in South Africa, it would not provide bases for anti-South African guerillas.
The British Government formally granted independence to Zimbabwe on April 18, 1980. Most nations recognized Zimbabwe following independence. The United States was the first nation to open an embassy in Salisbury (Harare) on that day. Parliament convened for the first time on May 13, 1980. Zimbabwe became a member of the United Nations on August 25, 1980.
In seeking national reconciliation, Prime Minister Mugabe's first cabinet comprised members of ZANU-PF, PF-ZAPU, and independent white members of parliament (MPs) and senators. The government embarked on an ambitious reconstruction and development program and instituted increases in minimum wages. Land redistribution proceeded under four experimental models on land that the government had purchased at market rates from willing sellers.
Zimbabwe Since Independence
Prime Minister Mugabe's policy of reconciliation was generally successful during the country's first two years of independence, as the former political and military opponents began to work together. Although additional blacks were hired to fill new places in the civil service, there was no retribution for those whites who had worked for the Smith regime. Smith and many of his associates held seats in the parliament where they participated freely in debates. Likewise, Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe's rival as leader of the nationalist forces, was included in the first cabinet along with several other members of PF-ZAPU.
Splits soon developed, however. In 1981,several MPs from Smith's party left to sit as "independents," signifying that they did not automatically accept his anti-government posture. More importantly, government security officials discovered large caches of arms and ammunition on properties owned by ZAPU, and Nkomo and his followers were accused of plotting to overthrow Mugabe's government. Nkomo and his closest aides were expelled from the cabinet.
As a result of what they perceived as persecution of Nkomo (known as "Father Zimbabwe") and of his party, PF-ZAPU supporters, some of them deserters from the army, began a loosely organized and ill-defined campaign of dissidence against the government. Centering primarily in Matabeleland, home of the Ndebeles who were PF-ZAPU's main followers, this dissidence continued through 1987 and involved attacks on government personnel and installations, armed banditry aimed at disrupting security and economic life in the rural areas, and harassment of ZANU-PF members. Occasionally, some demanded that Nkomo and his colleagues be reinstated in the cabinet. More frequently, however, dissidents called for the return of farms and other properties seized from PF-ZAPU.
Because of the unsettled security situation immediately after independence and the continuing anti-government dissidence, the government kept in force a "state of emergency," which was first declared before UDI. This gave government authorities widespread powers under the "Law and Order Maintenance Act," including the right to detain persons without charge.
In 1983-84, the government declared a curfew in areas of Matabeleland and sent in the army in an attempt to suppress dissidents. Credible reports surfaced of widespread violence and disregard for human rights by the security forces during these operations, and the level of political tension rose in the country as a result. The pacification campaign, known as the "Gukuruhundi," or strong wind, resulted in as many as 20,000 civilian deaths. Nkomo and his lieutenants repeatedly denied any connection with the dissidents and called for an all-party conference to discuss the political problems facing the country. In the 1985 elections, ZANU-PF increased its majority, holding 67 of the 100 seats. ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU agreed to unite in December 1987, and the parties formally merged in December 1989.
In October 1987, in accordance with the Lancaster House Accords, the constitution was amended to end the separate roll for white voters and to replace the whites whose reserved seats had been abolished; among the new members were 15 whites in the Senate and House of Assembly. Elections in March 1990 resulted in another overwhelming victory for Mugabe and his party, which won 117 of the 120 election seats. However, voter turnout was only 54%, and the campaign was not free and fair although the actual balloting was. Not satisfied with a de facto one-party state, Mugabe called on the ZANU-PF Central Committee to support the creation of a de jure one-party state in September 1990 and lost. The state of emergency was lifted in July 1990.
After the remaining restrictions of the Lancaster House agreement expired on April 18, 1990, the government embarked on a campaign of amending the existing constitution. Both the judiciary and human rights advocates fiercely criticized some of the first amendments, which were enacted in April 1991, because they restored corporal and capital punishment and denied recourse to the courts in cases of compulsory purchase of land by the government.
During the 1990s students, trade unionists and workers often demonstrated to express their discontent with the government. Students protested in October 1990 against proposals for an increase in government control of universities and again in May 1991 and May 1992, when they clashed with police. Trade unionists and workers were also vocal critics of the government during this time. In June 1992, police prevented trade unionists from holding anti-government demonstrations. In 1994, there was widespread industrial unrest. In August and September 1996, thousands of civil servants demanding salary increases organized a national strike and in October and November of the same year, nurses and junior doctors went on strike over salary issues.
In part through its control of the media, the huge parastatal sector of the economy, and the security forces, the government managed to keep organized political opposition to a minimum through most of the 1990's. Beginning in 1999, however, Zimbabwe has experienced a period of considerable political and economic upheaval. Opposition to President Mugabe and the ZANU-PF government has grown in recent years, in part due to worsening economic and human rights conditions. The opposition is currently led by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which was established in September 1999.
The MDC's first opportunity to test opposition to the Mugabe government came in February 2000, when a referendum was held on a draft constitution proposed by the government. Among its elements, the new constitution would have permitted President Mugabe to seek two additional terms in office, granted government officials immunity from prosecution, and authorized government seizure of white-owned land. The referendum was handily defeated. Shortly thereafter, the government, through a loosely organized group of war veterans, sanctioned an aggressive land redistribution program often characterized by forced expulsion of white farmers and violence against both farmers and farm employees.
Parliamentary elections held in June 2000 were marred by localized violence, and claims of electoral irregularities and government intimidation of opposition supporters. Nonetheless, the MDC succeeded in capturing 57 of 120 seats in the National Assembly.
The March 2002 presidential election was preceded by months of intensive violence and intimidation against MDC supporters, and more than 50 people, mostly opposition supporters, were killed. President Mugabe was declared the winner over challenger Morgan Tsvangirai by a 56-to-42 percent margin. Most international observers condemned the election as seriously flawed--the pre-election environment was neither free nor fair, and the election itself was marred by significant fraud and rigging--but regional opinions were mixed. Soon after the election, the MDC filed a petition challenging Mugabe's victory, citing flaws in electoral laws, electoral irregularities and pre-election violence. As of the end of 2004, the case had not yet been decided.
As a result of this election, the United States, the EU, and other European countries imposed travel restrictions against senior Zimbabwean officials and embargoed the sale of arms to Zimbabwe. The U.S. and the EU also froze the financial assets of selected ruling party officials. The Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe from council meetings for one year after its election observer team found the election neither free nor fair. At the mid-term suspension review in March 2003, the three-country committee charged with deciding Zimbabwe's fate decided to continue the suspension until the next Commonwealth meeting in December 2003. At this meeting, despite vigorous campaigning by South Africa, Zimbabwe was not invited to attend the meeting and the Commonwealth decided to continue with the suspension. Immediately after this, Mugabe withdrew Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth.
Since the presidential election, the political climate has remained tense and intensely polarized. Violence escalated in the run up to rural council elections in September 2002 and various parliamentary by-elections that year. Parliamentary by-elections in Kuwadzana, Highfield, Zengeza, and Lupane in 2003 were marred by widespread intimidation and beatings. The government also passed legislation that curtailed free speech, free press, and rights of assembly. In March 2003, MDC leaders Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube, and Renson Gasela went on trial for treason. Charges against Ncube and Gasela were subsequently dropped and in October 2004 Tsvangirai was found not guilty. In August 2005, the government dropped a second charge of treason against Tsvangirai.
The government subscribed to the electoral principles of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2004 but failed to implement key elements of the principles in advance of the 2005 parliamentary elections. The campaign period and election day were largely non-violent, but the elections were not free and fair. The election process was marred by repressive legislation that limits freedom of speech and assembly; millions of expatriate Zimbabweans were not permitted to vote; the government used food distributions to influence an increasingly hungry population; an astonishingly high 10% (as high as 30% in some areas) of would-be voters were turned away; and discrepancies in officially announced results and the government's refusal to release key voting data have led to questions about the possibility of fraud.
In May 2005, the government began Operation Murambatsvina (also known as Operation Restore Order), ostensibly to rid urban areas of illegal structures, illegal business enterprises, and criminal activities. The International Organization for Migration estimated that at least 300,000 people were displaced nationwide, as the operation moved from urban areas into rural areas and included apparently legal structures. Families and traders, especially at the beginning of the operation, were often given no notice before police destroyed their homes and businesses. Others were able to salvage some possessions and building materials but often had nowhere to go, despite the government's statement that people should be returning to their rural homes. Thousands of families were left unprotected in the open in the middle of Zimbabwe's winter. The government interfered with non-governmental organization (NGO) efforts to provide emergency assistance to the displaced in many instances. Some families were removed to transit camps, where they had no shelter or cooking facilities and minimal food, supplies, and sanitary facilities. The operation continued into July 2005, when the government began a program to provide housing for the newly displaced. As of September 2006, housing construction fell far short of demand, and there were reports that beneficiaries were mostly civil servants and ruling party loyalists, not those displaced. The government campaign of forced evictions continued in 2006, albeit on a lesser scale.
- How Tyranny Came to Zimbabwe, Jimmy Carter still has a lot to answer for, by James Kirchick, The Weekly Standard, 06/18/2007, Volume 012, Issue 38.
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