The Scene

A landlocked country in southern Africa bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Mozambique. Independence from white-minority rule was achieved in 1980 after almost 18 years of a guerrilla war known as The Second Chimeurenga.

The early 80’s saw modest economic gains as the newly enfanchised Africans, about 98% of the population, lacked access to 70% of the country’s arable land, owned by whites. The British/American brokered Lancaster House Agreement of 1980 allowed whites to hold onto most of the best farmland in the country under a policy of “a willing seller, a willing buyer”.

Not one easily enticed by democratic ideals, in 1982 President Mugabe outsed political rival Nkomo from his cabinet and set his North Korean-trained Five Brigade on a campaign to terrorize and murder ZAPU supporters in Matebeleland. These despotic measures brought about the breakdown of the ZANU-ZAPU coalition and the beginning of a limited guerrilla war. The guerrilla war ended in 1988 with the unification of ZANU and ZAPU as ZANU-PF. During this period, as well as into the early 1990’s, agricultural production would give the country its nickname as ‘the bread basket of Africa’. Archbishop Pius Ncube stated that this was a time when “of 53 countries in Africa, Zimbabwe had the second best economy to South Africa.”

As the 90’s progressed Mugabe’s recklessness would undo earlier successes. v Although lacking the finances to do so, dreams of plunder motivated Mugabe in 1998 to send troops into the Congo War. Eddie Cross, a blogger from Zimbabwe, noted that the decision to engage in a foreign war coupled with his “decision to pay the veterans of the Zimbabwean civil war some US$350 million in unbudgeted reparations” brought about the economy’s “tumble from the heights held in 1997.”

While the rural inhabitants had seen little benefit from the economic gains in the late 80’s to mid 90’s, those in the urban areas, “after years of working as indentured slaves during the colonial era, ordinary Zimbabweans began to experience gainful employment” (Zimbabwean Pundit). As prices increased due to Mugabe’s illconceived economic decisions, the working classes saw their purchasing power dicipate. The workers responed in 1998 with a wave of strikes which Mugabe eagerly crushed. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions, used the popularity gained during the strikes to become the leader of the MDC. The Movement for Democratic Change would become the most viable political party to challenge Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Unfortunately, as concluded by the Commonwealth Observer Group to the Zimbabwean Presidential Election of 2002 “the conditions in Zimbabwe did not adeequately allow for a free expression of will by the electors.”

Zimbabwe, at the hands of Robert Mugabe, has plumeted from having been the bread basket of Africa to having the fastest shrinking economy in the world. “It is now ranked 90th on the list of the world’s 94 poorest countries.” This need not have happened as concluded in a US Department of State Report in 2003. It is a manmade crisis, it is “the theft of opportunity (where) a small, wealthy elite steals from an impoverished minority, and uses the power of the state to terrorize all those who stand up in protest.”