When Zimbabwe finally bailed out of the colonial era, this country was full of hope that it would be one of the most powerful countries in Africa. This was, however, a mere hope. President Robert Mugabe has never let go of his power. Meanwhile, the country has struggled in a serious recession and the Mugabe Administration was unable to solve it. Yet, on July 31, President Mugabe was reelected as president for the seventh time. As a result of the general election, another five years with Mugabe lies ahead for the common Zimbabwean. The question is whether Mugabe can solve the problems of his country in the next five years or not.
▲ Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. Provided by Bratannia.Com
The Beginning-the Emergence of a Liberation Hero
It has been only 48 years since Zimbabwe declared its independence from the United Kingdom (UK). Still, after the declaration, this country went through a 15-year civil war until its independence was finally recognized by international societies. The civil war of Zimbabwe, also known as the Rhodesian Bush War, was started with the UK’s disapproval of Zimbabwe’s independence and strong opposition from native organizations.
When Smith’s Rhodesian Frontier (RF) Administration legislated a constitution which only favored a white-colonial minority, UK filed a petition with the international society and imposed a trade sanction on Zimbabwean. UK stated that they cannot allow independence before the legislation of a constitution for a majority. Still, Smith’s RF intensified their constitution in a more discriminative way. Naturally, the Smith Administration faced major oppositions from the African society led by the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African Nation Union (ZANU).
As the guerilla operation and international sanction heightened, the Smith Administration negotiated with comparatively moderate African leaders, established a biracial country, and named the country as Zimbabwe Rhodesia. Nevertheless, the new government still completely excluded the rebel forces like ZAPU and ZANU; thereby, the civil war continued. Finally, with a mediation of western countries like the UK and the United States (U.S.), the major interests of Zimbabwe reached the Lancaster House Agreement (LHA) and ended the war in 1979.
Robert Mugabe started his political career in this confusing era. As he took over the reins of ZANU in 1974, he led the militant faction and fought against the Smith Administration based on the viewpoint that most foundations of the past that had been built before the 20th century must be destroyed. He also participated in the process of the LHA as a representative of ZANU, won a landslide victory in the first election of Zimbabwe and become the first prime minister of the country in 1980.
▲ Ian Smith signs the declaration of Independence of Rhodesia. Provided by Magazine of History, Oxford University Press
The beginning of Mugabe’s reign was smooth. His devotion to liberation of the country was praised and he naturally gained credit from the nation’s people. Based on the country’s strong agricultural sector, the country was called the breadbasket of Southern Africa. Yet, this prosperity of a young country did not last long. Entering the 1990s, Zimbabwe’s economy experienced a huge downturn. Mugabe failed to reverse such a trend of recession, but never gave up his power, causing political commotions.
Today-Problems that a Dictatorship Made
“Zimbabwe has a great capacity in their economy. This capacity, notwithstanding, is eclipsed by political problems,” said Instructor Kim Gwang Su (Academy of General Education). Maintaining a 4.5 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, Zimbabwe’s economy seemed to be heading in the right direction. However, when President Mugabe decided to pay a bonus to independence war veterans, the Zimbabwean government spent as much as three percent of their GDP in 1997. Yet, the Zimbabwean government failed to recover from a huge loss of their money next year since they spent other unexpected expenditures in the Congo civil war in 1998 and the nation-wide drought which devastated the country’s agricultural industry.
In 2000, President Mugabe announced the Land Acquisition Act by which farmers who had European backgrounds were forced off the land, and then the land was redistributed to the native people. “The problem that one or two percent of Britons in Zimbabwe occupies the 45 percent of Zimbabwean land must be tackled. Still, Mugabe carried out the land reformation in the worst way, only having a purpose of regaining his popularity,” Kim commented.
Despite the positive response in terms of ensuring peace and stability among various ethnicities, Mugabe’s land reform cannot be free from its detrimental damage to the economy. Since the reformation did not give organized instructions, the system of original owners was not implemented to the comparatively unskillful new owners. Therefore, Zimbabwe experienced the decrease in the level of agricultural output. This amplified the food shortage problem and caused a 51 percent drop in agricultural output from 2000 to 2007.
Meanwhile, the value of Zimbabwean currency has rapidly declined; in other words, Zimbabwean dollars went through hyper-inflation. The inflation rate of Zimbabwe was 58.5 percent in 2000, and has risen to 6,723 percent in 2007, then to 231 million percent in 2008. Moreover, President Mugabe implemented a new policy called the indigenization program, which stipulated that foreign companies on Zimbabwe’s border should be jointly owned by Zimbabweans. This policy made international investors reluctant to invest their money in Zimbabwe.
The political situation, however, only exacerbated the economic situation. Prevalent corruptions among government officials are one factor. As U.S. president Barack Obama also pointed out on his speech on July 1, “the promise of liberation gave away to corruption of power and then the collapse of the economy. Zimbabwe…used to be one of the wealthiest countries on the continent. And that governance has led an economic situation.” To tackle this problem, Mugabe organized a coalition government with his political opponents in his last term, yet this only accelerated the corruption by eliminating such a group that can monitor the government actions and policies.
Furthermore, the coalition government was divided due to the allegation that President Mugabe and his political party, ZANU – Patriotic Front (PF) were involved in a fraudulent election in the recent general election. Unable to solve the existing corruptions, the coalition government ended up in failure, making a big problem all the bigger as it was split. In the recent election, Morgan Tsvangirai, a former prime minister of Zimbabwe, ran for president and was defeated by Mugabe. He and his party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), however, did not accept the election result and filed a legal challenge.
Although Tsvangirai withdrew his challenge a few days later, his withdrawal does not represent reconciliation between the two parties. Rather, Tsvangirai said that he had no other option since he was interfered with while he tried to get a key document for a petition which implies further commotion between the two parties. Against this allegation, President Mugabe said in his speech at Heroes Acre on August 11, “Those who are depressed about losing the election can go hang themselves if they wish. Even dogs will not sniff their corpses,” which is a clear attack on his rival.
Besides the economical and political problems, human rights issues are the other major problem that President Mugabe and his government should tackle. Zimbabwe has been criticized that law enforcement agencies, especially the police, which should protect their citizens from violence, boss the serial actions of violence, including assaults, torture, death threats, kidnapping and unlawful arrest and detentions. Yet, President Mugabe seemed to endorse police brutality. When 200 people who attempted to lead a nationwide workers’ strike were beaten and tortured by the police, President Mugabe commented, “When the police say move, move; if you do not move, you invite the police to use force.”
Also in the western parts of the country, there is a Marange valley stained with human rights abuses including rape, child labor, and mass killings. Known as one of the world’s richest diamond deposit, which have an estimated worth of up to 800 billion dollars and is viable for the next 80 years, Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields is the place riddled with forced labor.
Failing in getting a job in a country with a 90 percent unemployment rate, numbers of men, women, and even children are driven to illegal mining in Marange, hiding from the international company who controls the fields. Profits from these illegal “blood diamond” sales are funding Mugabe’s party; thereby, the issues in Marange valley are hardly solved by Mugabe’s government.
▲ Morgan Tsvangirai is challenging the poll, saying that it is “glaring evidence of the stolen vote.” Provided by thezimbabwedaily.com
Future-Zimbabwe at the Crossroad
Zimbabwe went through several interferences by the international society since its independence. The day following the declaration of independence, the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution that they did not accord its independence. More recently, the U.S. Congress passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in order to provide Zimbabwe for a transition to democracy and to promote economic recovery in 2001.
A question arose – then, why are international societies so interested in Zimbabwe’s situation? “Instability of Zimbabwe is instability of Southern Africa; that is to say, instability of the Africa continent,” Kim explained. Since an estimated number of more than one million people are now illegally moving to the most developed country in the Africa continent, the Republic of South Africa, the issue of stabilizing the situation of Zimbabwe has become the interest of Africa and international societies.
▲ The location of Zimbabwe. Provided by commons.wikimedia.org
Robert Mugabe, as a sole leader of the country since its independence, has governed Zimbabwe for 33 years, but it was not that successful. The problems that his government has made are unlikely to be resolved in the next five-year term of Mugabe. Kim, however, pointed out hopes of Zimbabwe, “Having the highest fervor for education and abundant natural resource, it is beyond question that Zimbabwe will stand out as a superpower of Africa on the assumption that the current political problems are solved,” implying that this country, once so full of hope, might not be so hopeless as its recent decades have hinted.