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Prosperity to Pain: How did it get this bad? by underground

Death of a nation – Part One: Prosperity to Pain: How did it get this bad?

Here’s a bit of background on Zimbabwe, sourced from a few websites, although mainly old wikipedia. A lot of the articles on Zimbabwe have disputed neutrality and a lack of citations. Feel free to comment if there are any errors!

Formally Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe Rhodesia, Zimbabwe came into existence following the Bush War (1964-1979), with Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union and Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union fighting the government forces of Ian Smith and then Abel Muzorewa, eventuating in the transition to majority rule in 1980. The country was then granted independence from Great Britain on April 18 of the same year. In 1965, Ian Smith had declared that “not in one thousand years, not in my lifetime” would black majority rule come to his country, but fifteen years later he had retired to his farm, ousted from power by Mugabe’s liberation movement.

Mugabe’s governance, although largely popular, did not start off without a hitch. There was a continuing  rivalry between Zapu and Zanu, which lead to guerrilla activity by Zapu against Mugabe. Unrest in Matabeleland by pro-Nkomo dissidents prompted the deployment in 1983 and 1984 of thousands of government troops into the area, who were subsequently accused of human rights abuses and atrocities. Nkomo left for England and did not return until Mugabe guaranteed his safety, eventually talks led to the uniting of the two rival parties in 1988.

The international community praised Prime Minster Robert Mugabe (later President as roles were combined) for his efforts of reconciliation with the white minority who had previous maintained racist governance, and was considered a hero in Zimbabwe and on the African continent. In 1994 Mugabe was gifted an honorary knighthood (which has recently been stripped) by Queen Elizabeth. His leadership was touted as a model for the continent, with a stable economy and relatively good standards of living for the people of Zimbabwe. His popularity at home was reflected in the polls, with elections returning him and his Zanu-Pf party to power with a larger majority in 1990, 1995 and 1996.

Like South Africa, the colonial past and the racist policies of white minority governments had led to inequalities between black and white citizens, and so policies were enacted to addressed these differences. In 1990 it was declared that half of the land belonging to white farmers would be allocated to blacks. Political analyst Brian Nkarogo said of the land redistributions: “The land reform program has been a disaster. It was a necessary process — we needed to redistribute to deal with historical factors — but because it was ad hoc, violent and destructive, it didn’t result in economic growth and social integration.”

Many white farmers lost their land without reparations; some lost their lives in the violence that followed. Many have relocated abroad to escape the violence.

Often the land was handed over to party loyalists and others who did not know how to look after the land and keep it productive, and as a consequence many of the farms are now in ruin. As a result of this and later sanctions placed on the state by Europe, the United States, and other economies, the price of food has skyrocketed, as has the prices of other daily requirements.

Towards the end of the decade, Mugabe has faced greater internal opposition, as the economy started to nose dive. In each election since 2000, Mugabe has faced the challenge of trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai, and his party the MDC. Each time Mugabe has seen him off at the polls, but not without accusations of political violence and election rigging. Since the turn of the century Mugabe has stepped up his redistribution of land programme, sending the country further into economic and social ruin.

A recent BBC story summed up the move from prosperity to pain for the African nation:

In May, the central bank issued a 500m Zimbabwe dollar banknote, worth US$2 at the time of issue, to try to ease cash shortages amid the world’s highest rate of inflation.

This is in stark contrast with the situation at independence in 1980 when one Zimbabwe dollar was worth more than US$1.

With the cost of living increasing, and rights and freedoms decreasing, Mugabe ceases to be the hero to many he once was.

Part Two: Democracy: Is there promise in the polls?

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