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Friday, July 4, 2014

Zimbabwe Faces an Uphill Struggle after Mugabe

This is an article I wrote for the Student Center for African Research and Resolutions, a student think tank in Washington, D.C. Check them out at for more student-produced news regarding African affairs. This article can also be accessed in SCARR's blog section.

This article was originally published on June 27, 2014. 

Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, recently celebrated his 90th birthday. He has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, and his rule has been characterized by terror and dictatorship. The Fifth Brigade, his security force and secret police, is reminiscent of North Korea’s. His political party, the ZANU-PF, is fiercely anti-colonial and racist. His land reform programs in the 1980s and 1990s forced the white minority violently out of the country and obliterated Zimbabwe’s previously strong agricultural industry, and now the country’s economy is in shambles. 
There isn’t much of an opposition to Mugabe, but whatever opposition exists will likely be thrust into the spotlight when Mugabe either resigns or dies. They have a lot of work to do, if they even get a chance to stop their country’s bleeding.

A secession debate, largely covert, has started among those in the ruling party in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean Army has expressed support for Sydney Sekeramayi, Zimbabwe’s current Minister of Defense, and cited his knowledge of security issues, but factions threaten to tear ZANU-PF apart.

The international community has been relatively quiet about Zimbabwe. Former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa pursued “quiet diplomacy” with Mugabe rather than outright criticizing his brutal rule, which accomplished very little. Zimbabwe’s large mineral wealth is widely consumed by the EU, who has only minimal sanctions against the Mugabe regime.

Zimbabwe, like its southern neighbor South Africa, has large mineral resources. However, South Africa, flawed as it is, is a democratic and progressing nation, whereas Zimbabwe is obviously not.

The end of Mugabe’s rule represents hope for this country that’s been ravaged by his 34 years of rule, but it will take a long time to reverse the effects of Mugabe’s awful rule.  Whoever succeeds Mugabe will have to rebuild Zimbabwe’s economy from the ground up. Zimbabwe was once a wealthy breadbasket of Southern Africa, but the ZANU-PF has wiped out the white minority and with it, the agricultural industry through ethnic cleansing and widespread emigration.

Zimbabwe’s problems reach far and wide. The Zimbabwean population is very young, more than 50 percent of the population is under 24. AIDS and other infectious diseases are prevalent. TheZimbabwean dollar has become all but useless, and the people use the South African Rand or US Dollar instead.

Infrastructure and civil society barely exist in Zimbabwe, and if Mugabe’s successor wishes to establish a democracy and functional country, this will be especially important, especially with a young population. Sixty-eight percent of Zimbabweans live below the poverty line. The literacy rate is only 83 percent. Zimbabwe’s Human Development Index is a paltry 0.397, barely higher than Afghanistan. In a country like Zimbabwe, there’s really nowhere to go but up.

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