Zimbabwe: In an Unholy Mess

I remember the geography lesson taught back in those school days where we learnt about Zimbabwe being one of the leading producers of tobacco, cotton and renowned for being home to one of the natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. Time has passed and so have the major facts for the country, for the worse that we know of.

Zimbabwe had the highest inflation rate in the world for a few years, also reaching an utterly unbelievable 231 million percent in 2008. So much so that the Zimbabwean dollar was officially declared worthless and on 12 April, 2009, the government announced that it will be put out of use for at least a year until the economy paces up with the US dollar and the South African currency ‘rand’. Hyperinflation left no cash for imports; hence zapping out every tiny saving and compelled critical shortage of food, fuel, water, electricity and basic necessities. With even the indispensible stock missing from shops, agricultural activity barred frozen, school door closed and wickedly vulnerable security state; the quality of life experienced by Zimbabweans is painfully dilapidated. It all began exactly three decades ago, when the then-celebrated ZANU party with Robert Mugabe as their leader, came to ‘reign’ that provably holds the stellar responsibility for the grave political and economic decline and international isolation that the country is witnessing today and possibly until time beyond anticipation.

Ending the long-drawn-out guerilla war against the white minority government under Ian Smith under shadow of an agreement, President Robert Mugabe snatched Zimbabwe’s political control from them marking the history pages for being the ‘country’s first black leader’ in 1980. In the stated intention to profit the landless black Zimbabweans, all the commercial farms under white-minority were compulsively seized causing failed production scale and a slow murder of an agriculture-based economy since early 1990s. Sarcastically beneficial land reforms and the barbaric behavior compelled by Mugabe’s ZANU party continually succeeded to sustain itself in position quelling mass protests in ease. By 2005, inflation was rising exponentially resulting 80 percent of the 12.5 million population of the country living in unemployment, in wake of which the government brought “Operation Murambatsvina” forcing to clear urban slums, in turn making 18 percent of the population then homeless. Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) came into picture by 2000 only to drain their hot-blooded enthusiasm in disgustingly manipulated elections in 2000, 2002, 2005 and to be always greeted with lethal intolerance to any form of rebellion. Under mandatory pressure from Southern Africa Development Society (SADC) in January 2008 to launch a fair constitution for the state, Mugabe hastened the polls in March that year disregarding MDC’s call to settle for a righteous constitution draft before it. Once again, a dubious poll took place with only favoring media and countries as observers. For the first time, ZANU party lost parliament to MDC but screened the whole scene with country wide violence and ugly show of bullying. A power-sharing deal was finally signed between Mugabe and Tsvangirai under repeated SADC mediations but it quickly thwarted.

Media (Press, Radio, Television and Internet) in Zimbabwe is majorly kept state-run that stays busy in coaxing the government. A meager number of western and private groups managed to enter but drag in stiff. Fighting amplifying inflation and regular threats against publishing any slight criticism against the government; it can be said that media does exist for existent sake.

Strict refusal to fulfill several terms of Global Political Agreement (GPA), Mugabe’s ZANU party lingers to harassment, arrest and detention of MDC supporters thus leaving a skimpy majority of theirs in parliament. Human rights group cry foul about the ‘Kariba draft’ or the constitution draft that ZANU has been cowing MDC to accept. It’s said to be nastily designed to suit Mugabe to keep him secure for at least two more terms. SADC countries and donors can be expected to strategically approach the recovery program that the state desperately needs in all sectors from manipulated legal system to an impaired civil society. Commonwealth already seems to have washed its hands off the politics and the country’s anti-development ruckus.

HIV/AIDS virus has conquered territory in 20 percent of the adult population further depleting the average age of humans there which is anyway 43 in men and 44 in women. Cholera epidemic death toll is still under counting. One can never choose his/her homeland; its fate. Certainly, the residents of countries struggling to breathe in such dire situations would consider their birth in such lands ‘a curse’. Distressed and looted, at least one-third of the natives have already emigrated; now leaving only those still put up there that have completely lost hope from their lives and await their end.

Karnika Palwa

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sokwanele/2495254548/]