f_0016384_14182

f_0016384_14182 - Zimbabwe: Benchmarks to Recovery James D....

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The Ambassadors REVIEW 19 Zimbabwe: Benchmarks to Recovery James D. McGee United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe United States Ambassador to Madagascar, 2004-2007 United States Ambassador to the Union of the Comoros, 2006-2007 United States Ambassador to Swaziland, 2002-2004 or years analysts have been predicting that Zimbabwe had reached rock bottom and that a turn-around was imminent. For years they have been wrong, and Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party have maintained political control while simultaneously destroying Zimbabwe’s once thriving economy. The question now is whether the post- election violence and hyper-inflation of 2008 finally marked the turning point for Zimbabwe, and if the new unity government can begin to bring Zimbabwe out of its decade-long collapse. When Zimbabwe achieved majority rule and independence in 1980 it was one of the bright hopes of Africa. Its currency was as strong as the British pound, Robert Mugabe appeared to be an educated and enlightened leader, and all sides committed to moving past troubled colonial race relations. At first the optimism appeared justified. Zimbabwe’s economy boomed, money was poured into education, health care and infrastructure and the bitter history of racism didn’t tear the society apart. By the early 1990s, Zimbabwe had one of the highest literacy rates in Africa (and one as high as the United States), a solid economy based on agriculture, mining and production and was a true regional leader. Unfortunately this was the high point for Zimbabwe. As the 1990s progressed Mugabe’s dictatorial tendencies came to the fore and he began to ruthlessly suppress political opposition. In order to meet increasing demands from his base Mugabe began his chaotic, and ill-fated, land redistribution program. The violent take-over of many white- owned farms, which continues today, crippled the economy and sparked increasing unemployment and inflation. In 2000, a newly-formed opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), successfully led a campaign to defeat a new constitution backed by Mugabe and ZANU-PF. ZANU-PF subsequently rigged elections in 2002, 2005 and 2008 in order to maintain their grip on power. The most recent elections, in March 2008, saw the MDC win a majority in Parliament and MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, win more votes than Mugabe. ZANU-PF responded by claiming a Presidential run-off was required because no candidate won 50 percent plus one of the votes, and then began a brutal campaign of violence to force the MDC to submit. Following a run-off, in which the MDC did not participate, and months of wrangling and international pressure, the two sides signed an agreement on September 15, 2008, to form a unity government with Tsvangirai as Prime Minister. That government was finally sworn in on February 11, 2009. F
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f_0016384_14182 - Zimbabwe: Benchmarks to Recovery James D....

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