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History of Zimbabwe

The history of Zimbabwe began with the end of the Bush War and the transition to majority rule in 1980. The United Kingdom ceremonially granted Zimbabwe independence on April 18, 1980 in accordance with the Lancaster House Agreement. In the 1990s Zimbabwe's economy began to deteriorate due to mismanagement and corruption. Economic instability led several members of the military to try to overthrow the government in a coup d'état.

Prime Minister Mugabe kept Peter Walls, the head of the army, in his government and put him in charge of integrating the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), and the Rhodesian Army. While Western media outlets praised Mugabe's efforts at reconciliation with the white minority, tension soon developed. On March 17, 1980, after several unsuccessful assassination attempts Mugabe asked Walls, "Why are your men trying to kill me?" Walls replied, "If they were my men you would be dead." BBC news interviewed Walls on August 11, 1980. He told the BBC that he had asked British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to annul the 1980 presidential election prior to the official announcement of the result on the grounds that Mugabe used intimidation to win the election. Walls said Thatcher had not replied to his request. On August 12 British government officials denied that they had not responded, saying Antony Duff, Deputy Governor of Salisbury, told Walls on March 3 that Thatcher would not annul the election.

Minister of Information Nathan Shamuyarira said the government would not be "held ransom by racial misfits" and told "all those Europeans who do not accept the new order to pack their bags." He also said the government continued to consider taking "legal or administrative action" against Walls. Mugabe, returning from a visit with United States President Jimmy Carter in New York City, said, "One thing is quite clear—we are not going to have disloyal characters in our society." Walls returned to Zimbabwe after the interview, telling Peter Hawthorne of Time magazine, "To stay away at this time would have appeared like an admission of guilt." Mugabe drafted legislation that would exile Walls from Zimbabwe for life and Walls moved to South Africa.

Independence and the 1980s

Zimbabwe Rhodesia regained its independence as Zimbabwe on April 18, 1980. The government held independence celebrations in Rufaro stadium in Salisbury, the capital. Lord Christopher Soames, the last Governor of Southern Rhodesia, watched as Charles, Prince of Wales, gave a farewell salute and the Rhodesian Signal Corps played God Save the Queen, the anthem of Commonwealth realms. Many foreign dignitaries also attended, including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India, President Shehu Shagari of Nigeria, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, President Seretse Khama of Botswana, and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser of Australia, representing the Commonwealth of Nations. Bob Marley sang 'Zimbabwe', a song he wrote, at the government's invitation in a concert at the country's independence festivities.

President Shagari pledged $15 million at the celebration to train Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe and expatriates in Nigeria. Mugabe's government used part of the money to buy newspaper companies owned by South Africans, increasing the government's control over the media. The rest went to training students in Nigerian universities, government workers in the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria in Badagry, and soldiers in the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna. Later that year Mugabe commissioned a report by the BBC on press freedom in Zimbabwe. The BBC issued its report on June 26, recommending the privatisation of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and its independence from political interests. See also: Foreign relations of Zimbabwe

Mugabe's government changed the capital's name from Salisbury to Harare on April 18, 1982 in celebration of the second anniversary of independence. The government renamed the main street in the capital, Jameson Avenue, in honor of Samora Machel, President of Mozambique.

The new Constitution provided for a non-executive President as Head of State with a Prime Minister as Head of Government. Reverend Canaan Banana served as the first President. In government amended the Constitution in 1987 to provide for an Executive President and abolished the office of Prime Minister. The constitutional changes came into effect on 1 January 1988 with Robert Mugabe as President. The bicameral Parliament had a directly-elected House of Assembly and an indirectly-elected Senate, partly made up of tribal chiefs. The Constitution established two separate voters rolls, one for the black majority, who had 80% of the seats in Parliament, and the other for whites and other ethnic minorities, such as Coloureds, people of mixed race, and Asians, who held 20%. The government amended the Constitution in 1986, eliminating the voter rolls and replacing the white seats with seats filled by nominated members. Many white MPs joined ZANU which then reappointed them. In 1990 the government abolished the Senate and increased the House of Assembly's membership to include members nominated by the President.

Ethnic divisions soon came back to the forefront of national politics. Tension between ZAPU and ZANU erupted with guerrilla activity starting again in Matabeleland in south-western Zimbabwe. Nkomo (ZAPU) left for exile in Britain and did not return until Mugabe guaranteed his safety. In 1982 government security officials discovered large caches of arms and ammunition on properties owned by ZAPU, accusing Nkomo and his followers of plotting to overthrow the government. Mugabe fired Nkomo and his closest aides from the cabinet. Seven MPs, members of the Rhodesian Front, left Smith's party to sit as "independents" on March 4, 1982, signifying their dissatisfaction with his policies. As a result of what they saw as persecution of Nkomo and his party, PF-ZAPU supporters, army deserters began a campaign of dissidence against the government. Centering primarily in Matabeleland, home of the Ndebeles who were at the time PF-ZAPU's main followers, this dissidence continued through 1987. It involved attacks on government personnel and installations, armed banditry aimed at disrupting security and economic life in the rural areas, and harassment of ZANU-PF members.

Because of the unsettled security situation immediately after independence and the continuing anti government dissidence, the government kept in force a "state of emergency". This gave the government widespread powers under the "Law and Order Maintenance Act," including the right to detain persons without charge which it used quite widely. In 1983 to 1984 the government declared a curfew in areas of Matabeleland and sent in the army in an attempt to suppress dissidents. Credible reports surfaced of widespread violence and disregard for human rights by the security forces during these operations, and the level of political tension rose in the country as a result. The pacification campaign, known as the Gukuruhundi, or strong wind, resulted in at least 20,000 civilian deaths perpetrated by an elite, communist-trained brigade, known in Zimbabwe as the Gukurahundi. The situation evolved into a low level civil war.

ZANU-PF increased its majority in the 1985 elections, winning 67 of the 100 seats. The majority gave Mugabe the opportunity to start making changes to the constitution, including those with regard to land restoration. Fighting did not cease until Mugabe and Nkomo reached an agreement in December 1987 whereby ZAPU became part of ZANU-PF and the government changed the constitution to make Mugabe the country's first executive president and Nkomo one of two vice presidents.

1990s

Elections in March 1990 resulted in another overwhelming victory for Mugabe and his party, which won 117 of the 120 election seats. Election observers estimated voter turnout at only 54% and found the campaign neither free nor fair., though balloting met international standards. Unsatisfied with a de facto one-party state, Mugabe called on the ZANU-PF Central Committee to support the creation of a de jure one-party state in September 1990 and lost. The government began further amending the constitution. The judiciary and human rights advocates fiercely criticised the first amendments enacted in April 1991 because they restored corporal and capital punishment and denied recourse to the courts in cases of compulsory purchase of land by the government. The general health of the civilian population also began to significantly flounder and by 1997 25% of the population of Zimbabwe had been infected by HIV, the AIDS virus.

During the 1990s students, trade unionists, and workers often demonstrated to express their discontent with the government. Students protested in 1990 against proposals for an increase in government control of universities and again in 1991 and 1992 when they clashed with police. Trade unionists and workers also criticised the government during this time. In 1992 police prevented trade unionists from holding anti-government demonstrations. In 1994 widespread industrial unrest weakened the economy. In 1996 civil servants, nurses, and junior doctors went on strike over salary issues.

On December 9, 1997 a national strike paralyzed the country. Mugabe was panicked by demonstrations by Zanla ex-combatants, war veterans, who had been the heart of incursions 20 years earlier in the Bush War. He agreed to pay them large gratuities and pensions, which proved to be a wholly unproductive and unbudgeted financial commitment. The discontent with the government spawned draconian government crackdowns which in turn started to destroy both the fabric of the state and of society. This is turn brought with it further discontent within the population. Thus a vicious downward spiral commenced.

Although many whites had left Zimbabwe after independence, mainly for neighbouring South Africa, those who remained continued to wield disproportionate control of some sectors of the economy, especially agriculture. In the late-1990s whites accounted for less than 1% of the population but owned 70% of arable land. Mugabe raised this issue of land ownership by white farmers. In a calculated move, he began forcible land redistribution, which brought the government into headlong conflict with the International Monetary Fund. Amid a severe drought in the region, the police and military were instructed not to stop the invasion of white-owned farms by the so-called 'war veterans' and youth militia. This has led to a mass migration of White Rhodesians out of Zimbabwe. At present almost no arable land is in the possession of white farmers; the country has also experienced a debilitating food shortage with the exodus of its White minority, turning the "breadbasket of Africa" into one of Africa's most food insecure states.

The economy during the 1980s and 1990s

The economy was run along corporatist lines with strict governmental controls on all aspects of the economy. Controls were placed on wages, prices and massive increases in government spending resulting in significant budget deficits. This experiment met with very mixed results and Zimbabwe fell further behind the first world and unemployment. Some market reforms in the 1990s were attempted. A 40 per cent devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar was allowed to occur and price and wage controls were removed. These policies also failed at that time. Growth, employment, wages, and social service spending contracted sharply, inflation did not improve, the deficit remained well above target, and many industrial firms, notably in textiles and footwear, closed in response to increased competition and high real interest rates. The incidence of poverty in the country increased during this time.

1999 to 2000

However, Zimbabwe began experiencing a period of considerable political and economic upheaval in 1999. Opposition to President Mugabe and the ZANU-PF government grew considerably after the mid-1990s in part due to worsening economic and human rights conditions. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was established in September 1999 as an opposition party founded by trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai.

The MDC's first opportunity to test opposition to the Mugabe government came in February 2000, when a referendum was held on a draft constitution proposed by the government. Among its elements, the new constitution would have permitted President Mugabe to seek two additional terms in office, granted government officials immunity from prosecution, and authorised government seizure of white-owned land. The referendum was handily defeated. Shortly thereafter, the government, through a loosely organised group of war veterans, sanctioned an aggressive land redistribution program often characterised by forced expulsion of white farmers and violence against both farmers and farm employees.

Parliamentary elections held in June 2000 were marred by localised violence, and claims of electoral irregularities and government intimidation of opposition supporters. Nonetheless, the MDC succeeded in capturing 57 of 120 seats in the National Assembly.

2002

Presidential elections were held in March 2002. In the months leading up to the poll, ZANU-PF, with the support of the army., , security services., and especially the so-called 'war veterans'., – very few of whom actually fought in the Second Chimurenga against the Smith regime in the 1970s – set about wholesale intimidation and suppression of the MDC-led opposition . Despite strong international criticism. , these measures, together with organised subversion of the electoral process, ensured a Mugabe victory . The government’s behavior drew strong criticism from the EU and the USA, which imposed limited sanctions against the leading members of the Mugabe regime. Since the 2002 election, Zimbabwe has suffered further economic difficulty and growing political chaos.

2003-2005

Divisions within the opposition MDC had begun to fester early in the decade, after Morgan Tsvangirai (the president of the MDC) was lured into a government sting operation that videotaped him talking of Mr. Mugabe's removal from power. He was subsequently arrested and put on trial on treason charges. This crippled his control of party affairs and raised questions about his competence. It also catalyzed a major split within the party. In 2004 he was acquitted, but not until after suffering serious abuse and mistreatment in prison. , The opposing faction was led by Welshman Ncube who was the general secretary of the party. In mid-2004, vigilantes loyal to Mr. Tsvangirai began attacking members who were mostly loyal to Ncube, climaxing in a September raid on the party’s Harare headquarters in which the security director was nearly thrown to his death.

An internal party inquiry later established that aides to Tsvangirai had tolerated, if not endorsed, the violence. Divisive as the violence was, it was a debate over the rule of law that set off the party's final breakup in November 2005. These division severely weakened the opposition. In addition the government employed its own operatives to both spy on each side and to undermine each side via acts of espionage.. Zimbabwean parliamentary election, 2005 were held in March 2005 in which ZANU-PF won a two-thirds majority, were again criticised by international observers as being flawed. . Mugabe's political operatives were thus able to weaken the opposition internally and the security apparatus of the state was able to destabilize it externally by using violence in anti-Mugabe strongholds to prevent citizens from voting., . Some voters were 'turned away' from polling station despite having proper identification., , further guaranteeing that the government could control the results. Additionally Mugabe had started to appoint judges sympathetic to the government., , making any judicial appeal futile., . Mugabe was also able to appoint 30 of the Members of Parliament.

As Senate elections approached further opposition splits occurred. Ncube's supporters argued that the M.D.C. should field a slate of candidates; Tsvangirai's argued for a boycott. When party leaders voted on the issue, Ncube's side narrowly won, but Mr. Tsvangirai declared that as president of the party he was not bound by the majority's decision. Again the opposition was weakened. As a result the elections for a new Senate in November 2005 were largely boycotted by the opposition. Mugabe's party won 24 of the 31 constituencies where elections were held amid low voter turnout. Again, evidence surfaced of voter intimidation and fraud., .

In May 2005 the government began Operation Murambatsvina. It was officially billed to rid urban areas of illegal structures, illegal business enterprises, and criminal activities. In practice its purpose was to punish political opponents., . The UN estimates 700,000 people have been left without jobs or homes as a result., . Families and traders, especially at the beginning of the operation, were often given no notice before police destroyed their homes and businesses., . Others were able to salvage some possessions and building materials but often had nowhere to go, despite the government's statement that people should be returning to their rural homes. Thousands of families were left unprotected in the open in the middle of Zimbabwe's winter., . The government interfered with non-governmental organisation (NGO) efforts to provide emergency assistance to the displaced in many instances., . Some families were removed to transit camps, where they had no shelter or cooking facilities and minimal food, supplies, and sanitary facilities. The operation continued into July 2005, when the government began a program to provide housing for the newly displaced.

Human Rights Watch said the evictions had disrupted treatment for people with HIV/Aids in a country where 3,000 die from the disease each week and about 1.3 million children have been orphaned. The operation was "the latest manifestation of a massive human rights problem that has been going on for years", said Amnesty International. As of September 2006, housing construction fell far short of demand, and there were reports that beneficiaries were mostly civil servants and ruling party loyalists, not those displaced. The government campaign of forced evictions continued in 2006, albeit on a lesser scale.

In September 2005 Mugabe signed constitutional amendments that reinstituted a national senate (abolished in 1987) and that nationalised all land. This converted all ownership rights into leases. The amendments also ended the right of landowners to challenge government expropriation of land in the courts and marked the end of any hope of returning any land that had been hitherto grabbed by armed land invasions. Elections for the senate in November resulted in a victory for the government. The MDC split over whether to field candidates and partially boycotted the vote. In addition to low turnout there was widespread government intimidation. The split in the MDC hardened into factions, each of which claimed control of the party. The early months of 2006 were marked by food shortages and mass hunger. The sheer extremity of the siltation was revealed by the fact that in the courts, state witnesses said they were too weak from hunger to testify.

2006 to 2007

In August 2006 runaway inflation forced the government to replace its existing currency with a revalued one. In December 2006, ZANU-PF proposed the "harmonisation" of the parliamentary and presidential election schedules in 2010; the move was seen by the opposition as an excuse to extend Mugabe's term as president until 2010.

Morgan Tsvangirai was badly beaten on March 12, 2007 after being arrested and held at Machipisa Police Station in the Highfield suburb of Harare. The event garnered an international outcry and was considered particularly brutal and extreme, even considering the reputation of Mugabe's government. "We are very concerned by reports of continuing brutal attacks on opposition activists in Zimbabwe and call on the government to stop all acts of violence and intimidation against opposition activists," said Kolawole Olaniyan, Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme.

The economy has shrunk by 50% from 2000 to 2007. In September 2007 the inflation rate was put at almost 8,000%, the world's highest. There are frequent power and water outages. Harare's drinking water became unreliable in 2006 and as a consequence dysentery and cholera swept the city in December 2006 and January 2007. Unemployment in formal jobs is running at a record 80%. There is widespread famine, which has been cynically manipulated by the government so that opposition strongholds suffer the most. Most recently, supplies of bread have dried up, after a poor wheat harvest, and the closure of all bakeries.

The country used to be one of Africa's richest and is now one of its poorest. Many observers now view the country as a 'failed state'. The settlement of the Second Congo War brought back Zimbabwe's substantial military commitment, although some troops remain to secure the mining assets under their control. The government lacks the resources or machinery to deal with the ravages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which affects 25% of the population. With all this and the forced and violent removal of white farmers in a brutal land redistribution program, Mugabe has earned himself widespread scorn from the international arena.

The regime has managed to cling to power by creating wealthy enclaves for government ministers, and senior party members. For example Borrowdale Brook, a suburb of Harare is an oasis of wealth and privilege. It features mansions, manicured lawns, full shops with fully stocked shelves containing an abundance of fruit and vegetables, big cars and a golf club give is the home to President Mugabe's out-of-town retreat.

Zimbabwe's bakeries shut down in October 2007 and supermarkets warned that they would have no bread for the foreseeable future due to collapse in wheat production after the seizure of white-owned farms. The ministry of agriculture has also blamed power shortages for the wheat shortfall, saying that electricity cuts have affected irrigation and halved crop yields per acre. The power shortages are due to the fact that Zimbabwe relies on Mozambique for some of its electricity and that due to an unpaid bill of $35 million Mozambique had reduced the amount of electrical power it supplies. On December 4, 2007, The United States imposed travel sanctions against 38 people with ties to President Mugabe because they "played a central role in the regime's escalated human rights abuses."

On December 8, 2007, Mugabe attended a meeting of EU and African leaders in Lisbon, prompting UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to decline to attend. While German PM Angela Merkel criticized Mugabe with her public comments, the leaders of other African countries offered him statements of support.

Deterioration of the educational system

The educational system in Zimbabwe which was once regarded as among the best in Africa, has gone into crisis because of the country's economic meltdown. Almost a quarter of the teachers have quit the country, absenteeism is high, buildings are crumbling and standards plummeting. One foreign reporter witnessed hundreds of children at Hatcliffe Extension Primary School in Epworth, 12 miles west of Harare, writing in the dust on the floor because they had no exercise books or pencils. The high school exam system unraveled in 2007. Examiners refused to mark examination papers when they were offered just Z$79 a paper, enough to buy three small candies. Corruption has crept into the system and may explain why in January 2007 thousands of pupils received no marks for subjects they had entered, while others were deemed "excellent" in subjects they had not sat. Various disused offices and storerooms have been turned into makeshift brothels at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare by students and staff who have turned to prostitution to make ends meet. Students are destitute following the institution's refusal in July to re-open their halls of residence, effectively banning students from staying on campus. Student leaders believe this was part of the administration's plan to take revenge on them for their demonstrations over deteriorating standards.

2008

2008 elections

Zimbabwe held a presidential election along with a parliamentary election on March 29, 2008. The three major candidates were incumbent President Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and Simba Makoni, an independent. As no candidate received an outright majority in the first round, a second round was held on June 27, 2008 between Tsvangirai (with 47.9% of the first round vote) and Mugabe (43.2%). Tsvangirai withdrew from the second round a week before it was scheduled to take place, citing violence against his party's supporters. The second round went ahead, despite widespread criticism, and led to victory for Mugabe.

Because of Zimbabwe's dire economic situation the election was expected to provide President Mugabe with his toughest electoral challenge to date. Mugabe's opponents were critical of the handling of the electoral process, and the government was accused of planning to rig the election; Human Rights Watch said that the election was likely to be "deeply flawed". After the first round, but before the counting was completed, Jose Marcos Barrica, the head of the Southern African Development Community observer mission, described the election as "a peaceful and credible expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe."

No official results were announced for more than a month after the first round. The failure to release results was strongly criticized by the MDC, which unsuccessfully sought an order from the High Court to force their release. An independent projection placed Tsvangirai in the lead, but without the majority needed to avoid a second round. The MDC declared that Tsvangirai won a narrow majority in the first round and initially refused to participate in any second round. ZANU-PF has said that Mugabe will participate in a second round; the party alleged that some electoral officials, in connection with the MDC, fraudulently reduced Mugabe's score, and as a result a recount was conducted.

After the recount and the verification of the results, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced on May 2 that Tsvangirai won 47.9% and Mugabe won 43.2%, thereby necessitating a run-off, which was to be held on 27 June 2008. Despite Tsvangirai's continuing claims to have won a first round majority, he initially decided to participate in the second round. The period following the first round was marked by serious political violence. ZANU-PF and the MDC each blamed the other's supporters for perpetrating this violence; Western governments and prominent Western organizations have blamed ZANU-PF for the violence. On June 22, 2008, Tsvangirai announced that he was withdrawing from the run-off, describing it as a "violent sham" and saying that his supporters risked being killed if they voted for him. The second round nevertheless went ahead as planned with Mugabe as the only actively participating candidate, although Tsvangirai's name remained on the ballot. Mugabe won the second round by an overwhelming margin and was sworn in for another term as President on June 29.

The international reaction to the second round have varied. The United States and states of the European Union have called for increased sanctions. On July 11, the United Nations Security Council considered imposing sanctions on the Zimbabwe. The sanctions were vetoed by Russia and China. The African Union has called for a "government of national unity.

Preliminary talks to set up conditions for official negotiations began between leading negotiators from both parties on July 10, and on July 22, the three party leaders met for the first time in Harare to express their support for a negotiated settlement of disputes arising out of the presidential and parliamentary elections. Negotiations between the parties officially began on July 25 and are currently proceeding with very few details released from the negotiation teams in Pretoria, as coverage by the media is barred from the premises where the negotiations are taking place. The talks were mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

A final deal was reached on September 11, 2008, possibly with Tsvangirai chairing the council of ministers and Mugabe chairing a new national security council.

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