Landlocked country in south central Africa, bounded north by Zambia, east by Mozambique, south by South Africa, and west by Botswana.
Zimbabwe is an independent republic within the Commonwealth
. The 1980 constitution, revised 1990, provides for an executive president, who is head of state and government, and a single-chamber House of Assembly. Under the revised constitution, the president, formerly elected by parliament, is directly elected for a six-year term and appoints a vice-president and cabinet. The House of Assembly has 150 members 120 directly elected, 12 nominated by the president, plus ten traditional chiefs and eight provincial governors. It serves a six-year term and is subject to dissolution within that period.
There was a Bantu-speaking civilization in the area that is now Zimbabwe before AD
300. By 1200 Mashonaland (now in eastern Zimbabwe) was a major settlement of the Shona
(or Mashona) people, who had moved in from the north. The Shona derived their wealth from mining and trading minerals. They built in stone, and the most famous remains of their civilization are at Great Zimbabwe (the name Zimbabwe means stone house in Bantu; see Zimbabwe
(architecture)). In the 15th century the Shona empire, under Mutota, expanded across Zimbabwe before it fell to the Rozwi, who ruled until the 19th century. Portuguese explorers reached the area in the early 16th century.
In 1837 the pastoral Shona were conquered by the disciplined armies of another Bantu people, the Matabele (or Ndebele), a branch of the Zulu. The Matabele were in retreat after unsuccessful battles with the Boers (Afrikaners) in South Africa, and settled in western Zimbabwe (Matabeleland
), where they established a military despotism.
The establishment of British rule
Mashonaland and Matabeleland, together with what is now Zambia, were granted to the British South Africa Company in 1889, largely owing to the efforts of Cecil Rhodes
. The whole region was named Rhodesia
in 1895 in honour of Rhodes. King Lobengula of Matabeleland accepted British protection in 1888 but rebelled in 1893; he was defeated, but in 1896 after the Jameson
Raid the Matabele once more unsuccessfully tried to regain their independence.
In 1911 the territory under the British South Africa Company's administration was divided into Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). In 1922 Southern Rhodesia voted for responsible government, and also rejected a proposal for a merger with South Africa. A government was established under a governor with an executive council and legislative assembly in October 1923. Although technically a colony, Southern Rhodesia was, from the outset, regarded in practice as a quasi-dominion, enjoying virtual self-government by its white minority.
Southern Rhodesia after World War II
The country's prosperity, founded on the tobacco crop, grew rapidly; many Africans from what are now Zambia and Malawi flocked there to work, attracted by the higher wages and living standards. There was steady immigration to Southern Rhodesia from both South Africa and Britain, particularly after World War II.
Pressures for full dominion status increased from 1945 onwards, the situation now being complicated by the rise of an African nationalist movement in Southern Rhodesia. The South-African based African National Congress had been present since 1934, and there was growing dissatisfaction among urbanized black Africans with their lack of political status. The attitude of the average white Rhodesian to the black Africans was paternal. It failed to gauge the rapid change that the African attitude to white domination in Africa was undergoing, while, at the same time, few white Rhodesians were in favour of implementing apartheid
measures as fully as in South Africa.
The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
The idea of federating Southern Rhodesia and the neighbouring territories of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Malawi) had first been examined by a royal commission in 1938. As a consequence, the Central African Council was created in 1945. There was strong support for federation in ruling circles in Southern Rhodesia, for economic links with Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia were close, and the Southern Rhodesian cities of Salisbury (Harare) and Bulawayo were the principal business centres for all three territories.
The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which was established in 1953, lasted for ten years. In 1958 the progressive premier of Southern Rhodesia, Garfield Todd, was swept from power by the more conservative United Federalists under Sir Edgar Whitehead.
In 1963 the Federation was dissolved, though economic bonds between its three former components remained close. Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia became independent African states, as Malawi and Zambia respectively. Southern Rhodesia, with its relatively large and long-established white ruling minority (although still outnumbered 23:1 by black Africans), remained theoretically a British colony.
Black African opposition
From the outset, African leaders in all three territories had opposed the Federation, believing it implied perpetual domination by the white minority. Despite the federal government's efforts to dispel these fears by advocating partnership between the races, this opposition remained implacable. The African leaders regarded the great economic benefits derived from federation as irrelevant compared with their continuing lack of political power.
The African National Congress had been reconvened in 1957 under the leadership of Joshua Nkomo
. It was banned in 1959, and Nkomo went into exile to become leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP), which had been formed by some ANC members. When the NDP was banned in 1961, Nkomo created the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU). In 1963 a splinter group developed from ZAPU, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), led by the Rev Ndabaningi Sithole, with Robert Mugabe
as its secretary general.
Demand by the white Rhodesians for immediate dominion status had become vociferous. After lengthy discussions with Britain, a new constitution had been introduced for Southern Rhodesia in December 1961. It allowed for minority African representation, but because of its limitations it was violently opposed by the black African political leaders in Southern Rhodesia. In September 1962 ZAPU, the principal African opposition party, was banned, and its leaders subsequently placed under restriction, after various acts of terrorism and intimidation had allegedly occurred.
The UN voted for the suspension of the Southern Rhodesian constitution, but Britain maintained, as it was to do subsequently on all occasions, that as a British colony, Southern Rhodesia was not within the UN's competence. In November 1962 the governing United Federal Party under Whitehead pledged an end to racism in Southern Rhodesia. This pledge probably helped to bring about the party's total defeat in the elections of December 1962, which were won by the right-wing Rhodesia Front, led by Winston Field, who became prime minister of Rhodesia (as Southern Rhodesia was now known).
Field visited London to press for immediate independence for Rhodesia. It had been assumed by both Britain and Rhodesia that the 1961 constitution was the prelude to Rhodesian independence, but whereas Britain wished to write into it safeguards to ensure ultimate majority rule (in other words, rule by black Africans) within a specified period, the Rhodesian government was not prepared to do this, although it conceded the principle of ultimate majority rule at some unspecified time in the future.
UDI and the British reaction
In April 1964 Field, regarded by his party as too moderate, was replaced as premier by Ian Smith
, and in May Smith won overwhelming support at the elections, and all the opposition groups were decimated. Four months later ZANU was banned, and Nkomo and Mugabe were imprisoned. Following protracted and unsuccessful negotiations, on 11 November 1965 Smith issued his Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), announcing that Rhodesia was now an independent dominion within the Commonwealth, and reiterated his country's loyalty to the British crown.
Britain at once declared the UDI and the Smith regime illegal, and the latter to be in a state of rebellion against the crown. The British Parliament passed the Southern Rhodesia Enabling Act on 16 November 1965, and introduced exchange-and-control restrictions against Rhodesia. In December Britain imposed a total embargo on trade with Rhodesia. To prevent Zambia suffering from the effects of the sanctions imposed on Rhodesia, Britain provided economic aid, and an airlift of oil. Britain hoped that the measures adopted would inflict sufficient hardship in Rhodesia to bring about a return to constitutional government (in other words, the fall of the Smith regime).
Many African states felt that the measures did not go far enough, and that Britain should settle the matter by force. This the British prime minister, Harold Wilson, refused to contemplate. At the UN there was bitter Afro-Asian criticism of Britain, but no action was agreed upon. A Commonwealth prime ministers' conference at Lagos in 1966 discussed the Rhodesian question at length, and Wilson defended Britain's policies.
Failed negotiations with Britain
In December 1966 Harold Wilson and Ian Smith met on HMS Tiger
to discuss a settlement. This included six principles, the major one of which insisted on unimpeded progress to majority rule, but the proposals were unacceptable to the Rhodesian Front. The British government then sponsored a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for selective mandatory sanctions against specified Rhodesian exports. In May 1968 the Security Council went further and imposed, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, comprehensive mandatory economic sanctions against Rhodesia and established a UN Sanctions Committee to supervise their effectiveness. These sanctions were in fact bypassed by many multinational companies.
In October 1968 Wilson and Smith met again on HMS Fearless
, but the talks broke down. In 1969 Rhodesia declared itself a republic and adopted a new constitution, with white-majority representation in a two-chamber legislature.
In 1971 the new British Conservative government reopened negotiations and agreement was reached between Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Smith in November of that year. The settlement was based on the 1969 republican constitution with certain amendments to allow for the (remote) possibility of African representation increasing to parity and from there to majority rule through a combination of elected and chiefly representatives. A British stipulation of the agreement was that it must be seen to be acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. A royal commission, under the chairmanship of Lord Pearce, was sent to Rhodesia to test opinion. Africans overwhelmingly rejected the proposals and this was confirmed in the Pearce commission's report (May 1972).
The failure of the proposed constitutional conference
Following the withdrawal of Portugal from its African territories in 1974 and the growing, if still limited, success of guerrilla raids on Rhodesia's northern borders, the Rhodesian government, under pressure from Zambia and South Africa, in 197475 released Joshua Nkomo, leader of ZAPU, and the Rev Ndabaningi Sithole and Robert Mugabe of ZANU, from detention. This was followed by discussions with them and Bishop Abel Muzorewa
, president of the African National Council (the ANC, which had been formed in 1971 to oppose the earlier independence arrangements), with the aim of setting up a national conference to work out a new constitution.
Rifts soon developed, however, within the ANC, but under pressure from the leaders of Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique, in July 1975 Nkomo and Sithole agreed to cooperate under the leadership of Bishop Muzorewa, and the unity problem was apparently resolved. All agreed to intensify the liberation struggle although it soon became clear that neither the ANC nor Smith had any enthusiasm for a constitutional conference.
The Victoria Falls conference
Under joint pressure from John Vorster, prime minister of South Africa, and President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, representatives of the Smith government and of the ANC met on 25 August 1975 in a South African Railways passenger coach in the middle of Victoria Falls Bridge. Smith made it clear beforehand that he had no intention of handing over Rhodesia to black-majority rule, while the ANC insisted that the issue of majority rule was not negotiable and the alternative to an immediate handover of power was war. There were other problems, but the unexpected presence of Kaunda and Vorster, who acted as joint chairs at the opening conference sessions, ensured that some attempt at discussion ensued. After two days, however, the talks collapsed, each side blaming the other for failure.
Nkomo's talks with Smith
Following the Victoria Falls conference, the rift between ZANU and ZAPU supporters within the ANC intensified, the former under Sithole, supported by Muzorewa, insisting that military struggle was the only solution to majority African rule in Rhodesia, and ZAPU, under Nkomo, urging a continuation of the constitutional talks. Eventually Nkomo was excluded from the ANC Zimbabwe Liberation Council, based in Zambia; establishing himself in Salisbury (Harare), he became chairman of the inside-Rhodesia branch of the ANC, much to the anger of the other factions.
Nkomo began secret talks with Smith in October 1975, resulting in a first public session on 15 December. This ended with the announcement that special committees were to be set up to investigate aspects of the constitutional issue; but as the talks dragged on into March 1976, despite reports of the moderate proposals put forward by the Nkomo side, it became clear that the basic issue, early transfer of power to black-majority rule, would not be resolved. The talks finally broke down on 19 March 1976, despite British offers to mediate, provided that Smith was prepared to accept the principle of majority rule.
The escalation of the liberation war
During the talks, the African presidents had tried to restrain guerrillas operating from their soil, but with the breakdown of the talks they threw their weight firmly behind the military struggle in Rhodesia. Following border clashes Samora Machel, president of Mozambique, closed the RhodesiaMozambique border at the beginning of March 1976, causing some dislocation to the Rhodesian economy by cutting off access to the ports of Beira and Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques).
Estimates of the numbers of Zimbabwe guerrillas in training varied from 12,000 to 15,000. Those based in Mozambique were being trained by Chinese instructors, while others were reported to be abroad in the USSR, Algeria, and elsewhere. By mid-1976 clashes with the guerrillas were expected to develop into a bitter race war in Rhodesia, the political and military impact of which could not fail to affect South Africa as well. Thus the pressures for Smith to reach an accommodation with the moderate Nkomo wing of the ANC increased.
Further international discussions
At the end of April 1976, Henry Kissinger, US secretary of state, on a first visit to Africa, announced that, short of military aid, the USA was willing to help African countries bring about majority rule in Rhodesia. Pressure was also put on Botswana and South Africa to tighten the sanctions against Rhodesia. Coinciding with the Kissinger visit to black Africa, Smith announced that four tribal chiefs were to be created ministers in his government, but Nkomo made it plain that this stratagem was unacceptable as a substitute for majority rule. In September 1976, following discussions with Vorster and Kissinger, Smith announced that his government agreed to majority rule within two years and accepted proposals for government in the interim, subject to lifting of sanctions and cessation of guerrilla activities.
The announcement was welcomed by African leaders, but there were divergencies of opinion between them and Smith (and among themselves), and the armed struggle for the independence of Zimbabwe continued. Rhodesian troops made retaliatory assaults on guerrilla camps in Mozambique in October and November.
In October 1976 a conference was held in Geneva at which Britain, the Smith regime, and the three main nationalist parties were represented; but it broke down on several issues and was indefinitely adjourned on 11 January 1977. By this stage Nkomo and Mugabe had patched up their differences and jointly formed the Patriotic Front (PF). Subsequent proposals by Britain on interim government leading to majority rule were categorically rejected by Smith, and increased military expenditure and a wider call-up were announced by the Rhodesian government. An amendment to the Land Tenure Bill, giving all sections of the community the right to purchase land owned by whites, and gradual reduction of some racial-discrimination measures took effect in 1977.
Muzorewa becomes premier of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia
In March 1978 the Smith government and some African nationalist leaders agreed to form an interim government, including black members, while working towards majority rule. At the beginning of 1979 Smith produced a new majority rule constitution, which contained an inbuilt protection for the white minority but which he had managed to get Bishop Muzorewa to accept. In June 1979 Muzorewa was pronounced prime minister of what was to be called Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. The new constitution was denounced by Mugabe and Nkomo as another attempt by Smith to perpetuate white domination, and they continued to lead the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army from bases in neighbouring Mozambique.
The Lancaster House Agreement
In August 1979 the new British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, under the influence of her foreign secretary Lord Carrington and President Kaunda of Zambia, agreed to the holding of a constitutional conference in London at which all shades of political opinion in Rhodesia would be represented. The conference, held in September 1979, resulted in what became known as the Lancaster House Agreement and paved the way for full independence.
A member of the British cabinet, Lord Soames, was sent to Rhodesia as governor general to arrange a timetable for independence. Economic and trade sanctions were lifted. A small Commonwealth monitoring force supervised the disarming of the thousands of guerrilla fighters who brought their weapons and ammunition from all parts of the country.
A new constitution was adopted and elections were held under independent supervision in February 1980. They resulted in a decisive win for Robert Mugabe's ZANUPF party. The new state of Zimbabwe became fully independent in April 1980, with the Rev Canaan Banana as president and Robert Mugabe as prime minister.
During the next few years a rift developed between Mugabe and Nkomo and between ZANUPF and ZAPU supporters. Nkomo was accused of trying to undermine Mugabe's administration and was dismissed from the cabinet. Fearing for his safety, he spent some months in the UK. ZAPU was opposed to the 1984 proposal by the ZANUPF for the eventual creation of a one-party socialist state.
Zimbabwe under Mugabe
Mugabe's party increased its majority in the 1985 elections with 63 seats against 15, and early in 1986 he announced that the separate seats for the whites in the assembly would be abolished within a year. Relations between ZANUPF and ZAPU and the two leaders eventually improved, and by 1986 discussions of a merger were under way. When President Banana retired in 1987 Mugabe combined the posts of head of state and prime minister, and Nkomo returned to the cabinet as vice-president.
In December 1989 a draft constitution was drawn up that renounced MarxismLeninism as the state ideology and created a one-party state, fusing the governing party and opposition groups; the ZANUPF abandoned its Marxist ideology in 1991. A new opposition group headed by former Mugabe ally, Edgar Tekere, was launched in 1989, with the intention of challenging the ZANUPF in the 1990 elections. Tekere announced that his Zimbabwe Unity Movement would advocate capitalism and multiparty democracy. However, the ZANUPF won a comfortable victory in the elections of March 1990 and Mugabe was re-elected president. The state of emergency, in force since 1965, was ended in July 1990. Mugabe's proposals in August 1990 for a one-party state were strongly opposed.
During 199192 Zimbabwe was one of the countries hit by the worst drought of the century to plague southern Africa. In March 1992 Mugabe declared the drought a national disaster and appealed for foreign aid. The effects of the drought continued into 1993.
In July 1992 Rev Sithole and Ian Smith formed a United Front to oppose the ZANUPF. In April 1993 the Forum Party, a moderate, centrist party composed largely of intellectuals and business people, was formed. ZANUPF were re-elected in 1995, having won support in rural areas through its land redistribution scheme. In March 1996 Mugabe was re-elected president by default when the other candidates withdrew from the contest.
President Mugabe late January 1998 called in the army as thousands looted and rioted in Harare, the capital, in the country's worst civil unrest since independence. The unrest started with one of the biggest labour strikes ever held in the country, called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to protest against tax increases. At an emergency cabinet meeting, Mugabe declared that price controls would be introduced. Important issues revolved round Mugabe's proposals to redistribute much land of white farmers to black farmers. In September 1998, after pressure from aid donors, the government announced that it would redistribute only 118, rather than the originally planned 1,470, large (and mainly white-owned) farms to landless farmers. In November 1998 there were violent protests in Harare against the rise in fuel prices and the country's involvement in the Congo war. In February 1999 there were more violent protests against President Mugabe. In June the human rights group African Rights produced a scathing report on Mugabe's government, accusing it of corruption, human rights abuse, and lack of respect for the rule of law.
In a surprise change the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, announced in October 1999 that the government was ready to compensate the families of an estimated 25,000 people killed in an opposition stronghold during the civil war in the early 1980s. For 10 years President Mugabe had vowed to never apologize or compensate the victims of the feared North Korean-trained Five Brigade army unit, originally deployed in 1981 to track down armed bandits but which ended up killing thousands of civilians in Matabeleland, home to the country's second-largest Ndebele tribal group. Ndebeles constituted about 15% of Zimbabwe's population.
In 1999 Zimbabwe was in the throes of its worst economic crisis in two decades. The crisis was widely blamed on government mismanagement, and Mugabe was expected to face his strongest opposition yet at parliamentary elections scheduled for 2000. Opposition activists elected a trade union leader to lead their election campaign. The threat to President Mugabe's 20-year rule was worsened by Zimbabwe's worst economic crisis of his rule, including fuel shortages, power cuts, and 60% inflation, as well as involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His popularity was in decline; this was consolidated when a referendum showed that Zimbabwean voters had rejected a new constitution which was considered to reinforce his power.
Farm invasions 2000
In early 2000 white-owned farms experienced a wave of invasions by veterans from the country's war of independence, who claimed that the land on which the farms stood was their own land by right. The farmers claimed that the action was orchestrated by the government in order to promote fear prior to the elections scheduled for April. However, a leader of a veterans' group maintained that his members were willing to go back to guerrilla warfare, and to overthrow President Mugabe, to defend their claims to the land. President Mugabe dissolved his parliament in mid-April 2000, giving no date for the delayed parliamentary elections, despite having previously said that elections would be held in May. Around 500 farms had been seized by war veterans paid by the government, and the country was embroiled in a deepening economic crisis, as well as rising violence.
Speaking on the 20th anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence, President Mugabe said that he was determined to resolve the question of land, and in doing so he declared that the white farmers were the enemies of Zimbabwe and that they were to blame for the recent farm invasions and rising violence. Meeting at a crisis summit at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Mugabe and several South African political leaders including those of South Africa, Mozambique, and Namibia, claimed that Britain and other Western countries had sparked the crisis by failing to honour promises made in 1998 to fund a land redistribution programme. When Zimbabwean ministers arrived in London, England, in April, Britain offered to fund land reform over the next two years, under the proviso that the money go to the poorest sector of society and not Mugabe's personal allies, and that fair law be reinstated in the country; the Zimbabwean ministers refused to agree to the conditions, saying that they went back on the 1998 agreement and that they represented British colonialism.
In May 2000, Mugabe denounced Britain and launched his ruling party's election manifesto, in which he reiterated his support for the seizure of land. Continuing violence from hit squads trained and funded by the government began to target school teachers who were accused of being supporters of the opposition, as well as intimidating any others suspected of opposing government policy. In the middle of May, it was announced that elections would take place the following month, although international concern was levelled at the effect of intimidation tactics on democracy. At the end of May 2000, Zimbabwe's President Mugabe fulfilled his threat to seize land without compensation to owners, despite proposals from South Africa's President Mbeki under which $14 million/£8.75 million was to be made available by donor countries to buy 118 of the 841 disputed farms in order to use them for land redistribution. The seizure of the farms without compensation meant that the farmers owed millions to the Zimbabwean banks, placing the country's financial sector in turmoil. This compounded economic difficulties from earlier in the month after the World Bank suspended any new loans to Zimbabwe following its failure to keep up with repayments to existing debts. Furthermore, Mugabe announced his plan to seize the assets of foreign mining companies in his attempt to nationalize his country's economy.
UN involvement in coordinating observers for the imminent parliamentary elections was withdrawn in June as Mugabe accused the UN of attempting to hijack the monitoring process. Terror and intimidation tactics which had been employed by government-controlled gangs in the previous three months of land invasions led human-rights organization Amnesty International to announce that free and fair elections were no longer possible in Zimbabwe's political climate. Mugabe's ruling ZanuPF Party was elected to remain in parliament at the end of June 2000. Under the constitution, Mugabe had the right to appoint 30 MPs of his choice, but his party was elected with a majority of only five, not reaching the two-thirds majority needed for him to change the constitution. Mugabe's new cabinet, which had to be drawn solely from members of his own party, dropped many of his long-standing political allies and included economists and business leaders in an attempt to heal Zimbabwe's shattered economy. However, commuters in Harare rioted in early September in protest against the doubling of public transport fares, and the central bank again devalued the Zimbabwean dollar, by 3%. Further protests against the rising cost of living were planned by the main opposition party, and in October 2000, rioters blocked roadways near Harare, threw stones at police and set fire to buses, in protest against soaring food prices. Bread and sugar prices rose by an average of 30% the previous week in the country.
In October, the opposition moved for Mugabe's impeachment, but the effort was fruitless as Mugabe's ZANU-PF held an absolute majority in parliament. Mugabe said he would put on trial for genocide those whites who were guilty of atrocities during Zimbabwe's liberation war in the 1970s. He had already expanded his land acquisition programme in August, which the supreme court later declared illegal. The government said it would defy the ruling, though in December Mugabe publicly signalled an end to the land invasions, and the government agreed to meet representatives of commercial farmers to discuss ending the crisis. However, in February 2001, Mugabe's party unanimously agreed to remove all white judges from Zimbabwe's judiciary and decided to replace the five members of the Supreme Court. The court was internationally thought of as the main barrier between Mugabe and the imposition of absolute tyranny. In early March, Zimbabwe's chief justice, Anthony Gubbay, was driven to resign by threats, and replaced by President Mugabe's ally, Godfrey Chidyausiku. The move followed a further crackdown on Mugabe's critics, including the expulsion of 14 accredited foreign reporters and the charging of the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, with inciting violence in a speech made five months previously. In May Tsvangirai succeeded in having his case referred to the Supreme Court, where it will be seen as a test case on freedom of expression.
In late April 2001, the so-called war veterans who had invaded white-owned farms in 2000 turned their attention to private businesses. They occupied premises and demanded compensation for workers who had been laid off over the last three years of recession. In a rare attempt to curb their activities, 26 war veterans were arrested in May and charged with trying to extort money from private businesses.
In June, Chenjerai Hunzvi, the leader of Zimbabwe's war veterans, died of malaria. Giving himself the nickname Hitler, Hunzvi had led violent attacks on Mugabe's opponents and encouraged the occupation of white-owned farms. He led attacks on commercial farmers, industries and factories, opposition parties, and aid agencies. In the process, he became one of Mugabe's most trusted lieutenants. He was buried at the national heroes shrine.
Economic crisis worsens
The danger of civil unrest increased on 13 June when the government raised the price of fuel by nearly 70%, the sharpest rise for 20 years. The country's main trade union said that over three-quarters of Zimbabweans already lived below the poverty line.
Mugabe reassesses land reform
In June 2001, in an abrupt change of heart, President Mugabe declared himself willing to accept a visit by a group of Commonwealth ministers including the British foreign minister, Jack Straw in a bid to settle the explosive issue of land reform in his country. Although diplomats were encouraged by Mugabe's decision, many Zimbabweans feared that his hints that he wanted to end the country's land crisis were a ploy to regain credibility ahead of the presidential elections expected in 2002.
Mugabe extends institutional influence
In July 2001, the Zimbabwean Justice Minister announced the appointment of three additional judges to the Supreme Court, the first time that the country had had more than five judges sitting. The move was seen as an attempt by President Mugabe to put compliant judges into a court that had often ruled against the government. Mugabe also appointed seven other judges, most with strong links to his Zanu-PF party, to the Zimbabwe High Court.
War veteran violence continues
At least 10 whites were seriously injured when mobs of war veterans went on the rampage in Chinhoyi, an important tobacco-farming town northwest of Harare, in August. 23 white farmers were charged with inciting violence. President Mugabe brushed off suggestions that he was forcing white farmers out of the country, despite the fact that around 300 farmers and their families had fled from about 100 raided farms in the Chinhoyi area in one week alone.
At Commonwealth talks in Nigeria in September 2001, Robert Mugabe's government agreed to carry out land reform fairly and legally in Zimbabwe in return for a pledge by Britain to provide £36 million to help finance the new programme. Although Mugabe endorsed the deal, he said it would need to pass through his ruling Zanu-PF party and cabinet. At a special southern African summit in Harare, governments of neighbouring countries extracted similar promises from Mugabe and blamed Zimbabwe for spreading economic and political disorder in the region. However, attacks on white-owned farms in Zimbabwe continued throughout September.
In September, Zimbabwe's central bank said the country's economy was in a downward spiral and would shrink by about 8% that year. At least 570 large-scale tobacco farms had already been forced to close. Meanwhile, in an interim ruling in October that reversed an earlier decision, Zimbabwe's expanded Supreme Court told the government that it could proceed with the seizure of white-owned farms and redistribution of the land. The ruling threatened to unravel the land reform deal brokered at the Commonwealth meeting in Nigeria. The risk of mass starvation in Zimbabwe increased as militant war veterans and government supporters invaded nine white-owned farms on 34 November. Aid agencies warned of starvation due to the declining crop output, and at least 3 million people out of a population of 12.6 million had registered for food aid with the government. A group of about 500 militants from Zanu-PF beat whites on the streets of Bulawayo on 16 November and firebombed the offices of the MDC. Arson attacks the following day escalated dangerously as police riot squads clashed with opposition supporters; by the third day, the riots had spread to other cities. Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, was cleared of treason charges in late November, allowing him to run against President Mugabe in the March 2002 presidential election. In early December Mugabe, in the continuing campaign against white farmers, threatened to break up all farms larger than 2,000 ha/4,940 acres. He was supported by Zimbabwe's reconstituted Supreme Court, which, in a final ruling on 4 December, that the controversial land programme was legal.
Zimbabwe's parliament passed two laws the Public Order and Security Bill and the General Laws Amendment Act in January 2002 that curbed free speech and tightened restrictions on political opposition, thereby threatening the legitimacy of the presidential election due in March. The commander of the armed forces, Gen Vitalis Zinavashe, also said that the army would not recognize the result of the elections if Mugabe lost. In response, Britain's foreign secretary Jack Straw announced that the UK would press for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth. In February the row continued over the monitoring of the March elections. An advance party of 30 European Union observers, including the Swedish diplomat Pierre Schori, arrived in Harare, the capital, but the Zimbabwean government insisted that it would allow representatives of only nine specified European countries to monitor elections and that Sweden was not among them.
Presidential elections 2002
Presidential elections in Zimbabwe in March 2002 were marred by violence, intimidation, and claims by hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters that they had been obstructed from voting. The High Court halted the election after three days of chaotic voting, and police were forced to fire tear gas to disperse hundreds of disappointed voters. Mugabe was re-elected, but Morgan Tsvangirai vowed to challenge the defeat of the MDC. Mugabe's election to a further six-year term after a poll characterized by blatant irregularities was widely condemned by many Western countries, including the UK and the USA. Following Mugabe's re-election, Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth on 19 March 2002 for one year. Nigeria and South Africa both backed the decision, the first time the influential African states had condemned Mugabe unambiguously. However, a defiant Mugabe promised to carry on seizing white-owned farms regardless of the suspension, and charged Morgan Tsvangirai with treason the following day.
In June, the government ordered 2,900 white commercial farmers, whose farms had been targeted for seizure and redistribution to poor black workers, to stop work with immediate effect under threat of imprisonment. The farmers were given 45 days to vacate their homes. At the same time, Zimbabwe faced its worst food shortage in 60 years.
© RM 2014. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.