By Tom Edwards
Once the breadbasket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe is today one of the poorest countries in the continent. With as high as 85 percent unemployment in certain cities and townships, the citizens of Zimbabwe face a bleak future.
Their president, Robert Mugabe, has been in office since independence in 1980. His ruthless crackdown on political dissidents leaves activists missing, whilst his mismanagement of Zimbabwe’s potentially thriving economy has forced hundreds of thousands into poverty.
This all comes at a time when protestors have recently begun demonstrating against the government. At the beginning of this month, rioters burnt tires and closed roads, bringing Harare, the nation’s capital, to a standstill.
After spending time in the city I can personally attest to the dysfunction embedded in Zimbabwe day-to-day life.
Hundreds of soldiers walk the streets. Out of boredom and looking for a quick buck they search for a harmless wrongdoing. Their own lack of pay often encourages them taking the law into their own hands.
Such are the circumstances facing the civil service that their corrupt agenda is manipulated by the government. They are all one: the president, the police, and the army. Combined, they are a destructive force in which political, social and economic opponents are quickly silenced.
Mugabe’s manipulation of the civil service has become the benchmark of corruption within his country. With it, he and his ministers can freely do as they please.
How long the civil servants support Mugabe is another question. They are irregularly paid, thus breeding even greater corruption. If Mugabe at the frail age of 92 was to drop dread, it is not known whether a peaceful, yet corrupt government would take his place, or whether a bloody civil war would ensue after which a democratic leader is perhaps elected.
For many citizens, it is likely that they will turn towards a leader that can promise them nutrition and employment. Following 36 years of economic mismanagement, the population could demand a free market uninhibited of government intrusion.
For those living in rural communities, the farms could no longer be stagnated by substantial government taxes and the interventionist policies implemented by the Mugabe regime.
While in Harare I met with a local investigative journalist. Following subsequent email correspondence I questioned them about the state of their country. Among other things we discussed Mugabe’s failed policies, his arrogance and what foreign nations can do to assist Zimbabwe.
At the journalist’s request we have suppressed their identity to protect them from persecution within Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe was once an agricultural powerhouse, so what has caused the once strong agricultural industry into recession?
The transfer of land into the hands of the black majority from white farmers in recent decades was somewhat constitutionally valid. It worked well for a few years until the Mugabe government abused funds. The way in which the land distribution was carried out was ill-advised, turning the once breadbasket into a begging bowl. The terror with which the seizure of agricultural land was associated with, also led the world economy into condemning the land policy and resulted in travel and trade restrictions being imposed upon Mugabe and his followers.
Instead of adopting the policies that he introduced, Mugabe should have identified individuals who were agronomists and black farmers who deserved to be placed on farms. He wrongly gave the land to his wartime comrades and political opponents to secure their support.
In your opinion as an experienced journalist, what can the government do to help the struggling citizens who are unemployed?
There is nothing that Mugabe and his government can do to redress the economical turmoil, as this cannot be reversed under his leadership. Mugabe is known for being self-centered. Corruption is endemic and has been left to grow, empowering certain individuals at the expense of the masses.
Hundreds of businesses also close annually due to the controversial Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Law. This law entails that all foreign owned entities remit 51 per cent of profits to the local black communities. It is a piece of legislation that has not been explained and implemented well. It has led to many companies closing and thousands being laid off.
Zimbabwe also finds it difficult to tax those who earn a living off the streets. Mugabe has found it challenging to remain viable without introducing hefty taxes on the small proportion of citizens who are formally employed.
Mugabe insists that all of his elections have been won through democratic processes. How accurate would this be?
Mugabe insists that he has won all elections since 1980. The most important aspect to look at is how those elections are being organized, planned, and conducted. Who is behind the running of elections in the country? The answer to all the questions is that Mugabe has created a system that is a non-democratic way to orchestrate what is supposed to look like democratic elections.
Violence has been associated with every election in Zimbabwe, particularly in 2008. While Mugabe does not officially rig elections, the constant threat of army officials and police officers at election booths coupled with the presence of corrupt local authorities such as Chiefs and Headman intimidates voters to cast their support in favor of Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.
What happens to those citizens who oppose President Robert Mugabe?
Mugabe has historically treated political dissidents with no respect. Between 1980 and 1986, Mugabe is alleged to have killed up to 20,000 Ndebele ethnic Zimbabweans with the assistance of the Fifth Brigade. The Fifth Brigade were a segment of the Zimbabwe Army trained by North Korean Special Forces in the height of the Cold War. Mugabe never made any explanation for the atrocities. Although the Zimbabwe constitution proclaims the rights of all citizens, there is no freedom of speech.
Citizens who oppose Mugabe are not guaranteed of any safety for as long as they stay within the country’s borders. Examples such as Joshua Nkomo, Lookout Masuku, Ndabaningi Sithole, Morgan Tsvangirai and Professor Lovemore Madhuku have all been charged for merely opposing Mugabe. Any challenge against Mugabe and his government is viewed as an act of treason.
Journalists under section 81 of the Criminal Codification Act are also punishable if they publish information against the President. It is effectively impossible to oppose Mugabe, irrespective if you have valid information. The most recent case is that of the disappearance of journalist Itai Dzamara who allegedly was abducted by unknown assailants last year on the 9th of March. Dzamara has not been seen or heard from since.
How can foreign countries assist in the development of Zimbabwe?
Foreign countries can assist by offering the alternative in terms of education and skills development for the underprivileged, as well as offering programs that unite Zimbabweans regardless of their political affiliation. Zimbabweans require services, empowerment, and an array of jobs from foreign investors within the country.
Once Mugabe has passed, the future of the country can hopefully shape itself around a robust and practical economy.
** About the contact: the source for this feature article has been an investigative journalist in Zimbabwe and southern Africa for over two decades. Their goal is to expose the day-to-day life of Zimbabweans in the midst of a politically charged environment. To protect them from persecution within Zimbabwe their identity has been withheld.
This article was published by Geopolitical Monitor.com