Individual Freedoms & State Security in the African Context: The Case of Zimbabwe

By John Hatchard | Go to book overview
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11 Economic
& Political Rights

As was noted in Chapter 1, one striking feature of the use of emergency powers in Africa is their impact on a wide range of economic and political rights. Zimbabwe provides an excellent case study in this regard.

Economic Policy and Emergency Powers

At independence the Zimbabwean economy was extremely weak and imbalanced. Mandatory sanctions had effectively prevented any new international investment after 1965 and thus the industrial and agricultural sectors, in particular, desperately needed modernisation. The imposition of martial law and curfews together with the displacement of millions of villagers during the war also meant that the economy in the rural areas was almost completely disrupted. In addition, improvements to living standards were urgently required to enable the majority of the population to enjoy the fruits of independence. During the pre-independence period, opportunities for Africans in the employment field were extremely limited, being characterised by considerable discriminatory practices. Wages for African workers in the private sector were scandalously low and opportunities for advancement negligible. In the public service, the more senior positions were invariably the sole preserve of whites as few Africans had any opportunity to acquire an adequate standard of education in order to challenge for them. In addition, entry levels for Europeans were always at a far higher level than Africans. Thus the new government made the re‐ structuring of the economy a priority and it entailed the expenditure of large sums of money on development projects throughout the country and in the rural areas in particular. This was financed partly through high levels of taxation which resulted in large budget deficits and increased inflation. With serious drought problems also threatening the entire region, implementation of the policy was extremely difficult. The need for economic development and re-structuring was given as a further reason for the retention of the state of emergency. As the then Minister of Home Affairs put it:

the processes of radical transformation do not always come about in an orderly coherent way. Social change does not move in a polite minuet; revolution is not a tea party with silver teapots and waiters. To meet emergent economic threats, we need emergency powers. 1

A keystone of the new government economic strategy was the introduction of a prices and incomes policy. This was partly done through the use of emergency powers. For example, orders made under emergency regulations prohibited the sale of any goods at a price exceeding that on a fixed date. 2 Penalties of up to five years imprisonment were imposed


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