Magazine article New Internationalist

Zimbabwe

Magazine article New Internationalist

Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

ZIMBABWE

The recent bombing of The Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, was the climax of a two-year campaign of intimidation of the press by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF Government. It was a stark reminder to the outside world of the sorry state of Zimbabwe. Any hope of its becoming the `Switzerland of Africa', as was predicted by some when Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, has long faded. Instead an increasingly coercive regime is leading the country to the brink of collapse.

Mugabe, once internationally praised for his reconciliatory policies, is today perceived as erratic and oppressive. Some critics have gone so far as to call him a dictator, and conditions in the country worsen day by day. Galloping inflation and fuel shortages have imposed spiralling hardships upon a population that struggles to purchase even basics such as maize, sugar and transport.

Mugabe has tried to rally popular support by backing the seizure of white-owned farms (ruled as illegal by the High Court). Redistribution of Zimbabwe's farmland is a pressing issue as much of the country's richest land remains in the hands of a small minority of white farmers. The situation is rooted in history: colonial Rhodesia introduced the Land Apportionment Act in 1930, excluding Africans from the best farming land and forcing them into the labour market. Even here any advancement was prevented by the Industrial Conciliation Act of 1934, banning Africans from entering skilled employment. Thus 95 per cent of the population was kept at a subsidiary level working for white-owned farms, mines and factories.

Nevertheless, Zimbabwe's economy relies heavily on the produce of white-owned land, making redistribution a far more sensitive issue than the Government seems willing to acknowledge. Over 1,100 farms have been invaded by `war veterans', most of whom are too young to have been involved in the war for independence. …

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