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More Problems in Zimbabwe

By Edited Aug 23, 2016 0 0

Zimbabwe is failing

 

  On paper, Zimbabwe is a parliamentary democracy. However, the current government has been in office for 20 years and has become so oppressive that the country more closely resembles a totalitarian state. The president, Robert Mugabe, has become a transparent dictator, weakening the country to the point that Zimbabwe may become a failed state. The situation has become so grave that according to the revised U.N. Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal (U.N. CAP) for Zimbabwe, released on April 1, 2004, “the unemployment rate is estimated at more than 60 percent and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by an estimated 13 percent in 2003.”[i] The country is confronting a sever state of national emergency where close to  “6 million rural people are facing starvation and will require emergency food assistance until April 2004. Refugees flock to the borders”[ii] as “poverty and famine drain a disease-ridden society; disease weakens workers; debt leaves the exchequer empty and drought mitigation inadequate; aggressive land expropriation forces donors to close foreign-backed health and education programs.”[iii] A majority of professionals have been forced to emigrate out of the county leaving the access to and quality of health care for both urban and rural populations simply unavailable. Disease is spreading at such an alarming rate that government health programs are unable to attack the problem efficiently without foreign intervention, which has been shrugged away. The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in Zimbabwe (MHCW), estimated in 2003 that “24.6 percent of sexually active adults aged 15 to 49 and 300,000 children under 14 are infected with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 1.8 million Zimbabweans were living with HIV/AIDS in 2003, while an estimated 135,000 adults and 36,000 children died from AIDS.”[iv]  These problems are now causing domestic violence to erupt, threatening the stability of the country and region. “The deterioration of the democratization process in Zimbabwe has contributed to the growth and persistence of violent conflicts.”[v]

                        Zimbabwe is failing in part because of a weak structural government. A flawed constitution and bad governance coupled with no rule of law and no accountability to laws, has proved that democracy is more complex than merely holding the illusion of free elections. First, the constitution has fundamental problems. The President has the power to nominate up to thirty people to the National Assembly.[vi] This gives the president an enormous amount of nominating power and the ability to dominate the National assembly with his own party’s people. There is no separation of powers and no system of checks and balances to prevent the majority from ruling with an iron fist. Separation of powers is essential to good governance. In Zimbabwe, there is “an incomplete separation between the executive and legislative because, apart from the President, members of the executive are also members of the legislature.[vii] This lack of separation of powers has left the parliament and judiciary severely weakened and the executive branch open for total corruption. “Because of corruption, nepotism and the high stakes involved in transferring or maintaining power, the political process is too often devoid of any of the basic agreement on the nature of politics which is vital for democratic continuity.”[viii]

                        Another key element to a successful democratic constitution is an attention to human rights laws. In Zimbabwe these laws either don’t exist or there is just no accountability for those who don’t follow them.  “The laundry list of atrocities committed by the Mugabe administration is as saddening as it is sickening: According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, there were 58 confirmed political murders in 2002, coupled with 1,061 instances of torture.”[ix] Mugabe’s regime “has a long history of impunity for human rights violations: from the amnesty at independence; through to the unpunished and uninvestigated atrocities in Matabeland in the 1980’s; through to the arbitrary killings, torture and ill-treatment that occurred before the latest elections”[x] Durring elections, there is widespread harassment, torture and attacks of those perceived to support political opposition.[xi].

                        Mugabe, shows a absolute disregard for liberal democracy. Laws mean nothing when they are not enforced or followed and “Mugabe has increasingly found the rule of law too burdensome to obey.”[xii] Mugabe has orchestrated domestic violence against those who oppose him and has used violence to overrule the democratic proceeding that he claims to uphold. In February of 2000, a referendum “ to amend the constitution to extend his [mugabe's] rule and authorize the seizure of farmland from white Zimbabwean farmers without compensation was defeated by a public vote.”[xiii] Had true liberal democracy been at force, this defeat would have been recognized and honored. However, “Mugabe urged his supporters to illegally occupy over 1,000 farms owned primarily by white Zimbabweans and others who opposed him. His government encouraged intimidation of and violence against anyone who supported the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In the five months leading up to the elections, at least 31 persons were killed and hundreds beaten.”[xiv] The country does not have “enough of a democratic tradition to ensure accountability and regime continuity. As a result this political climate facilitates corruption, nepotism and entrenched power in leadership…the threat of corruption perhaps the major affront to real democratic reform, and continues to dominate the political process.”[xv] Democracy “will be inherently flawed without an overriding respect for its purposes, including respects for the rights of the people.”[xvi]

                        Poor elections are another flaw in Zimbabwe’s “democratic system”. When parliamentary elections were held in June of 2000, they were neither free nor fair. “If not for the regime’s crackdown, the opposition MDC would win power easily.”[xvii] Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party has taken direct action in assuring Mugabe’s victory in elections, often in the form of threats and violence. “One of the threats Mugabe made during the election campaign was that companies suspected of, what he called, economic sabotage would be nationalized and lose their property, and he referred to mines in particular “[xviii] This has created such a climate of fear that people are intimidated to freely express their rights to assemble and expression.[xix] Free and fair elections are not possible in this type of situation. An election that legitimizes tyranny is in effect a self-refuting concept.

                        In August of 2003, Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party faced “opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change in two parliamentary by-elections and local council and mayoral elections.” [xx]A total of 279 seats were challenged, and Mugabe “ensured that there will be no vote for 46 of the seats. The MDC candidates were forcibly stopped from registering or terrorized into withdrawing afterwards, and the ruling party candidates were declared "elected unopposed".[xxi] Opposition “Party supporters' homes in nearly every contested area have been attacked, and party members have been abducted.”[xxii] The ruling party has “has criminalized the mere idea of opposition politics; young praetorian guards patrol the streets. "If you challenge the state," reports one opposition politician, "you're in for it." Even stalwart Mugabe supporters are leaving his party's ranks, but they can count on few legal protections for civic activism. In separating his own interests from those of his citizens, Mugabe is pulling the state apart.”[xxiii] As a result of these ruthless policies, there have been riots and civil unrest. “Mugabe has responded by sending in police and troops to attack the rioters with tear gas and clubs,”[xxiv]increasing hostility and more violence.  

                        Another driving force in Zimbabwe’s destruction is the absence of civil society. Citizens are punished for exercising their right to assemble and express opposition to the government, creating violence, instability and a total lack of popular participation, which weakens democracy.  “The government's refusal to encourage civil society to set the terms for civil politics seriously compromises the government's legitimacy and the viability of future elections.”[xxv] The government has placed harsh media laws to restrict opposition and free expression. There is harassment of political opposition, social tension and inequality among members of Zimbabwe society. In 2002 Mugabe pushed “a series of draconian laws through parliament, banning the foreign press, imposing tight controls on local media and targeting basic rights to free speech and assembly…It is very clear that what we are now dealing with is organized economic terrorism whose aim is clear and is to unseat a legitimately elected government which has decided to defend its national independence and national sovereignty”[xxvi] Recently, the last major independent newspaper in Zimbabwe was shut down by president Mugabe.[xxvii]  The people who mean to govern themselves and achieve liberty are unable to arm themselves with knowledge and when freedom of expression is repressed, knowledge is difficult to attain. Many teachers were also attacked in the last election, forcing them to leave their jobs, thus destroying the education system that is an important sect to civil society. [xxviii] 

                        Last, bad economic policies and a suicidal policy of Isolationism have ruined stability and democracy in Zimbabwe. “President Robert Mugabe, the former freedom fighter who now rules with an iron fist, have turned difficult circumstances into an almost impossible situation. Ignoring his country's impending implosion and chasing foreign donors away, Mugabe has steered Zimbabwe to the political edge. Without a rescue plan, he is courting the failure of the state.” [xxix] The Zimbabwe Central Statistical Office reported that in February 2004, “the inflation rate reached 602 percent.”[xxx] Ordering policies like appropriation of white owned farms and destroying tobacco burns have destroyed a large part of the economy.[xxxi] "Millions of people are desperately hungry because the country's once-thriving agricultural sector collapsed last year after ... Mugabe confiscated commercial farms…Worse still, the entire Zimbabwean economy is near collapse."[xxxii] The Zimbabwe government failed to “deal more conclusively with the inherited distribution of economic resources during the 1980s, contributed crucially to two problems: a desire by large-scale businesses (represented by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries) to escape the limits imposed by stagnant effective demand, on the one hand; but on the other, insufficient economies of scale and outdated production processes which left most manufacturers incapable of competing in international markets. When, by late 1997, this became evident, the government’s response was, tragically, a self-destructive return to dirigism plus corruption/ malgovernance, without the structural transformations required to correct earlier problems of economic disarticulation.”[xxxiii] Most alarming and hazardous to the Zimbabwe economy, “resentful of the criticism, Zimbabwe's leader has chosen economic and diplomatic isolation from the West, at the cost of fiscal prudence and investment, and relies on old friends among southern Africa's leaders to offer him the appearance of support and solidarity.”[xxxiv]

"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Winston Churchill

          Democracy is by no means the answer to the world’s problems but it might be a good place to start. It is, as any political ideology inherently flawed and will not always work or yield the same results. It is an experiment and not a result, but rather a process. Depending upon how it is used, the process can result in positive or negative consequences. “Recent experiences in a number of countries have shown that democratic processes still can and do suffer sever setbacks, and that such situations can create tensions leading to destabilization and even violent conflict.” [xxxv] Ultimately, history has revealed that the process of democracy lies in the hands of those participating. Without liberty and strong limits on political power, a democracy can become a total failure, thus acting to create less domestic and international stability and peace.  Nevertheless, a properly established liberal democracy, with checks and balances, separation of powers, combined with a strong civil society can trump the immoral human nature of certain individuals who wish to gain power through the system. As a result, a government by the people for the people can actually take fruition and the addition of more liberal democracies into the international arena will increase stability and peace. While “the spread of democracy has by no means eradicated political repression or conflict, it has tremendously increased the number of people who enjoy at least some freedom and fostered hope that the next century might be less fraught with political rivalry and destruction than the past one.”[xxxvi] It is important to stress that elections alone are not enough to create stability and peace, especially if there is corruption within the election process, as seen, in the Zimbabwe experiment. Democracy can and has been used to legitimize tyranny. Democracy must be coupled by the strong forces of constitutional liberalism which reinforces democracy through freedom of the press, an incorruptible legal system, a protective and non oppressive security force and other basic but necessary functioning organizations of society. Without these organizations and practices, a country, like Zimbabwe, can spiral into disaster. An illiberal democracy may have free elections but the citizens will not have liberty. A concentration of power weakens the government’s protection of human rights, jeopardizes domestic peace, and diverts resources away from development. Such a climate of instability will eventually become a dangerous situation to the rest of the world. On the flip side, a strong vibrant civil society and an effective freedom of press have shown to work in countries like Botswana, where the government is held in check by the power of the people. Free and fair elections, good governance and a strong set of liberal ideals and civil society is what makes democracy run smoothly. Coupled with the countries realization that, in this global economy, it must work hand in hand with outside corporations and countries to secure its economic stability. It is in a democracies best interest to work with other democracies to ensure their political success and prosperity in the world economy. The liberalization of the economy exists in a symbiotic relationship with the liberalization of the political system. The peace and stability of each country speaks for itself.

 



[i] Relief Web

http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/9ca65951ee22658ec125663300408599/d9ff685731340b5a49256e7f000f0a10?OpenDocument.  June 30, 2004.

 

[ii] Ashurst, Mark. “The Road to Capital: Is Africa’s socialist Big Man changing his mind?” Newsweek, Atlantic Edition, March 24, 2003., pp. 40.

 

[iii] Newberg, Paula. “Zimbabwe; As World Looks Away, a Nation Dies”, Los Angeles Times,  January 12, 2003.

 

[iv] Relief Web

http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/9ca65951ee22658ec125663300408599/d9ff685731340b5a49256e7f000f0a10?OpenDocument.  June 30, 2004.

[v] McKinnon,  “Zimbabwe is on a downward spiral”. Friday 21, November, 2003 http://www.zwnews.com/issuefull.cfm?ArticleID=7985,  November 21, 2003.

[vi] Charles, Grover. “Problems with Democracy in Southern Africa”, October 1999, http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Square/6130/index.htm, October 1999.

 

[vii] Charles, Grover. “Problems with Democracy in Southern Africa”, October 1999, http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Square/6130/index.htm, October 1999.

 

[viii] Charles, Grover. “Problems with Democracy in Southern Africa”, October 1999, http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Square/6130/index.htm, October 1999.

 

[ix] Haspel, Elliot. “A call to arms”, Cavalier Daily Viewpoint , October 30, 2003.

 

[x] Amnesty International, “Report”, 2003, http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/zwe-summary-eng , June 26, 2004.

 

[xi] Amnesty International, “Report”, 2003 http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/zwe-summary-eng , June 26, 2004

 

[xii] Newberg, Paula. “Zimbabwe; As World Looks Away, a Nation Dies”, Los Angeles Times,  January 12,  2003.

 

[xiii] Schaefer, Brett. “How Washington Should Respond to Instability in Zimbabwe” Executive Memorandum #705, n.d.,  http://www.heritage.org/Research/Africa/EM705.cfm, June 25, 2004

 

[xiv]Schaefer, Brett. “How Washington Should Respond to Instability in Zimbabwe” Executive Memorandum #705, n.d.,   http://www.heritage.org/Research/Africa/EM705.cfm, June 25, 2004.

 

[xv] Charles, Grover. “Problems with Democracy in Southern Africa”, October 1999, http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Square/6130/index.htm, October 1999.

 

[xvi] Charles, Grover. “Problems with Democracy in Southern Africa”, October 1999, http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Square/6130/index.htm, October 1999.

 

[xvii] Ruder, Eric. “Where is Zimbabwe headed?” The Socialist Worker.  March 1, 2002, pp. 8

 

[xviii] Hawkins, Tony. “Economists fear worst for Zimbabwe” BBC NEWS,  Wednesday March 13, 2003 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/business/1870882.stm, June 18, 2004.

 

[xix] Amnesty International, “Report”, 2003, http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/zwe-summary-eng , June 26, 2004.

 

[xx] “Democracy - Mugabe-style”. August 29,2003, http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/Zimbabwe/0,,2-11-259_1409143,00.html, June 20, 2004.

 

[xxi] Democracy - Mugabe-style”. August 29,2003, http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/Zimbabwe/0,,2-11-259_1409143,00.html, June 20, 2004.

 

[xxii] Democracy - Mugabe-style”. August 29,2003, http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/Zimbabwe/0,,2-11-259_1409143,00.html, June 20, 2004.

 

[xxiii] Newberg, Paula. “Zimbabwe; As World Looks Away, a Nation Dies”, Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2003.

 

[xxiv] Schaefer, Brett. “How Washington Should Respond to Instability in Zimbabwe” Executive Memorandum #705, n.d.,  http://www.heritage.org/Research/Africa/EM705.cfm, June 25, 2004.

 

[xxv] Newberg, Paula. “Zimbabwe; As World Looks Away, a Nation Dies”, Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2003.

 

[xxvi] Ruder, Eric. “Where is Zimbabwe headed?” The Socialist Worker.  March 1, 2002., pp. 8.

 

[xxvii] LaFraniere, Sharon ,"Zimbabwe Police Close Down Nation's Largest Daily Paper," New York Times, September 14, 2003.

 

[xxviii] http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/zwe-summary-eng , June 26, 2004.

 

[xxix] Newberg, Paula. “Zimbabwe; As World Looks Away, a Nation Dies”, Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2003.

 

[xxx] Relief Web

http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/9ca65951ee22658ec125663300408599/d9ff685731340b5a49256e7f000f0a10?OpenDocument.  June 30, 2004.

[xxxi] Powell, Colin. "Freeing a Nation from a Tyrant's Grip" New York Times, Opinion.  June 24, 2003. 

[xxxii] Powell, Colin. "Freeing a Nation from a Tyrant's Grip" New York Times, Opinion.  June 24, 2003. 

[xxxiii] Mhone, Guy and Bond, Patrick. “Botswana and Zimbabwe: Relative Success and Comparative Failure”, July 2001, www.wider.unu.edu/publications/dps/dp2001-38.pdf, June 20, 2004.

 

[xxxiv] Newberg, Paula. “Zimbabwe; As World Looks Away, a Nation Dies”, Los Angeles Times. January 12,  2003.

 

[xxxv] UN Press Release, SG/SM/8860, October 9,2003, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2003/sgsm8860.doc.htm, June 28, 2004.

 

[xxxvi] Carothers, Thomas. “Democracy Without Illusions.” Foreign Affairs, 1997., pp. 85.

 

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