Zimbabwe: Privilege, Patronage, Pillage

Five years ago, Zimbabwe was not doing exceptionally well, but on the surface it was stable and progressive. After a century of colonial and settler rule ending in an eight-year civil war in the ‘80s, its emergence as a moderate, democratic country was no mean feat

The World Today Updated 19 May 2022 Published 1 October 2001 5 minute READ

Eddie Cross

Secretary for Economic Affairs, Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change

Now the situation in Zimbabwe is depressingly different. All the key indicators are negative – gross domestic product is down fifteen percent in real terms in two years, exports down a third, life expectancy down ten years in a decade. Social services are in a shambles, employment has fallen thirty percent and incomes per capita have halved since 1990; a food crisis looms. In the region the cost of President Robert Mugabe’s policies has been huge.

In the first decade of independence, Robert Mugabe, a late and reluctant convert to democratic principles and free market economics, was very much constrained by the constitutional and institutional shackles created by the transition process. He was never comfortable with this and the first sign of trouble came in the mid ’80s when he crushed Ndebele resistance to his autocratic style of leadership and emerged from the scrum holding the flag of a form of national unity.

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