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Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe is a nation in southern Africa and currently a contender for the most badly managed country and economy in the history of the planet. (See also Haiti.)

History[edit]

Formerly the British colony of Rhodesia, Zimbabwe is a unique example of the consequences of racism and colonialism in Africa. The story goes something like this: A man named Ian Douglas Smith declared Rhodesia to be independent of British rule in 1965 because they demanded that whites eliminate qualified franchise and give majority rule. Qualified franchise in Rhodesia was race-blind, but demanded that people must be educated or own property to vote, and since most blacks did not match these qualifications, this was seen as racist by many. Some argue that Ian Smith wasn't a racist but an extreme pragmatist stuck in a hard place, as the majority of the black population (well over 70%) were not only illiterate, but not educated in democratic values compatible with their system of government, but in traditional African tribal values, so giving them majority rule too soon may have created a dictatorship. Others argue that all his given reasons for opposing majority rule were merely a cover for him being a racist and only caring about white interests. In either case, whichever you choose to believe, this empowered a group of Marxist rebels, who, with help from the government of newly-independent Mozambique, fought back. Thus began a brutal civil war which lasted for fifteen years and destroyed the nation's infrastructure and economy.

Eventually, the rebels succeeded in achieving self-rule, but the rise to power of Robert Mugabe meant that they had only replaced one dictator with another. While things started off very well for independent Zimbabwe, an economic collapse in the early 1990s led Mugabe to scapegoat white farmers who had stayed on. His regime expropriated these farmers' land, all justified with bullshit rhetoric like "land reform" and "anti-imperialism." Meanwhile, the usual World Bank and International Monetary Fund interventions, imposed as part of "Structural Adjustment" programmes, did little to improve the situation. Some argue that Mugabe's rise to power proved Ian Douglas Smith right, others argue that he created the situation that led to Mugabe's rise to power in the first place, irrelevant to whether his motives were racist or perceived pragmatism.

Economic collapse[edit]

Sorry. That's not enough.

The result is a country that has experienced one of the worst economic collapses in known history. The former bread-basket of Africa has become a net food importer. Unemployment hovers near 85%, and life expectancy is the lowest in the world due to the effects of AIDS and abject poverty. The Zimbabwe Dollar underwent hyperinflation that exceeded two hundred million (200,000,000) percent in July 2008, leading the country to abandon domestic currency entirely in April 2009, and introduce currency competition. Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, was awarded the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize for Mathematics "for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000)."[1] All of this was largely ignored by African leaders, many of whom hail Robert Mugabe as a hero of the African struggle against colonialism.

A series of sham elections, in which supporters of rival parties were beaten by government police for displaying their views, has destabilized the country even further. In May 2008, the ruling ZANU-PF lost the election, but Mugabe refused to accept the result and step down. However, eventually he agreed to a power-sharing agreement, making his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai (who by rights should be President) Prime Minister. Tsvangirai had been charged with treason previously on trumped-up evidence (though the case was dismissed), arrested numerous times by police, and beaten, and it is suspected that his late wife was murdered by the government, so we'll see how long he lasts in his job.

References[edit]