Population, society and rights
Since the country has achieved independence, the composition of the population has significantly changed due to the various migratory waves that have followed one another. Of the 275,000 whites who resided in the country before the land reform, only a few thousand remain, with negative consequences on skilled human resources and in terms of expertise both in the agricultural field and in the manufacturing sector. Violent clashes between black state-backed occupants of farmland and often persecuted white landowners have generated a spiral of violence that has had dire consequences for other neighboring countries as well, such as South Africa and Namibia. The devastating drifts of Mugabe’s reform have led the governments of Pretoria and Windhoek to apply policies of extreme caution, effectively slowing down the already complex processes of land redistribution.
According to topschoolsintheusa, the economic crisis, combined with the spread of HIV, has compromised many of the achievements achieved after independence. In 1990, the country set itself the goal of universal primary education and boasted the highest life expectancy in the region. Today, however, Zimbabwe ranks 156 out of 187 in terms of human development, one of the worst performers of the region. From the point of view of civil rights and freedoms, a certain setback has been noted. The events of the last ten years have made the Mugabe regime strongly authoritarian, characterized by abuse and political violence. The 2009 National Unity Government Agreement, which followed severely contested elections and an increase in political repression in 2008, appears to have partially reduced the internal level of conflict and violence and addressed some of the most pressing administrative issues, that is the resumption of the supply of essential social services, the fight against the devastating inflation and the consequent economic crisis.
Economy and energy
The country’s economic outlook remains worsening. The economic crisis that hit Zimbabwe following the land reform in 2009 had brought the country’s GDP back to the levels of 1953. Inflation, which in ten years had lowered the value of the Zimbabwean dollar by 99%, combined with the decline in agricultural productivity made Zimbabwe, known as Africa’s granary and the world’s second largest producer of tobacco, a net importer of food. After a slight improvement following the 2009 agreement, the country’s economy has slowed again and is in danger of falling back into recession in 2016. The government’s declared unemployment rate is close to 11%, but the real one is estimated to reach 90%, if the informal sector is taken into account.
In this panorama, the importance of mineral resources has increased, which include deposits of gold, diamonds (on the border with Mozambique), chromium and platinum, the exploitation of which – thanks also to Chinese interests – has allowed the Mugabe government to obtain resources needed to stay in power. The discovery of large diamond mines in 2006 led to illegal mining at all levels, which also involved important political figures. Only in 2011 did the Kimberley Process delete two important mining sites from the list of banned mines, as sites of illicit trafficking. Tourism, a sector that has essentially managed to keep itself sheltered from political events, has also helped the government recover the foreign exchange reserves it needs to stay alive. The manufacturing industry,
Agriculture remains the main source of income for around 65% of the population and could potentially generate more export-related income and more employment than any other sector. The national agricultural structure, however, was undermined at its foundations by the setting up of the agrarian reform which seriously damaged the productive fabric. The agricultural sector is now also supported by the European Union, USAID and a significant number of NGOs.
Mugabe’s reappointment to power has discouraged international investment: companies are in fact discouraged from having to sell 51% of their properties to black Zimbabweans in the future, as required by the indigenization provision that became law in January 2014. A law which according to its detractors is responsible for some of the distortions that afflict the current economic system of the country.