Everything must change for nothing to change. The Prince of Salina would be at home in today’s Zimbabwe. Two years after his death and four after the removal of Robert Mugabe, there seems to have been no real change. All the issues of his mismanagement remain intact: absolute poverty, an economic system in disarray, social tensions. It all started in 2000. Until then, Robert Mugabe was considered the noble father of the country. Of course, he had already sown thousands of deaths among the Ndebele rebels, and corruption had started to infiltrate the ganglia of the public administration, as well as ethnic hatred. On him, however, still lingers the aura of the rebel leader who led the country to independence and has undermined an apartheid regime perhaps even more rigid than the South African one. A regime from which, however, he inherited a first-rate economic system and infrastructure. The turning point came when Mugabe decided to start land reform in order to redistribute land to the black population. A just intent but disastrously realized: after having taken away the land from white landowners, he does not entrust it to the native black farmers but to the hierarchs of the Regime, unable to manage it and make it yield. The economy of the country, considered the breadbasket of Africa, collapsed. Since then, it has yet to recover. Faced with this situation, the newly elected president Emmerson Mnangagwa, once a loyalist of Mugabe’s, sought a rapprochement with white farmers, promising them compensation and, in some cases, the restitution of land.
An extreme measure, as well as the promotion of mining activities, to revive a faltering economy. A minimal step, too little, in the face of the country’s needs. Hyperinflation eats away at the wealth of the middle class. Embezzlement, misappropriation of public money and corruption are rampant. The country faces endemic rates of unemployment. More than 73% of the population now lives below the poverty line. Many citizens emigrate abroad (especially to neighboring South Africa) in search of work. But, above all, Mnangagwa is trying to tighten the Regime’s grip even more. The latest amendments to the Constitution could give the President the ability to choose not only his vice presidents but also senior judges.
Constitutionalists have described the reform sought by the President as “unconstitutional” and “poorly drafted.” According to civil society organizations and to the opposition, this reform would be “a sign that Zimbabwe is returning to authoritarianism.” Mnangagwa goes further, however. In 2020, he was accused of using health regulations not only to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, but also to close any democratic space. According to civil society organizations, dozens of opponents have been put in jail for allegedly violating blocking regulations. This is in addition to a constant crackdown. In recent years, hundreds of civil society and opposition activists have been kidnapped and tortured for organizing protests against the government. President Mnangagwa has also been accused of attempting to create a one-party state after 48 members of parliament and 80 local councilors from the opposition MDC were disbarred. The West reacted by imposing new sanctions. Will they be enough to bring democracy to Zimbabwe?