Monday, February 13, 2006

Zimbabwe: a sad state

StragegyPage has analyses of various world hot spots, and their analysis on Mugabe's "perfect police state" is worth reading...

Here is an excerpt:

The destruction of Zimbabwe's productive agricultural sector wrought by dictator Robert Mugabe's policies removed a key source of foreign currency (ie, exported food and agricultural products) has reduced most of the population to poverty.

Now Zimbabwe has no hard currency to pay for essential imports, like oil. African and western sources report that in Zimbabwe gasoline cannot be bought legally by private citizens-- it is only available on the black market. One estimate of annual inflation (December 2004 to November 2005) in Zimbabwe was 500 percent.

Two-thirds of the adult working age population is unemployed. It is hard to arrive at an accurate figure for inflation since the Zimbabwean currency is regarded as worthless and much of the economy is based on barter.

One of the saddest stories of 2005 --and it received very little coverage, other than a few stories in June 2005 and a handful in December-- was Mugabe's attack on "illegal houses" (alleged squatters). The houses Mugabe's supporters removed were for the most part located in areas where the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party is strong. The "counter-squatter" operation had the name "Operation Murambatsvina" (a Shona phrase, one translation is "drive out the trash"-- an opposition website translates it as "clean out the filth."), It’s estimated that 700,000 people were left homeless. (One source said that ultimately 2.4 million people suffered from the "operation.")

The MDC and other opposition groups claim that several hundred thousand small businesses were also destroyed. That's a huge claim, but in sub-Saharan Africa many businesses in urban areas are "mom and pop" stands selling food, crafts, and various supplies in front of the family home or shanty.

The ZImbabwean government subsequently began a "reconstruction program" called "Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle." The government source said this is Shona and Ndebele for "live well," and claimed that 5000 new houses have been built.

But few of the displaced have the cash to pay for them. Apparently the program requires the family pay a "deposit" for the new home-- the requirements aren't quite clear. Very few of the destroyed houses have been replaced, though the government says more houses will be built. Still, this looks like a political ploy --an attempt to quiet critics in the "international community."

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