In the year 2000, President Mugabe began his extraordinary efforts to destroy what he reckoned to be the ‘power base’ of the ‘white’ farming community. He considered them a potential threat to his own position and thus determined to neutralise them. In the process, he destroyed the highly productive agricultural sector (which constituted at least 40% of the nation’s GDP), leaving the nation penniless and requiring regular charitable support from outside in order to feed his people.
Only about 150 original farmers of 4000 survive on their farms and ALL of them have been listed for eviction.
We are aware that the President is now 92 years old and has pancreatic cancer. This is a very debilitating illness and it is believed that his hold on the day-to-day running of the nation has dissipated, though he still holds onto power. Whilst the leading potential inheritors of the nation’s top job continue to battle for the key positions, the nation’s economy is at a standstill. It appears that no-one is prepared to take any big decisions whilst Mugabe still remains at the helm, and no-one is prepared to invest (including China) until they know who will be at the helm of the nation after the death of Mugabe.
Despite that, there is definitely discussion in process about the restructuring of the agricultural sector which includes the payment of compensation to former farmers. Recently (March 2015) the Minister of Finance (Patrick Chinamasa) announced publically that the Government accepted responsibility for the compensation of former commercial farmers.
Whilst there has been much hardship amongst the farming community, particularly amongst the farm workers, an extraordinary internal support system has developed amongst the farmers with many supporting each other and others going out and doing wonderful work with the remnant groups of their previous employees.
The country is now considered the second poorest country in the world, second only to Congo-Kinshasa, with a per capita GDP of $589.00. Despite this, Zimbabwe still holds the highest literacy rate in Africa at 90%. There will, in the future, be a drop in this figure as a result of the weak economy over the last 10-15 years. This is not yet reflected in these figures.
Despite all of this, Zimbabwe remains one of the jewels of Africa. Investors are circling the country like jackals, waiting for the right moment to pounce. Agriculture will once more take its place as one of the key income sectors for the nation.
Until then, there is work to do.
For up-to-the-minute news on events in Zimbabwe, please go to http://www.zimbabwesituation.com
For more in depth information on the current situation in Zimbabwe, please go to http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/southern-africa/zimbabwe.aspx