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Zimbabwe: Three Months after the Elections

In the immediate aftermath of Zimbabwe's 24-25 June 2000 Parliamentary elections, many Zimbabweans optimistically expected that their country would begin to return to normal-leaving behind the six months of violence, intimidation, farm invasions, racist political rhetoric, and erosion of the rule of law. Three months later, their hopes have been largely dashed. As of late September the prevailing mood is one of uncertainty, frustration and anger. There is no positive leadership: no one has a sense of where the country is headed except down. In the absence of some certainty or sense of direction as to where President Robert Mugabe and the country are headed, rumour and speculation are the kings of Harare.

While President Mugabe's new government includes several new, competent ministers in the economic area, there has been no discernible return to the rule of law and good governance. None of the matters identified in ICG's 10 July recommendations has been seriously addressed. The economy continues to spiral downwards. The Government has announced its intention to compulsorily acquire over three thousand commercial farms, has publicly identified over two thousand of them, and has begun a "fast track" resettlement program that would move settlers on to many hundreds of them before the rainy season begins in November. This is not land reform; it is a politically driven land grab which will devastate Zimbabwe's agriculturally based economy without immediately benefiting those being resettled.

As before, the culprit for Zimbabwe's continuing slide towards the abyss is President Robert Mugabe. He learned nothing positive from the June elections. He takes into account neither the emergence of a popular and credible opposition, nor the distaste and frustration evident throughout the country as a result of his intimidation and manipulation of the election results. If anything he has become more autocratic, determined to maintain personal control regardless of the costs to the nation. He ignores constructive advice from within Zimbabwe, from the leaders of important neighbouring countries, like President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, and from the wider international community.

At the time this briefing was written, there was a widespread feeling in Harare among well informed Zimbabweans of all races that the current situation, politically and economically, is unsustainable beyond the end of this year. There is a sense that some event, some development will bring to a head the choices facing the country. There is a broad belief that Mugabe is the root of all Zimbabwe's problems and that it is time for him to go. And, there is a belief that if, and it is a big if, he goes, the country could begin a turnaround within a matter of days. Waiting for the constitutionally mandated presidential elections in 2002 is seen as too late by most observers, as by then the economy will be in a shambles.

In these grim circumstances, it is imperative that the international community and regional neighbours continue to provide wise counsel and bring whatever pressure they can to bear on President Mugabe and his regime, along the lines recommended in ICG's July report (reprinted below). At the same time encouragement should be given to the despairing rational elements in Zimbabwe, who are struggling to return their country to a positive course.


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