Zimbabwe at independence had so much going for it. Tremendous tourist potential with spectacular scenery, well stocked game reserves, spectacular tourist attractions such as the Victoria Falls (one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World), a pleasant temperate climate, tremendous natural resources, gold, platinum and other precious ores, a modern banking sector, skilled manufacturers and an efficient road and railway network. The Zimbabwean people were among the best educated in Africa. And Zimbabwe was blessed with one of the most productive and efficient agricultural economies in Africa.
Yet 24 years after independence, Zimbabweans are dramatically poorer and have greatly shortened life expectancy. At independence a Rhodesian dollar was worth more than an American dollar. Today it would take 20 000 Zimbabwe dollars to buy one US dollar.
What went wrong?
The answer to that question hangs on the wall of every office and shop in the country. Portraits of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's marxist president, stare down upon the long-suffering Zimbabwean people who have experienced one of the most shocking economic collapses of any country in history.
Despite Mugabe declaring himself a marxist and inviting North Koreans to train his army, many Western governments chose to shower Zimbabwe with aid. Because of the extravagant generosity of these Western governments, Mugabe was able to maintain his incompetent and corrupt regime amidst an illusion of prosperity. However, the longer the Mugabe regime was in power, and the more corrupt his cronies became, donors grew tired of handing over money just to see it squandered and embezzled.
In 1997 ZANU 'veterans of the Liberation War' rioted when it was learned that the fund intended to compensate them had been looted by ZANU officials. By printing more money Mugabe was able to calm the rioters while also inflating the currency. That was the same year Mugabe promised to seize, without compensation, land belonging to the white commercial farmers.
Even as the Zimbabwe Dollar plunged at the news, Mugabe decided to send a quarter of his army to fight in the Congo to prop up fellow marxist dictator Kabila. To fund this foreign military adventure, he printed even more bank notes, causing massive inflation and rapid impoverishment. Soon a worker's bus fare cost more than his monthly earnings. Workers complained that the Zimbabwe government grabbed half their wages in taxes and then eroded the value of what was left by printing too much money and causing astronomic inflation.
Mugabe's solution to much of the economic chaos, caused by his socialist policies, has been price fixing. When the local currency collapsed, he tried to fix the exchange rate – expecting people to willingly exchange hard currency for the now hugely overvalued Zimbabwean dollar. Naturally, no one with hard currency wanted to be robbed, so the supply of hard currency dried up. When Mugabe ordered bakers to sell loaves for less than they cost to bake, the stores ran out of bread. Price fixing is rather like jumping off a tall building while shouting: “I abolish the law of gravity!”
Mugabe's disregard for the laws of economics have also been matched by his contempt for private property. 5000 productive farms have been seized by government organised mobs. Vast herds of cattle and wildlife have been slaughtered. Crops and stores burned. Farm houses looted. Many people beaten or murdered.
One of the most productive agricultural economies in Africa has been systematically destroyed. Not only did these farms feed the entire nation – they also exported food, providing the highest percentage of foreign exchange earnings. These commercial farms were also the largest employer of labour in the country and provided homes for over 2 million farm workers and their dependants.
Those who claim that Mugabe is involved in “land reform” need to go and actually visit those farms that have apparently been “settled”. What were once some of the most productive farms in Africa, providing employment, filling the market place with food, providing produce for export and bringing in foreign currency are now derelict and deserted. The mobs came in, to loot, pillage and destroy, and in most cases, after killing off the livestock and wildlife, returned back to the shantytowns near the city. Some farms have become personal residences for ZANU officials. (When Vice President Joshua Nkomo died in 1999, it was found that his estate included 16 farms.)
Along with Mugabe's land invaders vandalising farms and breaking farm worker's legs, Mugabe's campaign of terror has also destroyed the tourist trade. Those companies that have gone bankrupt have been accused by Mugabe of “deliberately sabotaging the economy”. The so called “war veterans” (many of whom were too young to have fought) have been portrayed in state owned media as “a spontaneous expression of land hunger”. But these invaders arrived in ZANU trucks, were paid and fed by the security forces and organised by CIO officials with cellphones.
The millions of farm workers and their families who have lost their jobs, and often also their homes, have been a prime target of government organised thuggery. Youth militia and war veterans armed with pangas, guns and clubs have compelled farm workers to attend political “re-education” sessions. This re-education includes listening to hours of Marxist diatribe and singing revolutionary songs. Mugabe's thugs have set up road blocks to check that passengers on passing busses each have their ZANU party membership cards. Tens of thousands of ordinary people in Zimbabwe have been beaten and terrorised by the ZANU youth brigade and the war veterans.
Now that Zimbabwe is undergoing a severe food shortage and famine, Mugabe is blaming the weather. However, now that the commercial farmers who had safely seen the country through all previous droughts have been driven off their lands, drought inevitably leads to famine. People are dying of starvation in Zimbabwe today while the ZANU government seeks to monopolise all food distribution, loudly proclaiming that they will ensure that supporters of the MDC opposition starve. The population of Zimbabwe is about 12 million yet one senior ZANU-PF leader Didymus Mutasa has declared: “We would be better off with only 6 million people, with our own people who support the liberation struggle. We don't want all these extra people.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways.”Romans 3:15-16
“They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity.” 2 Peter 3:19
“He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” Proverbs 28:19