If you were to visit Zimbabwe over the summer, you’d see a nation with a crippling economy like currency being sold as souvenirs because of its laughable value. My experiences in Victoria Falls, I should preface, cannot accurately portray the story of the Zimbabwean people. I saw a city catered to non-African tourists. Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, when I first saw Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya- The Smoke That Thunders in Tonga, I knew I had to find out more about this country. I wish I could have seen Harare, the capital city where much of the action over the past week took place. My experiences at customs, interacting with the staff of the hotel, and our tour guides hopefully shed some light on the situation prior to the change in political leadership, though again I preface with saying I, by no means, worked in an ethnographic capacity so take my word for what is it. Being in Zimbabwe was interesting. The news is State-sponsored, customs included talking to a border agent with some type of semi-automatic weapon across his chest, and the people might not have liked the economic situation there but they did speak highly of Robert Mugabe for getting Zimbabwe independent from the oppressive white government. I wanted to spend this post as a summary over the past weeks and how Zimbabwe got to where it is.
Mugabe led the guerrilla war for independence against Ian Smith’s Rhodesia for a free Zimbabwe with the ZANU party. Peace was negotiated in 1978 with the plan, like later South African negotiations, was to allow white farmers to keep control of their farms. Mugabe would not keep this part of the negotiations and soon in the 1980’s would also wipe out any opposing member to the ZANU, mostly the ZAPU party, who also were involved in guerrilla warfare for independence. New President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was key to this Gukurahundi, a series of massacres. Many refer to this as the beginning of the decline of Mugabe’s promising career.
Slowly but surely, Mugabe redistributed the lands owned by white farmers and gave it to his own military supporters, leaving little for the rest of Zimbabweans. Add in the trade crisis with the rise of democratic South Africa, then the mass food shortages, staggering inflation caused by unnecessary printing of Zimbabwean dollar, the emigration patterns, circumventing the constitution and potentially allowing his wife, Grace, to succeed him, and you get a country in crisis.
So where is Zimbabwe now with President/Crocodile Mnangagwa in charge? There’s a lot of promise and confusion. Mnangagwa announced an unpopular cabinet and after Zimbabwean outcry, replaced them. Today, he swears in the new, new cabinet leaders. During this time of transition in Zimbabwe, I followed Trevor Ncube, a owner of several newspapers in Zimbabwe and has been actively relaying information to the mass 116k followers. He tweeted about the cabinet reshuffling.
From what I have gathered, there’s a renewed sense of hope in Zimbabwe. People changed about the promise of change, as stated in Mnangagwa’s speech. I am not expert on Zimbabwean political history, but Mnangagwa has a lot to achieve before Zimbabwe is a competitive and thriving African country. Yet he has something that Mugabe did not, the respect of the people. People honored Mugabe for leading Zimbabwean independence, but he made a better General than he did a President. Let us hope Mnangagwa makes a better President and can guide Zimbabwe into a new age of economic development and success.
As you can see there is a lot of information to understand what exactly happened in Zimbabwe, the links embedded in this posts, I hope clarify any confusion.