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"in Zimbabwe there is freedom of speech,
but no freedom after the speech".

Zimbabwe - Politics

In seeking national reconciliation, Prime Minister Mugabe's first cabinet comprised members of ZANU-PF, PF-ZAPU, and independent white members of parliament (MPs) and senators. The government embarked on an ambitious reconstruction and development program and instituted increases in minimum wages. Land redistribution proceeded under four experimental models on land that the government had purchased at market rates from willing sellers.

Prime Minister Mugabe's policy of reconciliation was generally successful during the country's first 2 years of independence, as the former political and military opponents began to work together. Although additional blacks were hired to fill new places in the civil service, there was no retribution for those whites who had worked for the Smith regime. Smith and many of his associates held seats in the parliament where they participated freely in debates. Likewise, Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe's rival as leader of the nationalist forces, was included in the first cabinet along with several other members of PF-ZAPU.

Splits soon developed, however. In 1981, several MPs from Smith's party left to sit as "independents," signifying that they did not automatically accept his anti-government posture. More importantly, government security officials discovered large caches of arms and ammunition on properties owned by ZAPU, and Nkomo and his followers were accused of plotting to overthrow Mugabe's government. Nkomo and his closest aides were expelled from the cabinet.

As a result of what they perceived as persecution of Nkomo (known as "Father Zimbabwe") and of his party, PF-ZAPU supporters, some of them deserters from the army, began a loosely organized and ill-defined campaign of dissidence against the government. Centering primarily in Matabeleland, home of the Ndebeles who were PF-ZAPU's main followers, this dissidence continued through 1987 and involved attacks on government personnel and installations, armed banditry aimed at disrupting security and economic life in the rural areas, and harassment of ZANU-PF members. Occasionally, some demanded that Nkomo and his colleagues be reinstated in the cabinet. More frequently, however, dissidents called for the return of farms and other properties seized from PF-ZAPU.

Because of the unsettled security situation immediately after independence and the continuing anti-government dissidence, the government kept in force a "state of emergency," which was first declared before UDI. This gave government authorities widespread powers under the "Law and Order Maintenance Act," including the right to detain persons without charge.

In 1983-84, the government declared a curfew in areas of Matabeleland and sent in the army in an attempt to suppress dissidents. Credible reports surfaced of widespread violence and disregard for human rights by the security forces during these operations, and the level of political tension rose in the country as a result. The pacification campaign, known as the Gukuruhundi / Gukurahundi or strong wind, resulted in as many as 20,000 civilian deaths. Nkomo and his lieutenants repeatedly denied any connection with the dissidents and called for an all-party conference to discuss the political problems facing the country. In the 1985 elections, ZANU-PF increased its majority, holding 67 of the 100 seats. ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU agreed to unite in December 1987, and the parties formally merged in December 1989.

In October 1987, in accordance with the Lancaster House Accords, the constitution was amended to end the separate roll for white voters and to replace the whites whose reserved seats had been abolished; among the new members were 15 whites in the Senate and House of Assembly. Elections in March 1990 resulted in another overwhelming victory for Mugabe and his party, which won 117 of the 120 election seats. However, voter turnout was only 54%, and the campaign was not free and fair although the actual balloting was.

Not satisfied with a de facto one-party state, Mugabe called on the ZANU-PF Central Committee to support the creation of a de jure one-party state in September 1990 and lost. The state of emergency was lifted in July 1990.

After the remaining restrictions of the Lancaster House agreement expired on April 18, 1990, the government embarked on a campaign of amending the existing constitution. Both the judiciary and human rights advocates fiercely criticized some of the first amendments, which were enacted in April 1991, because they restored corporal and capital punishment and denied recourse to the courts in cases of compulsory purchase of land by the government.

During the 1990s students, trade unionists and workers often demonstrated to express their discontent with the government. Students protested in October 1990 against proposals for an increase in government control of universities and again in May 1991 and May 1992, when they clashed with police. Trade unionists and workers were also vocal critics of the government during this time. In June 1992, police prevented trade unionists from holding anti-government demonstrations. In 1994, there was widespread industrial unrest. In August and September 1996, thousands of civil servants demanding salary increases organized a national strike and in October and November of the same year, nurses and junior doctors went on strike over salary issues. On November 14, 1997, about 50,000 war veterans demanded and received compensation equivalent to about U.S. $1,300 per person for their war service. This immense and unbudgeted expenditure created a huge fiscal deficit. The Zimbabwe dollar lost more than half its value on that day, and the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange collapsed. This event marked the beginning of Zimbabwe's ongoing macro-economic crisis.

In part through its control of the media, the huge parastatal sector of the economy, and the security forces, the government managed to keep organized political opposition to a minimum through most of the 1990s. Beginning in 1999, however, Zimbabwe experienced a period of considerable political and economic upheaval. Opposition to President Mugabe and the ZANU-PF government had grown, in part due to worsening economic and human rights conditions. The opposition was led by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which was established in September 1999.

The MDC's first opportunity to test opposition to the Mugabe government came in February 2000, when a referendum was held on a draft constitution proposed by the government. Among its elements, the new constitution would have permitted President Mugabe to seek two additional terms in office, granted government officials immunity from prosecution, and authorized government seizure of white-owned land. The referendum was handily defeated. Shortly thereafter, the government, through a loosely organized group of war veterans, sanctioned an aggressive land redistribution program often characterized by forced expulsion of white farmers and violence against both farmers and farm employees.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, political opponents, formed a coalition government in 2008 after a highly contested election. In late 2017, Mugabe resigned after 38 years as president. His right-hand man, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was sworn in to replace him.

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai known for his lengthy, dogged quest to end the regime of longtime President Robert Mugabe, died 14 February 2018, just months after Mugabe caved to pressure to step down after decades in power. His lifes mission took its toll: Tsvangirai, who was 65, died in South Africa after a long battle with cancer.



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Page last modified: 29-03-2021 15:55:21 ZULU