CRS Report for Congress
December 27, 2001
Raymond W. Copson
Specialist in International Relations
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
In late 2001, political tensions were mounting in Zimbabwe as a March 2002
presidential election approached. There were several incidents of political violence,
and President Robert Mugabe issued a new decree to accelerate the forcible takeover
of white-owned farms. The move was widely interpreted as violating a September
2001 agreement, signed in Abuja, Nigeria, committing the government to proceed
with land redistribution only with “due regard” for the rule of law. The government
was also preparing to introduce legislation to ban foreign reporters from Zimbabwe
and to require Zimbabwe journalists to be licensed. It had earlier indicated that only
Zimbabwe civil servants would be permitted to act as observers during the March
Apart from its political difficulties, Zimbabwe faced a declining GDP; high rates
of inflation, unemployment, and poverty; and an HIV infection rate of 25% among
adults aged 15 to 49. Food shortages were feared, partly because of the turmoil in
the country’s agricultural sector, and partly because of a severe drought in southern
Zimbabwe. Officials acknowledged the need for food aid, but said that they would
not permit charities and international relief organizations to distribute assistance.
They claimed that such groups would use relief aid to interfere in the country’s
politics and support the opposition.
On October 15, 2001, President Mugabe announced that Zimbabwe was
abandoning free market reforms and returning to a socialist style economy. The move
was judged likely to deepen difficulties with the international financial institutions,
which had already halted lending, and further discourage potential investors.
Following the November 2001 assassination of a ruling party activist, President
Mugabe charged that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was
a “terrorist” organization, leading many to expect an intensification of government
action against the party. A poll showed MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai leading
Mugabe in the presidential contest, but analysts believed that Mugabe was determined
to win in March at almost any cost. Britain, the United States, the European Union,
and many African leaders, including South African President Thabo Mbeki, were
pressing Mugabe to permit a free and fair vote. Many feared rising political turmoil
in Zimbabwe in coming months.
U.S. policy-makers once saw Zimbabwe as a source of political and economic
stability in southern Africa, but with the failure of Zimbabwe’s economic reform
program and mounting unrest in the 1990s, U.S. assistance levels fell sharply. Aid
came to focus on programs to strengthen democracy, raise living standards among the
poor, and fight the AIDS epidemic. In late 2001, the United States announced the
withdrawal of Peace Corps volunteers from Zimbabwe and strongly criticized the
Zimbabwe government for restrictions on the press. On December 11, Congress
passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (S. 494),
providing pressures and incentives intended to promote peaceful and democratic
change, equitable economic growth, and a restoration of the rule of law.
Early Congressional Involvement................................3
Zimbabwe in the 1980s.......................................4
Zimbabwe in the 1990s.......................................4
Land Issue through June 2000......................................5
Lancaster House Commitments.................................6
1997-1998 Land Seizure Crisis.................................6
Aftermath .............................................. 8
Land Crisis Resumes.........................................8
June 2000 Parliamentary Election..................................10
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).......................11
Land Issue Since June 2000.......................................12
Other Current Issues............................................13
HIV/AIDS ................................................ 18
Relations with Britain........................................19
Outlook for 2002...............................................19
List of Tables
Table 1. U.S. Assistance to Zimbabwe..............................22
In late 2001, political tensions were mounting in Zimbabwe as a March 2002
presidential election approached. There were several instances of political violence,
including the murder of a ruling party activist in the southern city of Bulawayo,
followed by an attack on the Bulawayo headquarters of the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC). Several MDC members were arrested in this
incident, and President Robert Mugabe lashed out at MDC “terrorists,” and at the
British government, which he said supports them.1
Meanwhile, a new presidential decree was issued to accelerate the forcible
takeover of white-owned farms – a move that was widely interpreted as violating a
September 2001 agreement, signed in Abuja, Nigeria, committing the government to
proceed with land redistribution only with “due regard” for the rule of law. President
Mugabe’s government was drawing mounting international criticism, not only on the
land issue, but also because of alleged interference with the freedom of the press and
an apparent refusal to permit international observers to monitor the upcoming
election. Shortages of foreign exchange and mounting arrears on foreign debt
signaled the continuing deterioration of Zimbabwe’s economy, and officials
acknowledged that large amounts of food aid would soon be needed to stave off a
potential famine in southern Zimbabwe. At the same time, they insisted that food
relief not be distributed by charities or international agencies, on grounds that they
might use food aid to interfere in Zimbabwe politics and support the MDC.
Zimbabwe’s political, economic, and international problems led many observers
to expect serious political instability and a possible humanitarian crisis in the months
ahead. The purpose of this report is to provide background information on the factors
and events that have brought Zimbabwe to its current situation. The report will not
be updated. Instead, developments in Zimbabwe will be monitored by new CRS
products as events warrant.
The roots of Zimbabwe’s current difficulties can be traced back to 1890, when
a column of 200 white settlers belonging to Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa
Company (BSAC) arrived in the heart of the territory belonging to the Shona people,
known as Mashonaland. By promising that white numbers would remain small and
that they were interested only in mining, the settlers had won passage into the region
from Lobengula, chief of the Ndebele people, whose Matabeleland lay between
Mashonaland and South Africa. But each white settler was immediately given 1,210
1For details on these events, see below, Other Current Issues.
hectares of land (1 hectare=2.47 acres) in addition to 15 mining claims. In 1893-1894,
the BSAC waged war against the Ndebele, eventually winning control of
Matabeleland as well.2
In subsequent years, African farmers were largely confined to Native Reserves,
now known as Communal Areas, where the soils were poor and rainfall scant. The
Land Apportionment Act of 1930 formally set aside over half the country’s total land
area, including the most fertile zones, for whites; and the Land Tenure Act of 1969,
allocated most remaining unreserved land to the so-called “European areas,” while
denying Africans any possibility of acquiring land in those areas. There had been an
influx of European settlers after World War II, and by the 1960s, there were more
than 200,000 whites, while Africans numbered about 7 million.
Britain had permitted the white-ruled territory to become a self-governing
colony, known as Southern Rhodesia, in 1923, but by the 1950s, as elsewhere in
Africa, African political movements were growing stronger and pressing for majority
rule and independence. Britain, which had come to recognize that independence for
all of its African colonies was inevitable, insisted that the white settler regime
undertake political reforms that would prepare the way for eventual majority rule in
Southern Rhodesia. In order to avoid this, the white government, led by Ian Smith
of the Rhodesia Front party, issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from
Britain in November 1965, naming the secessionist country Rhodesia.
Britain imposed stringent economic sanctions against Rhodesia, and United
Nations sanctions followed, but neither Britain nor other countries were prepared to
intervene militarily to end the rebellion.
Economic sanctions had limited impact,
since Rhodesia was able to trade freely with
its neighbor, white-ruled South Africa.
There were outbreaks of armed African
opposition to the white regime as early as
1966, but it seemed at the time that white
minority rule might last indefinitely. In
1972, however, a full scale guerrilla war
began as troops of the Zimbabwe African
National Union (ZANU) crossed into
Rhodesia from bases in parts of
ZimbabweMozambique that Mozambican
revolutionaries had freed of Portuguese
control. In 1974, African nationalist Robert
Mugabe, who had been imprisoned in
Rhodesia for a decade, was released; and he slipped out of the country, taking
command of ZANU in 1975. Mozambique became fully independent of Portugal in
1975, strengthening ZANU’s position, while to the west, guerrillas of the rival
Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), based in Zambia, were also launching
2For more detail, see Harold D. Nelson, ed., Zimbabwe, A Country Study, Area Handbook
Series (Washington: U.S. Library of Congress, 1982).
armed attacks into Rhodesia. ZAPU was largely an Ndebele movement, and its head,
Joshua Nkomo, now deceased, was himself Ndebele.
Early Congressional Involvement
During the late 1960s and
Zimbabwe in Briefin the 1970s, U.S. participation
Population: (2001) 11.4 million in the U.N. sanctions againstRhodesia became a significant
Size: slightly larger than Montanaissue in Congress, where some
GNP per capita: $385 per year in 2001, downMembers saw the white-ruled
from $421 in 2000.country as a bastion against
GDP: 1999: $5.6 billion; 1989: $8.3 billioncommunism. These Members
Foreign debt: $4.5 billion (2001)were concerned that ZANU
Life expectancy: (years)1998: 51; 1990: 56leader Mugabe identified
Literacy: male : 90%, female: 20% (1995)
HIV infection rate (adults): 25% (1999)himself as a Marxist and that
Ethnic groups: Shona 71%, Ndebele 16%, otherZAPU, ZANU’s rival, was
African, 11%, white 1%, mixed and Asian 1%supported by the Soviet Union.
Religion: Christian, 25%; indigenous, 24%;Under the “Byrd Amendment,”
syncretic, 50%; Muslim and other, 1% named for Senator Harry F.
Byrd of Virginia, U.S.
Sources: World Bank; United Nations; U.S.enforcement in the United
Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook;States of the U.N. sanctions
budget address in the Zimbabwe parliament,against Rhodesia was
suspended with respect to
imports of critical and strategic
materials. (Section 503 of the Armed Forces Appropriation Authorization of 1971,
P.L. 92-156.) These included chromium, used in the manufacture of high-quality
steels, as well as titanium and nickel. In 1977, however, after a long legislative battle,
the view that the Byrd amendment was damaging the United States in Africa and
undermining efforts to promote democracy prevailed, and the amendment was
The Carter Administration, which came into office just before the Byrd
amendment was repealed, strongly supported majority rule in Rhodesia, and backed
British diplomatic efforts to bring about this result. Controversy over U.S. policy
continued, but on December 21, 1979, at Lancaster House in London, a Rhodesian
peace agreement was finally concluded. The agreement provided for a brief transition
period under a British governor, elections under a constitution establishing a
parliamentary form of government, and constitutional guarantees of minority rights.
Mugabe’s party, renamed as the ZANU-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), won a
parliamentary majority in the election, and he was installed as Prime Minister of
independent Zimbabwe on April 18, 1980.
3U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Foreign Affairs. Executive-Legislative Consultation
on Foreign Policy: Sanctions Against Rhodesia, Congress and Foreign Policy Series
(Washington, September 1982).
Zimbabwe in the 1980s
For much of the 1980s, Zimbabwe was regarded as something of a model to
other African countries because of gains the Mugabe government made in extending
education and health care services to the poor; and in providing extension services,
rural roads, and clean water for impoverished farming communities. Moreover, the
country enjoyed relative racial harmony, and some whites served in government,
although others were embittered by the course of events and thousands left. (In 2001,
whites numbered an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 out of a population of 11.4 million.)
The difficulties Zimbabwe encountered as a “front-line state” facing white-ruled South
Africa brought it sympathy and support from the international donor community. The
United States provided more than $360 million in non-food economic assistance in
the first decade after independence.
Even in the 1980s, however, there were indications that authoritarian tendencies
were emerging in Mugabe’s regime. From 1983-1987, dissident activity in
Matabeleland, the ZAPU stronghold, was suppressed by the North Korea-trained
Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwe army. Though little information on the conflict was
provided by the government, reports indicated that thousands were killed and that
government troops committed a number of atrocities. The conflict ended when
Nkomo agreed to merge ZAPU with ZANU-PF, but the merger had the effect of
making Zimbabwe virtually a one-party state. The constitution was changed in 1987
to create a new political system with a strong presidency, and Prime Minister Mugabe
was himself inaugurated as the first president on December 31 of that year. In the
later 1980s, reports and allegations of corruption appeared with increasing frequency.
Zimbabwe in the 1990s
In February 1990, Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in South Africa, and
Zimbabwe’s large and powerful neighbor began a 4-year democratic transition. Peace
and democracy in South African seemed to promise a major improvement in
Zimbabwe’s international situation. Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe government was
developing an economic structural adjustment program aimed at strengthening the
domestic economy. In July 1991, the finance minister announced plans to cut the
budget deficit, reduce the size of the civil service, and end all state subsidies to state-
owned corporations, including the national airline, the steel corporation, and the
railways. Despite these promising domestic and international developments in the
early 1990s, the political and economic difficulties that had begun to emerge in
the1980s deepened severely as the decade advanced.
Allegations of serious corruption, some involving government ministers and
Mugabe family members and others close to the president, continued to appear. In
1996, there were reports of serious improprieties in payments from the War Veterans
Compensation Fund, intended to assist disabled veterans of the liberation struggle.
Veterans mounted a series of protests, but these were stemmed in August 1997, when
the government announced that all veterans would receive a substantial lump sum
payment as well as a monthly pension and other benefits. Economists were concerned
that no such expenditures had been budgeted or planned, and that the inflationary
impact of the payouts would further weaken the currency.
Demonstrations by students and workers against corruption and unemployment
occurred with increasing frequency in the later 1990s, and these were often harshly
suppressed by the police. In December 1997, during one round of protests, trade
union leader Morgan Tsvangirai was attacked in his office and beaten unconscious by
unknown assailants; and in March 1998, the offices of his Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions (ZCTU) in Bulawayo were pillaged and burned. The latter attack came
after the army had been deployed to put down urban protests over rising food prices.
There were other reports of political intimidation against opponents of the regime,
and some accounts attributed these attacks to war veterans, whose loyalty to Mugabe
had been solidified by the costly veterans benefit program.
Land Issue through June 2000
As Zimbabwe’s political and economic situation deteriorated in the later 1990s,
tensions between the Mugabe government and white farmers over land intensified.
At the time, it was estimated that about 4,500 white-owned commercial farms were
occupying about 70% of the country’s most fertile land while perhaps 8 million
African peasant farmers were still primarily working the poorer, drier soils of the
Communal Areas. Many observers argued that the white-owned farms were critical
to the nation’s economy, not only because of their contribution to the nation’s food
supply, but also because the tobacco, maize, and other crops they produced for export
accounted for about 40% of export earnings. Moreover, many argued that the long-
term solution to unemployment among Zimbabwe’s poor lay not in land redistribution
but in business and industry, including tourism. Even so, it had long been recognized
by donors, and by the largely white Commercial Farmers Union, that the sharp
inequity in land distribution was untenable over the long term, and programs had been
developed to purchase white-owned land for resettlement by African farmers.
The goal of these land reform programs was not to divide up fertile land into
subsistence plots, but to create viable small farms that would continue to produce
crops for the local market and for export. Some economists argued that reform of
this sort could actually boost earnings in the agriculture sector, since in their view land
on the large, white-owned farms tended not to be fully utilized. Others pointed out,
however, that there would be added costs to reform, since the former white-owned
farms would be more densely populated, creating added needs for roads, schools,
clinics, and other facilities.
From 1980 until 1992, a largely British-funded program financed the purchase
of approximately 3 million hectares of land on a “willing seller-willing buyer” basis,
and some 62,000 families were resettled.4 U.S. assistance funds during this time were
used not to purchase land but to help strengthen the overall economy and assist
smallholder farmers through agricultural credit programs, extension services, and
training. British support for land purchases came to an end in 1992, when the
Mugabe government enacted the Land Acquisition Act, amending the constitution to
deprive landowners of the right to appeal government-set prices in the courts. (The
Act still required fair compensation, even though the right of appeal was taken away.)
4The Economist, November 15, 1997.
The Mugabe government did compulsorily take 45 farms in 1994, and according to
reports, the choicest were given not to the poor but to cabinet ministers, generals, and
others well-connected in ZANU-PF.5
Lancaster House Commitments
The land issue continued to fester, with Mugabe insisting that Britain was
obligated to finance the purchase of land from whites for redistribution in part because
British subjects had initially taken the land by force and in part because of
commitments he felt were made at the Lancaster House negotiations in 1979.
Authoritative sources on Lancaster House maintain, however, that the promise made
by Britain was not a specific pledge to buy land but a more general offer to help fund
agricultural development, land resettlement, and redistribution programs that might
be undertaken by the new Zimbabwe government.6
Nonetheless, Jeffrey Davidow, a U.S. diplomat who closely studied the
negotiations, reports that Lord Carrington, the British mediator, did indicate that
Britain “would be prepared to shoulder some of the financial burden” of compensating7
white farmers. Davidow also reports that the Carter Administration promised
assistance to Zimbabwe at Lancaster House, although the promise was “convoluted
and cautious” and not linked to the purchase of white-owned land. The
Administration, Davidow maintains, did not want to be accused of buying out “white
landlords” on the one hand, or of “opening the U.S. treasury to land-hungry
peasants” on the other. These British and U.S. promises, which Davidow describes
as “undoubtedly sincere, but still vague” helped bring the talks to a successful
1997-1998 Land Seizure Crisis
On October 13, 1997, President Mugabe told a political rally that his government
had decided to take land needed for redistribution to poor African farmers from white
commercial farmers without compensation. Initial reaction was muted, since similar
threats in the past had not materialized. In November, however, the government
published a list of 1,503 properties, totaling over 5 million hectares, for takeover. The
government said it would pay for buildings and improvements on land taken, but not
for the land itself – a responsibility that in Mugabe’s view lay with Britain.
The reasons for President Mugabe’s decision to revive the land question in 1997
were the subject of speculation among analysts. Zimbabwe was already experiencing
economic difficulties in 1997, and these had led to several incidents of labor unrest.
It may have seemed to Mugabe that land seizures and redistribution offered a way to
5The Economist, April 16, 1994; African Business, January 1998.
6Henry Wiseman and Alastair Taylor, From Rhodesia to Zimbabwe: the Politics of
Transition (New York: International Peace Academy, 1981), 9.
7Jeffrey Davidow, A Peace in Southern Africa: the Lancaster House Conference on
Rhodesia, 1979 (Boulder and London: Westview Press, 1979), 63.
boost employment, quickly and restore his government’s sagging popularity.8
Mugabe may also have been impatient with the British refusal to provide further
funding for land reform on his terms, and resentful of the insistence on the part of
Britain and other donors that the land reform process be orderly, open, fair, and
transparent. He may have calculated that the threat of a sudden, large-scale land
seizure would persuade donors to waive their conditions and provide funding in order
to avert a rural upheaval. Mugabe himself said, “The demand and need for land by
our people is now overwhelming,” adding that “if the British government want(s) us
to compensate its children, it must give us the money or it does the compensation
President Mugabe raised the issue with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a
Commonwealth summit held in Edinburgh in late October, reportedly seeking about
$250 million for land acquisition,10 but was disappointed. The British insisted not
only that any acquisition program would have to be open and transparent, but also
that resettlement plans would have to be “economic” and benefit the poor – criteria
the Mugabe proposal did not meet, in the British view.11 The British government
affirmed in December 1997, that it recognized the need for land reform in Zimbabwe,
but that President Mugabe’s approach “will damage the economy, undermine investor12
confidence, and do nothing to help the poor.”
The first months of 1998 were highly confused with respect to the land issue,
with the government at times seeming to step back from the threat of sweeping
nationalizations and at times threatening to move ahead. In June and July, poor
farmers seeking land moved onto some white-owned farms as squatters,
foreshadowing the vast squatter movement of 2000. Land seizures by government
did not actually occur, however, perhaps because President Mugabe had come under
strong international pressure to exercise restraint. Donors and international financial
institutions warned that the proposed takeover program would inflict severe economic
damage by deterring investors and cutting exports. The International Monetary Fund
delayed a balance of payments support disbursement expected in August, primarily
because of concerns over Mugabe’s land policy and its effect on investment.
Despite international concerns, a land reform pledging conference met in Harare
in September 1998. Zimbabwe was seeking pledges sufficient to fund half of a $2.2
billion program aimed at acquiring 5 million hectares over 5 years for the resettlement
of 150,000 farm families.13 In fact, no funds were actually pledged at the
conference, but tensions between Zimbabwe and the donor community seemed to ease
8“Mugabe Walks a Fine Line on Land Redistribution,” Financial Mail (South Africa),
November 14, 1997.
9South African Press Agency Report, October 17, 1997.
10The Economist, November 15, 1997.
11British embassy statement in Zimbabwe, reported by the South African Press Agency,
November 6, 1997.
12British Foreign Office statement, December 10, 1997.
13The Economist, September 5, 1998.
because an agreement was reached on a two-stage land reform process that would
have donor support. In the 2-year Inception Phase, 1,000 poor, rural families were
to be resettled on 25,000 to 40,000 hectares already owned by the government or to
be acquired by the government from underutilized farms that had been offered for sale
by their white owners. The Inception Phase would be followed by an Expansion
Phase, whose scale and design would depend on lessons learned during the Inception
Phase. A communique issued at the end of the conference promised that the program
would be “implemented in a transparent, fair, and sustainable manner, with regard for
the law,” and Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge promised that there would be “no
confiscators and no land-grabbers.”14
Although the plan seemed to have the support of Mudenge and other Zimbabwe
officials, President Mugabe threatened major new land seizures in November 1998
and March 1999, jeopardizing donor support. Nonetheless, the Zimbabwe
government presented a detailed plan for the Inception Phase in February 1999, and
in May, the World Bank pledged $5 million to assist with the resettlement of poor
farmers, and several bilateral donors, including the United States, made small pledges
Aftermath. In subsequent months, it seemed that the land issue might recede
as Zimbabwe moved forward with the donor-approved reform program. France and
Japan joined other donors in offering aid to resettled farmers, and in August 1999, the
IMF lifted its suspension of balance of payments support. The IMF again insisted,
however, among other conditions, that land reform procedures be “fully transparent”
and that fair compensation be paid to landowners. At the end of the year, Mugabe
signaled the onset of new land crisis when he began to demand that changes in the
constitution to be voted on in 2000 include provisions for seizing land from white
farmers without compensation. In a December 21, 1999 interview, Mugabe said
“Land was taken from our people during colonization without compensation, but now
the British say we must pay compensation for the soil stolen from us. Where do we
get the resources to pay for the land?”15
Land Crisis Resumes
The land issue indeed figured heavily in the referendum on constitutional changes
proposed by the government, which took place on February 12 and 13, 2000. The
proposed changes included a provision, inserted at President Mugabe’s insistence,
empowering the government to acquire agricultural land compulsorily for
resettlement without paying compensation.16 It seemed likely that the constitutional
amendments would pass, in view of the government’s strong backing of the changes
and its domination of the media, but in a surprise outcome, 55% of those participating
voted “no.” Some analysts wrote that in view of the result, President Mugabe should
have recognized that his influence was waning and accepted that the time had come
to retire; but instead, the referendum seemed only to energize Mugabe for a new
14South African Press Agency, September 11, 1998
15Johannesburg Independent Online.
16Africa News Service, January 28, 2000.
assault on white-owned farmland. There was speculation that he was motivated in
part by anger over the strong support among whites for a “no” vote and by the
backing whites were giving to the MDC, which was then a new opposition party.
Within days of the referendum, war veterans and other ZANU-PF supporters
began to move onto white owned farms, and by May 2000, it was estimated that
squatters were present at approximately 1,000 farms. In some instances, according
to reports, the farm occupations were peaceful and farm work was allowed to
continue. In other instances, however, white farmers were attacked and driven off
their properties. The Zimbabwe police took no action to prevent the farm
occupations, claiming that they lacked the capability to repel the squatters. Court
orders requiring the squatters to leave were ignored. By early June, twenty-five
people had been killed during the land occupation crisis, including four white farmers
and several black farm workers; the killers seemed to target MDC supporters, both
black and white.
A high-level Zimbabwe delegation traveled to Britain at the end of April 2000
and was told that London would provide an additional $57 million to help with land
reform and other programs – and would take the lead in mobilizing additional support
from the international community. But then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook insisted
that no action would be taken against a background of occupations and violence, and
he reaffirmed British insistence on transparency, fair compensation, good economic
management, and clear benefit to the rural poor in any land reform program.17
Mugabe’s reply seemed to come on May 1, 2000, when a spokesman announced that,
with parliament adjourned since April 12, the president would invoke special powers
to allow the forced acquisition of white-owned land. In a May 4 speech, Mugabe said
that for whites who did not cooperate, “we can assist by showing them the various
ways they can leave our territory.”
Pre-Election Escalation. Before the June parliamentary election, President
Mugabe sharply escalated the land takeover drive. On June 2, 2000 the government
listed 804 large farms for swift takeover and rapid resettlement. According to
reports, as many as 100,000 poor Africans would be quickly moved onto the farms,
while roads, schools, clinics and other facilities would be provided later. Owners,
who were granted 30 days to file legal objections, would not be compensated for the
land itself but would receive compensation for improvements to the land, such as farm
buildings. How the improvements would be valued, and the form and timing of this
compensation, were not made clear. President Mugabe had invoked emergency
powers to enable the government to take land without compensation on May 24.
On June 7, 2000, President Mugabe indicated that he might extend the
government takeover of white-owned farms beyond those already slated for seizure.
If any white farmers were permitted to remain, he added, it would be through the
“charity” of the government. Mugabe urged supporters to offer thanks to the
Zimbabwe war veterans who had led the farm occupations. A fifth white farmer was
killed, possibly in a robbery attempt, on June 2; and by the time the elections were
17Robin Cook press conference, April 27, 2000.
held, it was estimated at least 30 people had been killed in attacks on farmers and
African supporters of the opposition.
June 2000 Parliamentary Election
Elections to the 150-member parliament in Zimbabwe on June 24-25, 2000
resulted in a narrow victory for the ruling ZANU-PF, which won 62 seats. The MDC
took 57 seats in the high-turnout vote, so that for the first time in the country’s
history, there would be a strong parliamentary opposition. Thirty appointive seats
under the control of President Robert Mugabe continued to give ZANU-PF firm
control of parliament, although the MDC won enough votes to block constitutional
amendments. Tsvangirai did not himself win a seat but announced that he would
contest the 2002 presidential election.
There has been much speculation that President Mugabe used the land issue to
influence the outcome of the vote. Even though voters rejected compulsory land
seizures in the February 2000 referendum, Mugabe accurately calculated, according
to this speculation, that the confrontation with white landowners would solidify his
support among the rural poor, war veterans, and others. Some believe that the land
confrontation distracted attention from Zimbabwe’s many other problems during the
run-up to the election and gave militant Mugabe backers an incentive to attack white
farmers and farm workers who supported the MDC.
Foreign observers accept MDC allegations that the government undertook a
systematic effort to prevent a free and fair election and to assure a ZANU-PF victory.
Observers from the European Union and the Commonwealth of Nations refused to
certify the elections as free and fair because of the violence and intimidation that
preceded the voting. On May 22, 2000, the head of a delegation from the U.S.-
based National Democratic Institute (NDI) stated that because of a campaign of
violence, intimidation, and misinformation, “the conditions for credible democratic
elections do not exist in Zimbabwe at this time.”18 Rallies and demonstrations by the
MDC were disrupted by police and by ZANU-PF backers, including war veterans.
MDC supporters were detained by police, and as noted above, several MDC members
were killed by unknown assailants. Just before the vote, the Mugabe government
banned NDI, the International Republican Institute, and a team of African observers
sponsored by the European Union from monitoring the vote.
Nonetheless, the MDC chose to remain in the race, evidently calculating that it
would gain a substantial number of seats despite the violence and intimidation. This
calculation proved to be accurate, as the party won overwhelmingly in Harare and
other urban areas, while taking some rural seats as well. Party leader Morgan
Tsvangirai maintained that the MDC would have won control of parliament had it not
been for the violence, but said that the result gave the party a base for contesting the
presidency in two years and the parliament once again in five. The ability to block
18Statement of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) Pre-Election Delegation to
Zimbabwe,” May 22, 2000.
constitutional amendments was significant, since President Mugabe had used such
amendments in the past to consolidate his power.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
The MDC, founded in
Contenders in ZimbabweSeptember 1999, poses a more
serious challenge than any that
Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe sinceZANU-PF has faced. The
December 31, 1987; from 1980-1987, he was Primeparty’s Secretary General,
Minister. Born February 21, 1924; educated at aMorgan Tsvangirai, is a
mission school and Fort Hare University, South
Africa; correspondence degrees from University ofZimbabwe labor leader, and the
London and University of South Africa; co-founderparty has a strong base in the
of ZANU in 1963; arrested in 1964 by whitecountry’s organized labor
Rhodesian authorities, jailed or under house arrestmovement. The party also
for ten years; took over leadership of ZANUseems to have backing among
guerrilla movement in Mozambique, 1975.students and urban middle
classes, who are drawn to its
Morgan Tsvangirai, President of the MDC. Bornpromises to rekindle the
March 10, 1952; completed secondary education;economy, fight corruption, and
textile and mine worker; elected secretary-generalimprove health care and
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, 1988; co-education. In addition, the
founder of the MDC, September 1999.MDC supports “people driven
Sources: standard references, press reports.land reform,” by which itappears to mean corruption-free
redistribution to genuine small
farmers, with international support and compensation for farms purchased. The
Mugabe government portrays the MDC as an agent of white farmers and foreign
supporters, particularly in Britain.
In September 2000, Tsvangirai warned that Mugabe would be overthrown if he
did not soon quit – remarks that resulted in formal charges of treason and sabotage.
Tsvangirai, who later withdrew his remarks, maintained that his indictment was part
of a government campaign of harassment. Conviction, which would have disbarred
Tsvangirai from participating in the 2002 presidential election, could have led to a life
sentence. On November 20, 2001, however, the Zimbabwe Supreme Court ordered
the charges dropped on grounds that they contravened sections of the constitution.
The Supreme Court decision came as a surprise because recent appointees to the
Court are regarded as Mugabe allies (see below).
Land Issue Since June 2000
Some analysts had expected that ZANU-PF losses in the June 2000 election
would cause President Mugabe to step back from the land-takeover confrontation and
seek a compromise solution. Instead, the election outcome, which Mugabe blamed
on donor hostility, the western media, white farmers, churches, and others,19 seemed
only to goad Mugabe into expanding the land takeovers. By early August 2000,
government officials were stating that more than 3,000 farms would be seized and that
the army would be mobilized to rapidly resettle hundreds of thousands of poor
families. They portrayed the expansion as an urgent response to a pressing need for
land; but critics speculated that President Mugabe was again escalating the land
confrontation in order to better position himself for the 2002 presidential election. By
April 2001, it was estimated that 2,600 farms had been slated for takeover, and the
government maintained that 70,000 families had been resettled on 3 million hectares
of land. Government critics maintained that far fewer had actually been moved onto
The Zimbabwe Supreme Court ruled on November 10, 2000, that the
President’s land resettlement policy violated fundamental constitutional rights, but the
government vowed to proceed with the takeovers. On December 14, 2000, President
Mugabe told a ZANU-PF Congress that “Our party must continue to strike fear in the
heart of the white man, our real enemy,” and vowed to continue with land takeovers
regardless of any court decisions. The congress endorsed Mugabe as ZANU-PF
leader, and internal critics of the president were dropped from party positions.
The Supreme Court ruled against “fast track” land takeovers on December 21,
2000, increasing tensions between the court and the Mugabe government. On March
2, 2001, the Chief Justice of the Zimbabwe Supreme Court, Anthony Gubbay, agreed
to go on immediate leave and to retire July 1, following intense government pressure
for his resignation. Gubbay had reportedly received a number of death threats.
The Minister of Land, Joseph Made, stunned a meeting of commercial farmers
on August 2, 2001, by announcing that the government planned to take 8.3 million
hectares of white-owned land rather than the 5 million originally announced. Analysts
noted that this amount would represent about 90% of the remaining commercial
farms, but there was some confusion about whether this was what Made had intended
to convey.20 A white farmer, who had been attacked earlier in the week, died of his
wounds on August 7, becoming the ninth white farmer to die since the unrest began.
On August 10, 2001, 21 white farmers from Chinoyi in northern Zimbabwe were
charged with assaulting resettled black farmers on August 6 and were remanded in
custody. The farmers maintained that they had acted in self defense. Several white-
owned farms around Chinoyi were looted and burned following the incident, and
many whites fled the region, although the situation had reportedly eased by August
19BBC, July 22, 2000; The Guardian, July 27, 2000.
20Financial Times (London), August 3, 2001.
In September 2001, the Zimbabwe government agreed to attend a
Commonwealth-sponsored summit on the situation, to be held in Abuja, capital of
Nigeria. Leaders in southern Africa, who fear that the Zimbabwe crisis is
discouraging investment and tourism throughout the region, had strongly urged
Zimbabwe to attend, as did Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. Under an
agreement concluded on September 7, Zimbabwe committed itself to implementing
land reform in a fair, just, and sustainable manner, with “due regard to human rights,
rule of law, transparency, and democratic principles.” In exchange for this pledge,
Britain committed to providing a “significant financial contribution.” It was
understood that the funds would be used to compensate white farmers whose land
Leaders of southern Africa sought to consolidate the Abuja agreement by going
to Harare the following week to insist that it be implemented. Pressure on Mugabe
from President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Malawi President Bakili Muluzi,
chairman of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), was reportedly
intense. It was agreed that SADC would set up a special ministerial task force to
monitor implementation of the agreement. In subsequent weeks, however, violence
continued to be reported on occupied farms, and there were some reports of new farm
invasions by militants. On October 2, 2001, the Zimbabwe Supreme Court, reversing
its earlier course, issued an interim ruling permitting the government to continue with
the redistribution of white-owned land. (The court made this ruling final on
December 3.) Analysts speculated that the ruling would allow the government to
claim that it was indeed respecting the rule of law, as required by Abuja. Government
critics argued that the decision resulted from previous government interference with
an independent judiciary.
On November 9, 2001, President Mugabe issued a sweeping new decree
ordering 1,000 farmers who had already been served with takeover notices to cease
farming immediately and to leave their homes within three months. “Quit notices” are
expected to be issued to the remaining 3,500 white farmers shortly, and when this
occurs, they too will be required to cease farming. Some 1,700 farms continued to
be occupied by militants of the ruling ZANU-PF, according to reports.
Other Current Issues
Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister, Simba Makoni, in presenting his annual budget
message on November 1, 2001, painted a bleak picture of Zimbabwe’s economy.
According to Makoni, GDP had declined by 7.3% over the previous year, inflation
was running at a rate of more than 85% annually, and per capita income had fallen to
$385 per year from $421 in 2000. Makoni said that Zimbabwe’s exports were
expected to total about $1.7 billion in 2001, as compared to $2.7 billion in 1997. The
Minister estimated that 75% of Zimbabwe’s people were “living in abject poverty.”21
Shortly after Makoni’s speech, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe told
members of parliament that arrears on foreign debt would reach $1 billion by the end22
of 2001. Total foreign debt is estimated at $4.5 billion. Data released in December
showed that by November, inflation had reached an annual rate of 103.8%.23
Zimbabwe has great economic potential in view of its rich endowment of land,
mineral wealth, tourism potential, and relatively high standards of education.
However, the economy has performed poorly for years. Zero growth was recorded
in 1999, and GDP fell by 4.5% in 2000.24 The unemployment rate is estimated at
60%.25 Disbursements of World Bank loans have been suspended in part because
Zimbabwe’s repayments are overdue, and IMF lending is also suspended, reflecting
IMF concerns over Zimbabwe’s economic policies.
Foreign exchange is in very short supply, and because of this Zimbabwe suffers
a severe shortage of fuels, which must be imported. On June 13, 2001, the
government raised fuel prices by 70%, leading to two days of protests over resulting
increases in the prices of basic commodities and of bus and taxi fares. The shortage
of hard currency seems certain to continue, since the output of tobacco, the principal
foreign exchange earner, is dropping due to the crisis on the farms. Tourism, an
important source of revenue, has plummeted as images of conflict and confrontation
in Zimbabwe have been broadcast around the world.
Food shortages are feared, partly because many of the farms taken over by
squatters were growing produce and maize, the staple of the Zimbabwe diet, for local
consumption. Moreover, the southern part of the country is suffering from a severe
drought.On November 8, 2001, Makoni warned that the country faced an urgent
need for food aid, since more than 700,000 people had too little to eat. The World
Food Program is organizing a relief effort, but some observers are concerned that
food deliveries could be delayed in the political situation deteriorates. On November
11, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said that charities and international aid
agencies would not be allowed to distribute food, since they might use food relief to
campaign for the MDC.26
In July 2001, the government banned private sales of maize and wheat, re-
instituting the maize trade monopoly of the government-owned Grain Marketing
Board. Some economists fear that over the long term, this move will exacerbate the
21United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks, November 2, 2001. See also,
“Bleak Outlook for Zimbabwe’s Economy in New National Budget,” Agence France Presse,
November 1, 2001, and “Zimbabwe Announces Bleak Budget,” Panafrican News Agency,
November 1, 2001.
22Financial Gazette (Harare), November 9, 2001.
23Mail and Guardian (South Africa), internet edition, December 17, 2001.
24Economist Intelligence Unit.
25BBC, July 24, 2001.
26Jan Raath, “Mugabe Bans Charities’ Food Aid,” The Times (London), November 12, 2001.
food situation by reducing incentives to producers. Some expect the emergence of
a parallel market where grain will be sold illicitly at high prices.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries estimates that 400 businesses closed
in 2000, with the loss of 10,000 jobs. President Mugabe blames the closures on a
campaign by local whites to damage the economy in protest to the land takeovers.27
Actual attacks on businesses by militants and war veterans, which broke out in April
Analysts typically blame the economic policies of the Mugabe government, and
its failure to carry through with the reforms promised in 1991, for Zimbabwe’s
economic difficulties. High government spending, typified by the 70% to 90% pay
raises Mugabe granted civil servants and the military on the eve of the February 2000
constitutional referendum28 comes in for particular criticism. State-owned
corporations, such as the national oil company and the national electricity supplier,
typically operate at losses, and this adds to the budget deficit. President Mugabe, on
the other hand, blames donor-imposed economic reform programs for the country’s
economic difficulties, arguing that they have deprived the government of the ability
to influence the economy and mainly benefitted external interests together with local29
Concerns over Zimbabwe’s economic future have mounted since President
Mugabe’s October 15, 2001 announcement that his country was abandoning free
market economic reforms and returning to a socialist style economy. The move
followed government-imposed price cuts of 5% to 20% on basic commodities, such
as maize meal and soap, announced on October 12. Mugabe said that businesses
opposed to the price controls could “pack up and go” and that the government would30
take over any firms that closed.
Libyan leader Muamar al-Qadhafi is offering support to Zimbabwe’s economy
through a $360 million oil deal, which will reportedly see Libyan oil going to
Zimbabwe in exchange for Zimbabwe exports to Libya. Qadhafi gave $100 million
in aid to Zimbabwe in 2000.31 According to some press reports, President Qadhafi
is seeking a stake in key sectors of the Zimbabwe economy, including agriculture and
tourism, in exchange for his support. An independent Zimbabwe weekly reported on
November 22, 2001, that several large farms were being identified for possible
allocation to Libyan entrepreneurs.32
27BBC, April 18, 2001.
28Financial Times (London), January 20, 2000.
29Speech to the Special People’s Congress, December 14, 2000.
30Andrew Meldrum, “Mugabe Returns to Socialism,” The Guardian (London), October 16,
31Reuters report appearing in Daily Mail and Guardian (South Africa), July 19, 2001.
32Financial Gazette, November 22, 2001.
Restrictions on the freedom of the press in Zimbabwe are a focus for domestic
and international criticism of the regime. The broadcast media are state controlled,33
and although there is an independent daily newspaper as well as independent weeklies,
editors and reporters repeatedly been arrested and detained. The offices of the Daily
News were bombed in 2000, and its presses were destroyed in another bombing in
January 2001. Daily News editor Geoff Nyarota has been arrested three times during
The Mugabe government has also placed heavy pressure on the foreign media,
and on November 23, 2001, the state-owned Herald newspaper accused six foreign
journalists of “terrorism” for filing allegedly false reports about the political situation
in Zimbabwe. A government spokesman quoted by the Herald reportedly linked the
journalists’ accounts to a letter received from the U.S. Government complaining
about widespread assaults in the wake of the assassination of ZANU-PF activist Cain
Nkala (see below).34
On November 30, the Herald reported that the government would soon
introduce sweeping new legislation known as the Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Bill. This legislation, which seems certain to be enacted in view
of the government’s majority in parliament, would require all journalists to be
licensed, and establish a press commission empowered to withdraw licenses from
offending reporters. Foreign journalists would be excluded from working in
Zimbabwe and local journalists would require special permission to report for the
foreign media. Reports judged harmful to law enforcement or likely to promote35
public alarm and despondency would be banned.
Political violence flared in the southern city of Bulawayo in mid-November 2001,
following the discovery of the battered and decomposed body of local ZANU-PF
activist Cain Nkala. Nkala had been kidnaped at gunpoint a week earlier, and
President Mugabe and other leading ZANU-PF figures blamed the MDC for Nkala’s
death. War veterans loyal to ZANU-PF rampaged through Bulawayo seeking revenge36
for the killing of Nkala, burning several houses as well as the MDC headquarters.
Many of the war veterans reportedly arrived in Bulawayo by train from Harare, the
capital. Bulawayo is a center of support for the MDC, and the traditional capital of
the Ndbele people, many of whom have long felt exploited by the Shona who tend to
33For details, see U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,
34“Zimbabwe Warns Media, EU Says Ties at Critical Point.” Reuters, November 23, 2001.
35BBC, “Zimbabwe Seeks Total Media Control,” November 30, 2001.
36“War Vets Rampage Through Bulawayo,” BBC, November 16, 2001.
MDC leaders maintain that Nkala died as a result of in-fighting in the ruling
party, and one report maintained that he had made allegations to the police about
official corruption.37 At least 15 MDC members have been arrested in the case, and
two have alleged that they were tortured into making confessions, which they later
withdrew. In a 40-minute oration at Nkala’s funeral, Mugabe alleged that the MDC
was a terrorist organization backed by the British government. MDC officials fear
a wider crackdown centering on the Nkala assassination.
Zimbabwe’s deployment of 12,000 or more troops to support the government
of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is often cited as a particularly costly
drain on Zimbabwe’s resources. Finance Minister Simba Makoni told parliament on
August 30, 2000, that the war in Congo had cost the government $200 million over38
two years, and some estimates are considerably higher. Makoni warned that
Zimbabwe’s economy could not withstand this level of expenditure and said the
government was committed to bringing the troops home “at the earliest opportunity.”
President Mugabe and other Zimbabwe officials explain the Congo deployment as a
contribution to regional peacekeeping and stability and maintain that Zimbabwe’s
troops will leave once a United Nations peacekeeping force is deployed.39
Several reports have claimed that a few well-connected Zimbabwe business
people, and elements of the military, are enriching themselves in the DRC, where
several commercial ventures with Zimbabwe ties have been set up.40 A United
Nations panel on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC reported on
November 15, 2001, that Zimbabwe’s operations in Congo have yet to benefit
Zimbabwe’s economy because the holdings “seem to be controlled by top military and
party officials who are also the direct beneficiaries.”41 The Zimbabwe government
rejected this charge and insisted that Zimbabwe is involved only in legitimate business
activities in Congo. Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge added: “We know that the
report has been created by the British government, who are keen to discredit
Zimbabwe at all costs.”42
37Michael Hartnack, “Torture Evidence Casts Doubt on State Propaganda Claims,”
Associated Press, November 30, 2001.
38BBC report, January 20, 2000.
39On the Congo conflict, see CRS Report RL31080, Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Peace Process and Background.
40“Ruthless Backers for Congo Diamond Mine,” Financial Times (London), May 27, 2000.
41Addendum to the Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural
Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UN
Document S/2001/1072, transmitted to the Secretary General by a letter dated November 10,
42UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, November 21, 2001.
Zimbabwe, according to United Nations data, has the third highest HIV infection
rate in the world, with more than 25% of working-age adults testing positive for the
virus.43 Because of AIDS, the rate of population increase is expected to be zero in
Health Minister, AIDS-related deaths totaled 100,000 in 2000, and UNICEF
reported in June 2001 that life expectancy, now 44 years, could fall to 27 in a
decade.45 Without AIDS, life expectancy would have been 70 in 2010, according to
UNICEF. (Zimbabwe officials maintain that the UNICEF prediction on life
expectancy is exaggerated.) The number of AIDS orphans nationwide has reached
President Mugabe, in public speeches and interviews, acknowledges HIV/AIDS
as one of the challenges Zimbabwe faces, among other challenges, but he seems to
have given land, the Congo intervention, and other issues higher priorities on his
policy agenda. In January 2000, the government introduced a special payroll tax
known as the “AIDS levy” to fund AIDS programs. Labor unions and others
strenuously opposed the levy, charging that the funds would likely be diverted to
some other purpose, and by May 2000, AIDS activists were protesting what they
maintained was a large discrepancy between the amount raised through the levy and
the amount actually going to AIDS projects. In July 2000, however, the chairman of47
the AIDS Levy Fund claimed that the fund was benefitting millions.
In November 2001, the Zimbabwe government suspended disbursement of AIDS
levy funds through village level AIDS action committees, deciding instead to channel
funding through ZANU-PF-run district councils. AIDS activists charged that this
decision “politicized” the fund, which, they maintained, would be used to enhance
President Mugabe’s chances in the presidential election. Others argued that the
committees had a poor track record in handling the funds, and that they could not be48
trusted to handle the large sums involved.
43This is a 1999 estimate for adults, age 15-49. For more information, CRS Issue Brief
IB10050, AIDS in Africa.
44BBC, June 3, 2001.
45 The report, “Progress Report on Zimbabwe 2000,” was released in Harare on June 12,
2001. Lewis Machipisa, “Government Rejects UN Report on Life Expectancy,” Inter Press
Service, June 12, 2001.
46The Independent (London), February 10, 2000.
47BBC, July 22, 2000.
48“HIV/AIDS Groups Accuse Government of ‘Playing Politics,’” UN Integrated Regional
Information Networks, November 15, 2001; and BBC, November 15, 2001.
Relations with Britain
President Mugabe has long blamed many of Zimbabwe’s problems, most notably
the inequity in the distribution of land, on Britain, and his relations with the
government of Prime Minister Tony Blair are particularly poor. Mugabe is angry with
the Blair government for its refusal to offer unconditional financing for his land
redistribution program, but he has also launched a number of personal verbal attacks
against Blair and members of his cabinet. These seem to stem in part from an incident
in November 1999, when British gay activists attempted a citizens arrest of Mugabe,
who was visiting London. Mugabe, who is outspokenly anti-gay, was deeply
outraged and blamed the Blair government for failing to prevent the attack. Britain
has reportedly made arrangements to receive as many as 20,000 refugees from
Zimbabwe if necessary, but the number eligible for British passports may be
significantly larger, since Britain grants this right to people whose parents or
grandparents were U.K. citizens.
Outlook for 2002
On November 7, 2001, a Zimbabwe official indicated that the government would
not allow independent observers to monitor the March elections, but would instead
permit only Zimbabwe civil servants to be present at the polls. In late November,
Mugabe reportedly refused a request by a visiting European Union delegation to send
EU observers.49 These developments, combined with other recent events, including
threats against the independent press, both domestic and foreign, and President
Mugabe’s portrayal of the MDC as a terrorist organization, lead many to expect
further action on the part of President Mugabe to assure that he prevails in the March
election. The result could be rising political turmoil inside Zimbabwe and mounting
international isolation. Conceivably, President Mugabe will attempt to cancel or
postpone the vote. While this might buy him more time in office, it would likely
deepen Zimbabwe’s domestic and international problems.
A poll conducted in August and September 2001 indicated that MDC leader
Tsvangirai would defeat President Mugabe with 52.9% of the vote, compared to50
47.1% for Mugabe. Analysts believe that the very real threat of defeat is the
motivation for Mugabe’s policies toward the opposition and the press. Mugabe faces
another challenge from the National Constitutional Assembly, which coordinated the
“no” vote in the February 2000 referendum. The Assembly, a coalition of churches,
unions, and human rights groups, is planning demonstrations in January 2002 in
support of a constitution that would include a separation of powers and other checks
49“Mugabe Tells EU to ‘Stay Out’ of Zimbabwe Elections - Report,” Dow Jones International
News Service, November 24, 2001. On November 26, a Zimbabwe official reportedly said
that observers would be invited from “friendly” countries. New York Times, November 27,
50Financial Gazette (Harare), November 8, 2001.
Key foreign governments, with increasing urgency, are attempting to persuade
the Mugabe government to change course. South Africa’s President Mbeki, who in
the past has drawn criticism in his own country for not being more outspoken on the
Zimbabwe situation, made a number of remarks critical of Mugabe in late November
and early December 2001. Speaking at a briefing for foreign journalists on November
29, Mbeki said “Clearly in a situation where people get beaten up, where people get
disenfranchised, obviously there cannot be free elections.”51 Later, Mbeki said that
Mugabe was pursuing wrong economic policies that had ripple effects throughout the
region, and he also voiced concern for journalists in Zimbabwe.52 Un-named South
African officials have said that Mbeki’s patience with Mugabe is “wearing thin,” and
that the Zimbabwe president would no longer be protected from international pressure
by South Africa.
President Mbeki continues to say that South Africa will not impose sanctions
against Zimbabwe, but has urged the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) to monitor the situation. (However, a SADC ministerial level team that
visited Zimbabwe in mid-December 2001, seemed to endorse Mugabe’s policies,
finding that land-reform violence was declining and that Mugabe was committed to
holding free and fair elections.) South Africa’s tougher stance reportedly came after53
western leaders called Mbeki, urging him to increase pressure on Mugabe. Mbeki
is reportedly also concerned that his country faces a Zimbabwe refugee crisis as the
Zimbabwe situation deteriorates.54
On October 29, 2001, the European Union warned President Mugabe that his
country would face the possibility of sanctions within 75 days unless steps were taken
to end violence, create conditions for free and fair elections, insure press freedom and
the independence of the judiciary, and end the occupation of private property. British
Foreign Minister Jack Straw, however, said that specific sanctions were not on the
table and that the EU was simply moving from “a benign position to one of active
engagement.”55 On December 5, 2001, Straw said that a steering committee of
Commonwealth ministers would meet during the week of December 17 to discuss56
possible sanctions against Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, U.S. pressure is increasing as well
Whether increased international pressure will persuade President Mugabe to
change course, or rather intensify his determination to prevail in the March vote, is
51Chris McGreal, “Mbeki Predicts More Turmoil in Zimbabwe,” The Guardian (London),
November 30, 2001.
52“Mugabe Can No Longer Get Protection from South Africa: Report,” Agence France Presse,
December 2, 2001.
53Michael Dynes, “Zimbabwe Accuses Mugabe of Knifing it in the Back,” The Times
(London), December 4, 2001.
54“South African President Suggests SADC Meeting on Zimbabwe,” Panafrican News
Agency, December 3, 2001.
55United Press International report, October 29, 2001.
56“Commonwealth to Mull Zimbabwe Sanctions in Two Weeks,” Reuters, December 5, 2001.
not yet clear. Zimbabwe officials have repeatedly warned that international sanctions
might force them to impose emergency measures, and it is conceivable that the
government would use sanctions or other international action as an excuse for
draconian steps to suppress opposition at home. A cabinet minister reportedly told
the BBC in August 2001 that the government would have “no choice but to declare
a state of emergency if we are under sanctions.”57 Advocates of increased pressure
on Mugabe hope that pragmatists in ZANU-PF, if not Mugabe himself, will eventually
be persuaded that their own political survival depends on moderating government
U.S. policymakers once saw Zimbabwe as a source of stability in southern
Africa, as a valued contributor to regional peacekeeping, and as an emerging
customer for U.S. exports.58 By the later 1990s, however, U.S. concerns over
Zimbabwe’s slow progress in economic reform and democratization were on the
Clinton Administration officials were highly critical of the land takeovers and
political violence in Zimbabwe, and criticism of Zimbabwe has continued in the Bush
Administration. At a speech in South Africa on May 25, 2001, Secretary of State
Colin Powell said that Mugabe seemed reluctant to “submit to the law and the will
of the people” and called on the Zimbabwe leader to permit a free and fair election.
The Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Walter Kansteiner, told the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 28, 2001, that “while the United States
desires open and friendly relations with Zimbabwe, we cannot have normal relations
until the violence and intimidation are ended, and the rule of law restored.”
Kansteiner added that the Administration would work with Congress to try to
persuade President Mugabe to permit an open and fair election in 2002.
A further deterioration in U.S.-Zimbabwe relations occurred on November 15,
2001, when the United States announced the withdrawal of all 43 Peace Corps
volunteers in Zimbabwe because of Zimbabwe’s refusal to issue work permits for new
volunteers. The following week, State Department officials summoned Zimbabwe’s
ambassador for a meeting where concerns were reportedly expressed over the
violence following the Cain Nkala assassination.59 State Department spokesman
Richard Boucher said on November 26 that Zimbabwe’s refusal to grant visas to
foreign journalists was “another attempt on the part of the government of Zimbabwe
to limit scrutiny of its campaign of political violence and intimidation.”60
57BBC report, August 20, 2001.
58See, for example, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Congressional
Presentation statements on Zimbabwe, FY1997 and FY1998, as well as earlier presentations.
59Rachel L. Swarns, “West’s Envoys, Unhappy, Find Zimbabwe Unhelpful,” New York
Times, November 24, 2001.
60Reuters report, November 26, 2001.
U.S. assistance to Zimbabwe, which exceeded $32 million in FY1995, dropped
substantially in the second half of the decade (see Table 1 below). Nonetheless, a
limited assistance program continues, targeted on programs and non-governmental
organizations seeking to strengthen democracy, raise living standards among the poor,
and fight the AIDS epidemic. The U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) maintains that its programs are helping to preserve the foundations of
Zimbabwe’s economy, so that there can be a quick recovery if a credible political
Table 1. U.S. Assistance to Zimbabwe
(Actual Appropriation, $ millions)
FY1998 FY1999 FY2000 FY2001 FY2002
DA 11.850 8.800 12.127 12.822 12.273
ESF .055 – – –
IMET .336 .299 .300 .050
Total 13.632 10.725 14.067 13.809 13.484
Source: USAID. DA=Development Assistance (including Child Survival aid), ESF=Economic
Support Fund, IMET=International Military Education and Training. For more information, see
CRS Issue Brief IB95052, Africa: U.S. Foreign Assistance Issues.
In June 2000, the Senate passed S. 2677, the Zimbabwe Democracy Act of 2000,
which criticized the government of Zimbabwe and ZANU-PF for pre-election violence
and imposed certain sanctions. The bill, which was not taken up by the House, was
heavily criticized by Zimbabwe officials – indeed, Foreign Minister Mudenge called
it an attempt to “recolonize” Africa.62 Supporters of the legislation argued that
enactment would have sent a clear message to President Mugabe and the people of
Zimbabwe with respect to the U.S. position on democracy, the rule of law, and the
need for a sound economic policy.
On August 1, 2001, the Senate passed a new bill, the Zimbabwe Democracy and
Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (S. 494). Subject to a presidential waiver, this bill
would have the effect of requiring the United States to support the continued
suspension of lending to Zimbabwe by the World Bank and the IMF. However, if the
President certified that the rule of law had been restored and that progress was being
made in democratization, the United States would support a resumption of lending
and provide other support for the Zimbabwe economy. The bill authorized $20
million to support equitable, legal, and transparent mechanisms of land reform, and
$6 million for democracy and governance programs. Finally, it called for
61USAID FY2002 Budget Justification to Congress.
62Africa News, August 4, 2000.
consultations with other governments on sanctions targeted specifically at Zimbabwe
leaders responsible for the breakdown of the rule of law.
The House passed an amended version of the Zimbabwe Democracy and
Economic Recovery Act on December 4, 2001. The House-passed version of S. 494
differed from the Senate bill in that it did not include a provision stating that the
President should direct the establishment of a Southern Africa Finance Center in
Zimbabwe once democratic reforms have taken place. In the Senate version, such a
center would have been established to facilitate the development of U.S.-backed
commercial projects in Zimbabwe and the southern Africa region. While the Senate
version required that the United States support a review of debt relief options and
support multilateral lending for Zimbabwe after democratic reforms, the House bill
put comparable provisions in “sense of Congress” language. The Senate approved
the House version of S. 494 on December 11, and President Bush signed the bill into
law on December 21.
The final version of the FY2002 Foreign Operations Appropriations (H.R. 2506)
would require the United States to oppose loans to Zimbabwe by international
financial institutions, except to meet basic human needs, unless the Secretary of State
certifies that the rule of law has been restored. The House agreed to the conference
report (H.Rept. 107-345) on this legislation on December 19, 2001, and the Senate
agreed on December 20, clearing the measure for the President’s signature.